I like Linux netbooks. I like them a lot. They're lightweight, they're solid performers, they're cheap, and it looks like they're soon going to be cheaper than ever.
According to Mike Elgan, starting on Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, you'll see new, solid brand-name netbooks going for as little as $199. We're already seeing Best Buy offering the Asus Eee PC 900a for $299. Will we see the Asus Eee PC 1000, which I like, for $399? We just might.
So if you do see great Linux netbook bargains soon, which one should you buy? I can't claim to have seen every netbook on the market, but I have seen and used a lot of them.
Before charging out the door to buy one, though you need to think this through. You don't want to just rush out there and grab the first cheap machine you see. For example, if your ring size is '11,' than a 7" display netbook isn't going to be for you at any price. You'll never be comfortable with the keyboard. Personally, I like my netbooks to have at least a 9" display. It's a perfectly usable size, and it should have a resolution of 1,024x600.
For the CPU, look for Intel Atom processors under the hood. There's nothing wrong with Via chips, but, for the moment, you tend to get more GHz for the buck from the Atom series. That will change, but not in time for this holiday season.
As for storage, it looks like most of the bottom-priced netbooks will be the ones with 4GB SSD (solid-state drives). That's enough for me for a netbook, but you may want more. If you do, expect to pay more. Many systems will be coming with at least a 512MBs of RAM. That's more than enough for any desktop Linux. If you're tempted to get XP Home instead, you'll want at least a gigabyte of RAM though.
With no further adieu, here's my list of netbooks to look for this holiday season.
Dell Inspiron Mini 9. I have one and I love it. We know for a fact that this one will be widely available on Black Friday for $299. That model is expected to have 512MBs of RAM. With Ubuntu 8.04 under the hood, that's more than enough memory. It will also have a 4GB SSD.
Acer Aspire One. This is a curious case. I'm seeing early Black Friday ads... for the XP Home version that go as low as $349. Things is, you can already get the Linpus Linux-powered Acer Aspire One for just over $300. The inexpensive Aspire has an 8.9" display and keyboard to match that I find a trifle uncomfortable. On the other hand, it also has 512MBs of RAM and an 8GB SSD. Check it out. It may be just what you need.
MSI Wind 100. This netbook seems to divide people. Some love it. Some hate it. I just like it. It has a nice 10", 1024 x 600 pixel display, 1GB of RAM, and a 120GB hard drive. You can looks for prices on this model at around $299. The MSI Wind runs SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop).
There are other netbooks out there, and I expect you'll be able to find good prices on them as well. These three, however, I know for a fact will be available at great prices. For more on these three models, here are our latest reviews: Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9 and MSI Wind 100. As for me, I'm thinking about getting another Mini 9 for a present and I'm trying to find a way to argue myself into getting an MSI Wind 100 for... uh... test purposes! Yeah, that's the ticket.
This article originally appeared as a blog posting on our sister site, Computerworld.com.