We’ve reviewed the experts’ recommendations and users’ comments on a wide range of netbooks, and here we recommend 4 highly rated ones.
Firstly, what are netbooks? Like the meaning of “responsible” (as in “who really is responsible for the deep economic mire we find ourselves in – greedy bankers or incompetent ministers?”) everybody seems to have a different point of view.
For the non-techy they are small, very portable laptops which are more likely to be used for basic wordprocessing, emailing, surfing the net, and watching and listening to video, pictures and songs on the move. Later models are now able to play more sophisticated games, and even do some video editing, though this is still best left for a more powerful laptop or desktop. They are at the smaller end of the screen sizes, up to 11 inches (measured diagonally), though there are no hard and fast rules.
Don’t get confused with notebooks – notebooks a bit bigger, and less portable, lying between the netbook and the laptop; nor are they “tablets” – the most famous of which is the newly launched iPad. Tablets have no keyboard and are principally for playing media and surfing the web, not more serious multi-tasking.
The important thing is that netbooks are designed to be very portable laptops – though a recent survey of US owners found that 60% never took them out of the house! Most have inbuilt wifi to connect to wireless internet wherever you are, or have the capability to link to the internet via a 3G link (like a phone).
Why would you want one? Apart from establishing your IT revolution credentials on the 7.36 from Tring, it could perfectly adequately satisfy your general computing needs whilst on the move. Battery life of the more modern netbooks is between 6 and 8 hours.
However, the basic fact is that you trade off convenience for power – ie what the thing will do for you. For example, they are unlikely to do lots of tasks at the same time, or even a single, power hungry application such as video editing. Also, one of the key things to bear in mind is the size of the screen – its small size may mean that it’s easy to slip into a large pocket or bag, but as a result it may be less easy to see what’s on it. Nevetheless, you just have to read a few user reviews to see how popular they are, and how they fulfill most users’ computing needs.
The other thing you are unlikely to find in a netbook is an inbuilt CD/DVD player – though a reasonable solution is to buy a seperate player (or “drive”) for around £30. Check out one here.
So what netbooks do the experts recommend? We’ve scanned the web to find their recommendations, and have found suggested best buys listed by Cnet, PC Advisor, Netbook Review, Budget Netbooks, TechRadar, Stuff.tv, Pocket Lint, Trusted Reviews, and we’ve also reviewed user comments in Revoo, Review Centre and Amazon. We’ve aggregated the rankings, and come up with our own definitive list of best buy netbooks – ones we would happily buy ourselves.
One thing to bear in mind is that manufacturers are developing their products all the time – new versions are being released regularly. This means that reviews and recommendations may be out of date after a short while. However, where a notebook has been around a while, and there is an updated version, we’ve mentioned it as worth checking out.
We’ve looked at the budget end of the notebook spectrum – under £260. You can spend more – over £400 – and you will generally get a more powerful machine, with more features. However, we think, for general use, you can buy an excellent notebook for under £300.
We’ve included links to Amazon – they’re not always the cheapest, but they give a lot of information about the product and detailed user reviews all in one place, and in our experience deliver good value for money. The opinions site Ciao! gives Amazon 4.5/5 averaged over 730 user reviews.
Here are the 4 top recommended netbooks in priority order, best first. To get more detail and the price, click on the name of the netbook. To see a particular review, click on the source (eg Cnet). :
1.Samsung NC10 Netbook (click name for detail)
Possibly the most recommended netbook is the Samsung NC10. Described as “Most Popular” by Budget Netbooks, given 10/10 by Trusted Reviews, 4.5/5 by PC Advisor, 5/5 by TechRadar, 5/5 and a “Hot Buy” by Stuff.TV.
Unfortunately, this notebook is getting a bit old now (though still available and still getting excellent reviews), so you may also wish to consider a newer netbook from the same stable, such as the Samsung N120 (click name for detail)(TechRadar gave it 4.5/5 ) or the Samsung N130 (click name for detail) (TechRadar gave it 3/5 and 52 users gave it an average of 4.5/5 at Amazon). They all seem great notebooks!
2. Asus 1005HA 10-inch Netbook (click name for detail)
It supercedes the highly acclaimed Asus 1000 HE. A good alternative, though more expensive, is the Asus Eee PC 1008HA (click name for detail), which is ranked 9/10 by Trusted Reviews, and 5/5 by Stuff.tv, and rated 4.5/5 on average by 12 customer reviews at Amazon
3. Toshiba NB200-10z 10.1-inch Netbook (click name for detail)
9 customer reviews average 4/5 at Amazon
4. Acer Aspire One D150 (click name for detail)
Whilst this notebook is getting a little long in the tooth (relatively!), and has been updated during 2009, it is still rated very highly by the experts and users. Budget Netbooks said it was “easy to use”, PC Advisor gave it 4.5/5, as did TechRadar. Stuff.tv rated it slightly lower at 4/5, but still recommended it. 33 customer reviews at Amazon rated it 4 /5 on average.