Top 10 End-of-Decade Netbooks

Intel’s just-announced Pine Trail Atom CPUs will redefine battery life in netbooks in 2010 and lead to new or updated models hitting the market from January.  But we’re looking at what’s available now at the end of the decade that brought us the netbook. These machines highlight the best of what netbooks can offer and the good thing is you can expect some of the older models below to be discounted heavily over the next few months as retailers clear the shelves for the Pine Trail netbooks.

1. HP Mini 311 

By combining an older Intel Atom N270 CPU and 2GBs of DR3 RAM with an NVIDIA ION Le video chipset the HP Mini 311 is one of the new generation netbooks able to play HD-quality movies smoothly on its excellent 11.6″ 1366×768 screen. It can also run many games at basic settings which is not surprising given NVIDIA’s claims that the ION Le chipset is essentially a cut-down version of the GeForce 9400 that powers the graphics in an Apple MacBook. You also get Altec Lansing built-in speakers for decent audio quality. The Mini 311 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium and a six-cell battery for increased use on the road which brings the weight up to nearly 1.5Kgs. All this doesn’t mean it’s as powerful as a notebook since it’s still powered by an Intel Atom (and an older one at that) but in areas where graphics processing is important it outshines current non-Ion netbooks.
RRP: $899  Median street price: $800

2. Samsung N510

Samsung entered the netbook market with the excellent NC10 followed it up with the N110 and recently added a bunch of new netbooks that include the superb N140. But it’s the N510 that’s Samsung’s netbook tour de force: a 1.41kg machine with an 11.6-inch screen  powered by the same ION Le graphics as the HP Mini 311 but with a more powerful Intel Atom 280 CPU. Just like the HP the Samsung can handle graphics in a way that ordinary netbooks can only dream of enabling you to watch HD movies on its 1366×768 screen and even play basic games. And with an HDMI port you can connect an external HD monitor. It also has three USB ports  802.11n Wi-Fi and Fast Ethernet and runs Windows 7 Home Premium.
RRP: $849 Median Street price: $820

3. ASUS Eee PC 1008HA

By their very nature netbooks are designed to be cut-down ultraportable versions of their larger laptop counterparts so we don’t expect too much from them by way of features and performance. Still if you’re happy to spend a little extra the 10008HA will accommodate by offering a few bonus creature comforts such as the external Super Multi DVD drive simulated SRS surround sound audio and a generous 500GB of free online storage through ASUS. The 10008HA is also slimmer and lighter than the other netbooks in the range measuring 18mm at its thinnest point and weighing and travel-friendly 1.1kg.
RRP: $749 Median street price: $690

4. Asus Eee PC 1005HA 

ASUS kicked off the netbook revolution and its current machines continue its superb reputation in the category. Powered by the 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor the EeePC 1005HA has the same features and specifications as the pricier the Eee PC 1005HA-H but a smaller capacity battery that’s good for “only” eight hours of battery life.  Includes Windows 7 Starter Edition  and a generous 250GB hard drive. Weighing just 1.1kgs this is the machine to get if you want a netbook in the classic tradition of affordability and lightness with a great brand on it.
RRP:  $599  Median street price: $450

5. HP Mini 5101

If you can’t tell from its design this HP netbook is pitched at business but is just as good for personal use.  With a very generous 320GB hard drive it comes preinstalled with Windows Vista Business/XP Professional. The nearly full-sized keyboard is good for long stints in front of the netbook while the 1.2kg weight means it’s light enough to go where you go. A decent battery life means you can stay away from a power point within reason. This model includes Bluetooth for connection to a mobile phone or Bluetooth/Skype headset. A really good all-rounder.
RRP: $799  Median Street price: $550

6. Aspire One D250 (AOD250)

Sometimes you just can’t judge purely on tech specs. This is the kind of light affordable netbook that engenders extreme user loyalty with owners often spotted raving about Aspire Ones in forums. Updated to run Windows 7 Starter Edition the tiny Aspire One D250 stays true to the netbook ideal with its highly portable 1.1kg weight and skinny one-inch-thin dimensions. Compared to some of the newer netbooks the D250 runs the slower 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor and comes with a smaller 3-cell battery (good for around 2.5 hours of run-time – short by netbook standards) but it’s also got the cheaper $599 pricetag to compensate. For simple Web browsing Word processing and playing multimedia or as a secondary ‘travel’ notebook the Aspire One D250 should fit the bill nicely.
RRP: $599  Median street price:  $420

7. Toshiba Mini NB200

If you like the Toshiba brand and you are looking for a basic netbook the NB200 is the solid no-fuss machine for you. The netbook has the average 10.1-inch screen and runs Windows 7 Starter. It’s lightweight and portable and will be good for surfing the net checking email and mild word processing. In reality a run-of-the-mill netbook with a slightly larger than typical hard drive but with a dominant notebook brand etched on the screen. Look for bargains as it’s about to be superseded by the better NB205.
RRP $699 Median street price: $550

8. Dell Inspiron Mini 10v

The Mini 10v is a great choice for students
and those that need a second notebook for travel. At $499 it’s one of
the cheapest netbooks on the market while still retaining good build
quality and an attractive hardware design. Compared to the Mini 10 it’s got a
smaller 160GB hard drive no HDMI port one less USB port (for a total
of 2) and the less power-efficient (but equally fast) 1.6GHz Intel Atom
N270 processor.
RRP: $499

9. BenQ Joybook Lite U121 Eco

Another funny one. Specs-wise
it’s like a typical netbook at the pricier end of the scale but with a slightly larger 11.6-inch HD
resolution 16:9 screen full-sized keyboard and nice blue external
finish it looks a million dollars! It’s the kind of netbook you give
your partner or family members as a present to impress them. Storage is the
typical 160GB for a netbook which will be plenty for most users.
Battery life is decent as well making for a nice machine for the user
who wants internet access and the ability to do light work on the go.
The only downside is that the HD resolution screen is that the machine
lacks the graphics muscle to support the resolution.
RRP: $899 Median street price: $580

10. Activo 10.1 AV-1000

Activo’s entry-level netbook manages its sub-$500 price tag by using older technology making it an appealing option for bargain hunters. If you’re happy to settle for a smaller 3-cell battery (good for around two and a half hours) the older XP operating system and the last-gen N270 Atom processor to shave even more dollars off the bottom line the AV-1000 will do you nicely. Its components may be a little long in the tooth but performance on this machine is good enough to handle basic tasks like web browsing and music playback adequately plus it’s lighter than most modern netbooks at 1.09kg.
RRP: $439 Median street price: $400

Keep an eye out for bargains at APC’s

As  retailers clear the shelves for machines with the new Pine Trail chipsets they’ll start heavily discounting some of the older machines above. Visit our Notebook Hunter site for a list of daily specials from the major retailers and others.

Do you agree with our top 10?

If you think we’ve missed other great noughties netbooks let us know below.