While there are still loads of large and powerful laptops being produced and purchased, netbooks continue to be manufactured by the bucket load. If you are in the market for a netbook but are confused by all the options on offer, look no further – GWL takes a look at four of the very best in 2010.
There are a number of reasons why the humble netbook is still flying of the shelves, but basically, most people have no need for a powerful, cumbersome mobile computer when they are away from home. With more and more computing applications flying off into the cloud all the time, why not leave the remote servers to do the heavy lifting and lighten the load in your backpack.
It is not all good news in the world of netbooks however, with most manufacturers doing nothing more than copying one another in terms of design and specifications. The introduction of Intel’s new Pinetrail platform hasn’t seen too many improvements in terms of speed, so most manufacturers have been putting their energy into improving battery life and reducing weight and size.
There has been some innovations this year however, with better graphics performance on some machines, the occasional touchscreen mutation, and lighter and more efficient netbooks than ever before. If you want a mobile computer you can take absolutely anywhere, are mainly interested in Internet use, and have no desire to play intensive computer games, one of the models in this list may be perfect for you.
The NB305 may not be particularly innovative – as a basic upgrade of the NB205 from last year – but it looks good, performs well, and has a healthy battery life as well. The Toshiba NB305 features a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, ships with Windows 7 Started Edition, and has a rather large 250GB hard drive.
The screen looks pretty good as well, although the 10.1 inch display only has an average resolution of 1024 x 600. While this is not really enough to watch movies or play games on a regular basis, it you wanted to do that you wouldn’t be buying a netbook at all – would you.
Most people purchase a netbook for two reasons – the light weight and the large battery life, and the NB305 is impressive in both regards. With a weight of only 2.6 pounds, it is light enough to take pretty much anywhere, and with a running time of about 11 hours, you wont even have to come home to charge up. This extended battery life is very impressive, and a big improvement from the already impressive 9 hours seen on the NB205 from last year.
The 100% full size keyboard is also very cool, and a feature not seen on many other netbooks. The Toshiba NB305 is only $379.99, which is rather amazing when you consider what is on offer.
ASUS Eee 1015PE
The ASUS 1015PE is another 10.1 inch netbook with a familiar resolution of 1024 x 600, although it does have a build quality and style that help it to stand out from its peers. The ASUS 1015P is one of the first netbooks to come with an Intel Atom N475 processor, which gives it a helping hand over its relative the 1018P in terms of performance.
This netbook is also well equipped to communicate with the rest of the world, with WiFi b/g/n and all of the ports you would expect. The power inside does come at a price however, with a weight that is a lot heavier than most if its rivals at 4.5 pounds.
In terms of that essential netbook specification – battery life – the ASUS Eee 1015PE really shines, even managing to out perform the Toshiba NB305. With a massive 13 hours of battery life, this is the kind of mobile computer where you never even have to pack your charger. The efficiency of the new Intel Atom N475 processor gives this netbook both performance and longevity, features that are normally mutually exclusive.
If there is a downside to the Eee 1015PE, it is either its average screen resolution or its 92% undersized keyboard, although to be fair, these are the same specs seen on most other netbooks. The ASUS 1015PE sells for $389.99, and it is worth all that are more.
Dell Inspiron Mini 10
The new Dell Inspiron 10 is a feature rich netbook with all the usual configurations of a Dell computer. There is a catch though, as each new feature you tick off on the Dell web store is going to cost you. This business model seems to work pretty well for Dell, and after all, flexibility can’t be a bad thing for consumers either.
The Inspiron Mini 10 is another 10.1 inch netbook, only this time it comes with a more detailed 1366 x 768 resolution. Build quality is a standard Dell affair, which means while this is not the strongest computer on the block, it does come in the greatest range of colours.
With an Intel Atom N450 processor, the Mini 10 is fast enough for most tasks, and is helped along by an Intel Graphics Accelerator 3150 to drive all those pixels into place. In terms of portability however, the Inspiron Mini 10 is no light weight, coming in at a healthy 3 pounds. Keyboard size is also an issue, with a 92% keyboard that does make extended typing difficult.
As far as battery life goes however, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 does really well, with about 9.5 hours in moderate use. The basic configuration of this netbook will only set you back $350, but watch out for those options – they certainly do add up fast.
HP Mini 5103
The HP Mini 5103 netbook is the newest netbook in this list, and this model is being marketed towards business users. While I can not see too many businesses forking out for at tiny little netbook, those that do might be very surprised at the power of this little guy. The HP Mini 5103 is also a 10.1 inch netbook, only this time there is also the option of a touchscreen configuration as well.
The Mini 5103 features the choice of either an Intel Atom N455 or a faster Intel Atom N475 processor, with an above average memory available up to 2GB. It even comes with an SD reader, a 2MP webcam, and the option of a solid state drive. The build quality is fantastic with aluminium and alloy, and looks much the same as the earlier – and very well reviewed – 5102 and 5101 models. Connectivity is also good, with 3 USBs – one more than many other netbooks.
The 95%-sized keyboard size fits somewhere between the full size of the Toshiba NB305 and the 92% size of the other models on this list. The keyboard is even spill resistant, which is an amazing feature in a sub-$400 netbook. Prices vary quite a bit with the HP Mini 5103, due to the different processors and displays on offer, with the basic configuration going for a very enticing $399.
All of these netbooks are fantastic in one way or another, with different features and designs obviously being attractive to different people. While I am sure you can see the similarities in most netbook configurations, in my opinion these four netbooks manage to stand out from their competition due to their well thought out spec sheets and balanced tech profiles.