Inexpensive portables are often the perfect solution

If you’re looking for the ultimate in computer portability, then there’s only one option – the netbook. With brand new models starting at less than $300, and with some of them being small enough to fit in your back pocket, it’s tough to know which is the most suitable one for yourself.

Features to look for

The problem with choosing a netbook is that, for the most part, almost all the major brands come with very similar features. Typically, most netbooks feature an Intel Atom processor, together with an Intel Integrated Graphics card. So is there anything to set netbooks apart? Well actually, there are a few things to consider…

The biggest differences with netbooks relate to the hard drive, battery life and the screen size (and weight).

Storage capacity (hard drive) can vary quite wildly with netbooks, from a minimum of just 8 GB, to as much as 120 GB. If you just want a netbook that lets you browse the net while you’re on the move, a small hard drive is fine, but if you plan on saving anything at all (movies, documents, games, music, images), then you’ll need to look for something with a fair size storage capacity.

Regarding the screen, most netbooks use an LCD display of similar resolution and quality, the only difference being the size. Sizes usually vary between 8.9 inches and 10 inches, although one or two models may be outside this range. Benefits of a larger screen size include being able to see the screen more easily, and usually, a slightly bigger keyboard. One exception to all this is the Dell Mini 12, which features a 12 inch, full WXGA resolution display, though this is a one-off for the netbook market.

For batteries, you have a choice of 3-cells (shortest life), 4-cells and 6-cells (longest life). Those models with a 3-cell battery can usually be expected to last for around 2-3 hours, while some netbooks have been known to squeeze as much as 6 hours from some 6-cell batteries.

Best Brands

Just about every major laptop maker has one or two netbook models on the market nowadays. The Apple MacBook Air is considered to be the best of them all, but it can also be expensive. Expect to be paying at least $1,000 for the MacBook Air.

Dell’s Mini 12 is probably the next best, as it comes with the highest resolution screen of any netbook, although it is actually bordering on being an ultraportable rather than a true netbook. It is definitely, quite noticeably bigger than others in this range.

Asus are one of the biggest players on the netbook field, with a range of models available, including the original ASUS Eee PC 701, the Eee PC 900 and 901, and the newest of the bunch, the Eee PC 1000.

Other good netbooks include the HP Mini, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10, the Acer Aspire One, the Sony Vaio P, and Samsung’s rather sleek-looking NC10.


Prices vary considerably, starting at over $1,000 for the Apple MacBook Air, around $600 for Dell’s Mini 12, and then anything between $300 and $600 for most other major brands. A number of cheaper netbooks also exist, such as the older Dell Mini 9, for around $250, and the 9 inch version of the HP Mini, which can be had for $299.

Where to buy

When it comes to buying netbooks, its hard to beat the prices that can be found on Amazon.