Laptop Prize Fight
Asus EEE PC 1005 PE
The Eee PC has been a staple of the netbook category, and is arguably the brand that started the netbook revolution. Asus's just-released 1005 PE uses Intel's new Atom N450 CPU and graphics combination, which should further improve battery life. With a 10-inch screen and a weight of less than 3 pounds, the Eee PC 1005 PE epitomizes what people think of when they think of a netbook. That includes fantastic battery life (possibly more than 10 hours of Web surfing) and, concurrently, a limited amount of RAM (1GB), which can hold back performance. Available early 2010.
Dell Inspiron Mini 10
Dell offers the Inspiron Mini 10 at the very low starting price of $299, but the price goes up as you add nonstandard features to your unit. It's available in six colors, and you can opt for Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter (for $30 more), but you won't find a lot of customization options beyond that. Like many other netbooks, the Mini 10 is limited to 1GB of RAM. The keyboard--which is 92 percent of full size--is easy to type on, despite the netbook's diminutive size. Also, the Mini 10 uses a Z-series Atom processor, which provides stronger graphics than the Atom N-series does.
MSI Wind U135
MSI's popular Wind brand, like the Eee PC from Asus, helped popularize the netbook category. Besides adding an Intel Atom N450 processor, the new Wind U135 model includes such design tweaks as a bigger trackpad and an improved keyboard. And the Wind U135 has one significant advantage over many other netbooks: It's available with up to 2GB of RAM. Prices for MSI's new model start at $329--less than for the Eee PC 1005 PE--but the battery is smaller, so you'll get a few hours less life out of it before you must recharge.
Acer Ferrari One
What do you call a laptop system that is about an inch thick, comes with an 11-inch screen, weighs just over 3 pounds, and uses a low-voltage Athlon X2 processor? Is it a larger, more powerful netbook or a small, low-power ultraportable? The Ferrari One from Acer straddles the line. With up to 4GB of RAM and a decent AMD integrated graphics chip, it's snappier and more powerful than most netbooks; but don't expect more than 5 hours of battery life. And you can get it clad in any color--as long as it's Ferrari Red.
Sony VAIO Y
Sony's new VAIO Y Series laptops feature Core 2 Duo ultra-low-voltage CPUs and Intel integrated graphics in a slim, lightweight (under 4 pounds) chassis. The 13.3-inch LED-backlit screen has a resolution of 1366 by 768, which is a step up from what you'll find on most netbooks. Also standard is 4GB of 800MHz DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive. You probably shouldn't expect all-day battery life from the VAIO Y's six-cell standard battery, but a larger eight-cell battery is available if you don't mind carrying a little more bulk and weight.
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge
Lenovo is known for its boring black laptops; the new ThinkPad Edge, though, is sleek and stylish by comparison. It's a larger ultraportable, with a 13-inch screen, but it still comes in at only 3.5 pounds. It's powered by Intel's dual-core ultra-low-voltage (ULV) processors, which are markedly more powerful than the Atom CPUs found in netbooks. Battery life, as with most ultraportables, is better than that of full-size notebooks but not as good as that of the best netbooks. The keyboard feels great--a typical feature of Lenovo notebooks--and you get both a touchpad and a TrackPoint "eraser nub."
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