Since the release of the Intel Atom processor in 2008, we have seen a huge growth in demand for netbooks. There are now so many different models of netbook it’s almost impossible to know where to start. It seems that generally, most netbooks so far contain the Atom, clocked at 1.6GHz with just 1Gb of RAM. This is perfectly adequate for running a basic Linux OS, Windows XP or now Windows 7 at a push and performing simple tasks such as web browsing and managing email which was the original intention of the netbook.
The idea of the netbook is to provide users with an uber-portable method of simple computing, although there might be some confusion among customers of the difference between a netbook and a laptop. The lightweight devices generally range from 8.9” to 11” or 12”. Of course, by saving space, you sacrifice several things such as an optical drive and to a great extent, performance. But the best netbooks were never intended for power hungry tasks such as gaming or intensive video processing.
Anyway, if you’re looking to bag one of these this Christmas/Winter you may want to check this list of which netbooks we think are worth taking a closer look at.
ASUS eeePC 1005HA
First up, is the latest 10.1” LED backlit Asus eeePC 1005HA. Featuring the standard 1.6Ghz Atom and 1Gb of RAM, you may think, so why is this so special?. Well, the different between this and other options is first outlined by the battery life. According to ASUS this thing can run up to a phenomenal 9.5 hours using the battery. Seeing as the whole point of using these things is for when you are out and about, you don’t want to be lugging the charger around in your pocket, so this is the perfect solution with one of the best netbooks for battery life currently available. The built-in bluetooth is something that most, but not all netbooks feature these days.
Another great feature which make this stand out is the multi-touch trackpad and chicklet keyboard, similar to those found on Apple’s MacBook which as you will probably know, is a much, much, much more expensive machine. Also, the ‘seashell’ look makes it one of the most attractive netbooks around.
Weighing in at just 1.33Kg, the Samsung NC140 netbook this is one of the lightest netbooks on the market which is something to be proud of considering the crowded market for these ultra-portable devices.
Again, featuring a 1.6Ghz Atom and 1Gb of RAM, spec wise it is not superior in that sense, however the 7 hour battery life packs a punch against most of its competitors. The 10.2” screen is pretty much the average size for most modern netbooks and there is nothing special regarding the keyboard or touchpad.
Although with a 250Gb hard drive and Windows 7 pre-installed, it is overall fairly similar to the ASUS above, but with more storage, however the price reflects this being around the £315 mark.
Dell Mini 10
As always Dell offer great value for money with their product however, for me, they do sacrifice the good looks for price and build quality. Which is fair enough, it just depends on one’s own taste.
One thing in the Dell’s favour is the processor. Featuring the Atom Z530 which although is still clocked at 1.6Ghz, being the Z series Atom, provides improved video performance over the N series of the ASUS and Samsung above.
Other spec is becoming increasing familiar. 1Gb RAM, 160Gb hard drive and a 10.1” display. So in that sense it is almost identical to the others. However, as I mentioned above, the thing that makes the Dell stand out is the processor.
Of course, being Dell, there are several options available when buying their product, so with this, you can opt for the same processor as the above netbooks, but save £60. If not, you will still be paying £279.99 direct from the manufacturer.
The one big down side to the Dell Mini 10 netbook is the battery when compared to the other options. This 3-cell option only provides 3 hour life as opposed to the other 6-cell batteries in the ASUS or Samsung. Other than that though, a great netbook.
Nokia Booklet 3G
Now this throws a spanner in the works. In terms of being a netbook it seems excessively expensive. For £500, this luxury ‘mini laptop’ as they like to call it, has a high quality aluminium shell and is probably the best looking netbooks around.
In terms of performance, the Nokia Booklet 3G also features the Z series Atom at 1.6Ghz which provides similar video quality to the Dell, however this time, it boasts a high definition (1280×720) 10.2” glass display. It also extends this by featuring HDMI output.
One of the defining features of the Nokia Booklet 3G is (you may have guessed from the name) the built in 3G connectivity for the ultimate on the move computing experience. Also, it features the Nokia Ovi store for additional downloads that you may find present on any new Nokia mobile phone. Furthermore, it has built in GPS navigation.
It weighs just 1.25Kg which makes it even lighter than any of the other netbooks previously mentioned. It also provides around 8.5 hours of battery (rather than the more ambitious 12 hours that Nokia claim).
Overall the Nokia Booklet 3G is probably the best netbook on the market, but you pay a premium for the privilege of owning one. However, it does come with Microsoft’s latest Windows 7 operating system, but unfortunately won’t be released in the UK in time for Christmas, but worth mentioning in case you want to hold off buying until the new year!
HP Touchsmart TX2
Last up we have an even more expensive model than the Nokia. For over £750 this netbook doesn’t come cheap. But it has something in its corner that none of the others do.
Firstly, it has the spec of a proper notebook crammed into a 12” netbook case. Featuring an AMD dual core processor clocked at 2.3Ghz, 4Gb of RAM and a 320Gb hard drive, this isn’t like any of the others in terms of performance.
Also, the display is quite special. With only one hinge, it can rotate 180 degrees and be used as a touchscreen tablet PC to make full use of Windows 7’s touch capabilities, which is rather nifty!
It was debatable whether this should be included in a list of netbooks, especially considering it even features a super multi DVD writer drive which isn’t standard in netbooks. However, based on the screen size, I thought it deserved a mention as it can’t be classed as a proper notebook either.
The HP Touchsmart TX2 netbook also claims a 12 hour battery, however reports suggest that it doesn’t full reach this potential much like the Nokia Booklet.
Overall, I believe you would have to be fairly flamboyant to splash out £750 for one of these, but it has the novelty of a touchscreen and notebook performance that the others don’t. So perhaps it’s worth a punt if you have the money to throw at it.
This concludes the our list of the top and best netbook choices for Christmas 2009 / Winter 2010. It was almost impossible to whittle down what is a list of hundreds to begin with to just 5. But I believe that these are the best on the market at the moment. However, I’m pretty sure there will be another batch flooding the market when the dual core Atom becomes more and more readily available in 2010.