It’s been a while since we last looked at what we consider to be the best netbooks currently on the market, when we last looked at the top netbooks for winter 2009/2010, we found that apart from a couple of them, most were pretty much based upon a very similar set of specifications and features.
Obviously, with a compact product size and low-price market such as that of the netbook, there can only be so many variations that companies can make to try differentiate their products, this point was proved by the Nokia 3G Booklet 3G and HP Touchsmart TX2 as they showed that to make something different in the netbook form-factor, you do end up having to raise the selling price!
So here we have an updated list of the best netbooks that we’ve found from doing a bit of research on the topic of top netbooks…
MSI Wind U160
Perhaps one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the lot, the latest installment from MSI is the Wind U160. Continuing with the latest trend of PineTrail netbooks, the MSI Wind U160 features a 1.6GHz N450 processor and the usual 1Gb of RAM. Perhaps this is not too impressive, but there are a couple of things that make this otherwise run of the mill netbook, stand out from the massively congested crowd. The 250Gb Hard Drive is also a little more than the standard 160Gb option found in far too many netbooks.
Firstly, the astonishing battery life which is claimed to be anywhere up to 15 hours. Streets ahead of many recent netbooks and even exceeding the top of the range ASUS models. Of course, it is unlikely that many people will experience such endurance, however anywhere close would be pretty formidable.
Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, is the aesthetic appeal of the machine. With a glossy brown lid, it immediately brings it away from the ordinary and into the ‘actually pretty appealing’ category. In addition there is a spacious trackpad and a near full size chiclet keyboard which in my opinion is a must for any new machine as it looks professional as well as being cool and comfortable. Lastly, the form factor is important, being a lot slimmer and a little lighter than many other netbooks in the range, this is a serious competitor.
Packing Windows 7 Starter is disappointing, but not uncommon. If i were to be interested in a netbook, the MSI Wind U160 is a strong favourite. Let’s hope it doesn’t price itself out the market.
This option for me, is a bit of a gamble. It is really an in-betweener. The ASUS 1201n sits right at the top end of the netbook market, but not quite a proper notebook. This is largely down to its insides as it packs a pretty much unheard of Dual-Core Atom N330 clocked at 1.6Ghz as well as a 2 separate memory slots for expanding the RAM from the 2Gb that is built in. Also, the inclusion of the NVidia ION graphics platform means this machine is easily powerful enough for full HD movies as well as some lightweight 3D gaming.
Also, what pulls it away from the standard netbooks even further, is the 12.1” display, which is not huge by any means, but is inching ever closer to the realm of the full size notebook. For example, the standard MacBook Pro’s are just over an inch bigger. It also provides a good HD resolution at 1366×768.
Again, aesthetically this is a fantastic machine. An extremely slim aluminium look body and full size chiclet keyboard which stretched almost edge to edge, as well as an extremely spacious trackpad creates a quality looking product which definitely appeals to those with a taste for more luxurious machines.
The ASUS 1201n comes at a cost, pricing at around £400 however it does include the full version of Windows 7 Home Premium which is much more appealing than a starter edition.
HP Compaq Mini 311
Again, this features the same old specs on the face of it. 1.6Ghz Atom N270, 1Gb DDR2 RAM and a 160Gb Hard Drive. All in all pretty standard, however the inclusion of the NVidia ION graphics adds a lot of extra capability which certainly makes it appealing particularly at the price of around £300.
The HP Compaq Mini 311 is fairly lightweight and slim netbook in comparison to many, whilst keeping a 11.6” HD screen, utilized properly through the ION’s capability. Flawlessly playing 720p movies is fairly impressive considering the extreme restrictions on early netbook models, however in the others within this list, HD playback is hardly scarce.
Aesthetically, it is pleasing but far from the best. Available in a couple of colour options, it varies from model to model, but the lack of chiclet keyboard and cramped trackpad means that it doesn’t stack up compared to its competitors in this department.
Also, the roughly 6 hours of battery life is good, but not exceptional for a modern device which is why that this model is less appealing to a potential netbook buyer such as myself. However, as I said, the price of the HP Compaq Mini 311 is certainly a redeeming factor.
Each of these netbooks has something which makes it stand out a little from the rest. To be considered the best, in truth they have to because the netbook market is just so crowded and quite frankly boring. So, to continue the tradition, the Samsung N220 has managed to feature a keyboard which is 97% of full size which is something pretty much no other netbook can boast as far as I know.
In terms of spec though, it is not exactly a mind blower. With a traditional 1.6Ghz Atom and 1Gb of RAM. However unlike several other of the netbooks including the HP Mini 311, it has built in 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity.
Coming in at just £330 (ish) these are certainly competitive and judging by Samsung’s previous ventures into the market, they are undoubtedly good performers. The 250Gb hard disk drive is another indication of the difference between entry level and top of the range within this market.
Last but certainly not least, the battery life. A 12 hour life is not to be sneezed at particularly in what is in all honesty a budget netbook. Aesthetically pleasing if not exceptional, but the Samsung N220 is let down a little by the Starter Edition of Windows 7 packed in.
Sony X Series
If money is no object, then the Sony Vaio X Series Netbook is definitely the one for you. Ludicrously expensive, but it really does put luxury into netbooks. Made from Carbon Fibre and Aluminium, this is the lightest computer in the world to date and is incredibly thin and stylish.
The processor inside the thing lets it down in terms of performance. The Atom Z550 is just an ordinary single core processor which doesn’t exactly make this stand out. However, with 2Gb of RAM and a 256Gb Solid State Drive, it does have some tech specifications which make it a powerful contender as well as a beauty.
In addition, it as an 11.1” LED display at 1366×768 which is again, something a little different. However when spending nigh on £2k on a netbook, you do expect at least something a little special.
A spacious chiclet keyboard coupled with a multitouch trackpad means that input is comfortable, simple yet extremely functional with the added multitouch capabilities.
Also, the 8 hour battery life in addition to the 0.7Kg weight means mobility and endurance is no problem at all.
OK, so in terms of value for money the Sony Vaio X Series Netbook is absolutely nowhere compared to the others in the list, however bearing in mind that the general purpose of a netbook is mobility, it really is the best that money can buy.