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Since Asus launched its budget-friendly Eee 4G PC in late 2007, the mini-notebook market has exploded. These tightly focused micromachines can handle word processing, basic Web browsing, and...little else. So why even consider these computers? The price. Costing in the neighborhood of $500, they are affordable starter systems for school and light business use. Performance may improve with the next generation, thanks to the updated Via C7 and Intel Atom processors on the way. But don't expect either CPU to run Windows Vista very well.

Most current mini-notebook models run XP or Linux without evident strain. Of the current crop, I'd recommend that you check out HP's 2133 (just make sure not to buy the Vista edition unless you love waiting for apps to start)--and keep your eyes peeled for newer, more powerful devices coming in the fall.

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