Lenovo IdeaPad S10
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 manages to fit a 10-inch, 1024-by-600-resolution display into a tiny 9.8-by-7.3-by-0.9-inch frame. This netbook also houses a big 160GB hard-disk drive, which contributes to its relatively hefty weight of 3.6 pounds.
Though the IdeaPad S10 carries the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 processor that most other mini-laptops do, it turned in a creditable score of 41 on our PC WorldBench 6 benchmark test suite; the average mark for a netbook is just 36. Unfortunately, battery life is a weakness of this model: The IdeaPad S10's three-cell battery lasted only 2 hours, 35 minutes on a charge.
Lenovo wins a few extra-credit points for including a handy recovery application, CyberLink OneKey Recovery 6.0, which allows you to create backups, establish partitions, and set restore points--a more flexible backup option than permitting you only to restore the PC to its factory-fresh condition.
If you're looking for a big, beefy hard drive and surprisingly sprightly performance from a netbook, the IdeaPad S10 is a solid pick.
PCW Rating: 84
For additional information about netbooks, check out these articles:
"Top 5 Netbooks" [chart]
"Six New and Notable Netbooks" [slide show]
Asus Eee PC 1000H XP
Asus keeps improving its netbooks' features and capabilities. The company's Eee PC 1000H 80G XP addresses many of the problems we've had with earlier Eee family mini-laptops, and in the process creates a solid second-generation machine.
Like most of the other machines reviewed here, this machine has a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 processor and 1GB of RAM. Our original test unit came with an 80GB hard drive, but more models are packing 160GB drives these days. The Eee PC 1000H XP has a 10-inch display and measures 10.5 by 7.5 by 1.5 inches. This netbook is also fairly heavy for its class, weighing about 3.6 pounds including the six-cell battery. The battery lasted about 4 hours, 32 minutes on a single charge in our tests.
Given the size of this netbook, we weren't surprised by its spacious, comfortable keyboard/mouse setup and its reasonably sharp 10-inch, 1024-by-600-resolution screen. But we felt something akin to astonishment at the 1000H XP's good sound--a quality rarely encountered in notebooks, let alone netbooks. Factor in the extra-solid design and you have a good second-generation machine.
PCW Rating: 84
Acer Aspire One
With its bargain-basement price, the Acer Aspire One looks like a steal--until you realize that you need the six-cell battery (for an extra $100) if you plan to use this netbook for longer than the first six innings of a baseball game; the included three-cell battery conked out after just 2 hours, 16 minutes. The sizes and prices of models in the mini-laptop category continue to escalate, but the Aspire One comes in at just $349 in its smaller-battery incarnation--$100 less than either the three-cell-powered Lenovo IdeaPad S10 or the six-cell-powered Asus Eee PC 1000H XP. Acer's well-constructed, elegant entry measures 9.8 by 6.7 by 1.1 inches, roughly the same size as the IdeaPad S10. It's more than a pound lighter than the S10, though, at 2.3 pounds. Its screen is smallish at 8.9 inches on the diagonal.
It may have the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM as the other contestants, but it falls a little behind them in performance, scoring a mediocre 34 on PC WorldBench 6 (the average mark is 36).
The standout feature of this netbook is its incredibly roomy keyboard, which lets you hunt and peck comfortably and without hassle. Counterbalancing that positive feature is the Aspire One's horrid touchpad with flanking mouse buttons--an arrangement that makes mousing unnecessarily arduous. If you can put up with that pain and paltry battery life, though, the Aspire One remains a good, cheap choice.
PCW Rating: 83
HP Mini 2140
The HP Mini 2140, the latest entrant in Hewlett-Packard's 2100 series of netbooks, is what the company's Mini 1000 aspires to be when it grows up. With a smart aluminum frame and spill-resistant keys, the Mini 2140 looks as if it means business. The netbook has 3D DriveGuard technology to protect its hard drive when it unexpectedly plummets to earth (or pavement). Otherwise, the 2140 retains a lot of the Mini 1000's features, including a fairly large case and wide, flat buttons.
Unfortunately, it also sports the Mini 1000's annoying touchpad, with the left and right buttons flanking the touch zone. The base-level, $499 version of the 2140 comes with Intel's 1.6-GHz Atom N270 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard-disk drive. A top-of-the-line model costs $629 for 2GB of memory and a 7200-rpm, 160GB hard drive. Though it has the same specs as most other netbooks on the market, this metallic mini-laptop netted a disappointingly puny score of 26 on PC WorldBench 6. On the bright side, the 2140's battery can run the machine for almost 7 hours on a single charge.
Another nice touch is the 10.1-inch backlit LED display. This crisp, colorful screen has a native resolution of 1024 by 576 pixels. (Alternatively, a high-definition 1366-by-768-pixel display is available as an extra-cost option.) If you can tolerate the overly glossy screen, your gussied-up Mini 2140 will certainly impress coworkers at your next meeting.
PCW Rating: 83
The Asus N10Jc, a "corporate netbook," isn't just some do-over of Asus's Eee 1000H 80G XP. In fact, it strays rather far from the vale of netbooks and approaches ultraportable notebook territory. Its price bears witness to its identity confusion: $650 is inexpensive for an ultraportable, but steep for a mini-laptop.
One point of divergence from the usual netbook configuration is the N10Jc's nVidia GeForce 9300M GS--not the typical graphics processing unit for a mini-laptop. You'll even find an HDMI output, and images look sharp on the Asus's native 1024-by-600-pixel-resolution, 10.2-inch screen. Want to save battery power? Choose between high-performance and battery-saving GPUs. Otherwise, this model runs on the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM that most other mainstream netbooks use. It also has a 160GB hard drive. Running in high-performance mode, the N10Jc earned a WorldBench 6 mark of 36--putting it squarely in the middle of the pack. Switched to its power-saving mode, the N10Jc chugged along for a whopping 5 hours, 3 minutes.
The N10Jc succeeds in many ways, but its price should prompt you to consider whether you might be better off springing for a heavier, all-purpose laptop equipped with an optical drive, such as the Sony VAIO VGN-NR485 for about $150 more.
PCW Rating: 80
For a detailed discussion of what to look for in a netbook and how to buy one wisely, see "Netbooks: All About the New Ultrportables."