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Review: Battle of the Intel Atom netbooks - which one's right for you?

by Parm Mann on 19 September 2008, 17:05

Tags: Eee PC, Wind U100, Aspire One, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Acer (TPE:2353), ASUSTeK (TPE:2357), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Samsung (005935.KS), Toshiba (TYO:6502), MSI, Kohjinsha

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Finding a netbook in a haystack

Early in 2008, Intel announced its plans to bring low-cost and ultra-portable computers to the mainstream in the form of newly-named netbooks. It clearly wasn't kidding, and since then, we've seen a barrage of netbooks from various manufacturers thrown in the general direction of the consumer.

Netbooks - small, light-weight and low-cost portables - aim to provide core computing functionality such as web browsing, e-mail and word processing in a device that typically costs less than a full-size notebook. Those of the Intel variety usually feature an Intel Atom processor - a low-cost chip that measures just 22mm x 22mm and consumes less than three watts of power.

Having started with ASUS' popular Eee PC, the netbook market has grown enormously and in a matter of merely months, we've got a large selection of netbooks to choose from. Trouble is, most netbooks tend to look alike, and their specification is so similar that many consumers may be left scratching their heads. While most netbooks may appear to be the same, some actually are - take the MSI Wind and Advent 4211 for example.

So, how do you go about finding one that's right for you? Well, we've taken the time to piece together a handy little table to help differentiate a selection of current and upcoming netbooks. At a glance, here's a selection of what's on offer:

  Aspire One Eee PC 901 Eee PC 1000H Inspiron Mini 9 M912 NB100 NC10 SX3 Wind U100
Manufacturer Acer ASUS ASUS Dell GIGABYTE Toshiba Samsung Kohjinsha MSI
Processor Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz Intel Atom 1.33GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz
RAM 512MB / 1GB 1GB 1GB 512MB / 1GB 1GB / 2GB 1GB 512MB / 1GB 1GB 1GB
Storage 8GB flash / 120GB HDD 12GB SSD / 20GB SSD 80GB HDD 4GB / 8GB / 16GB SSD 120GB / 160GB / 250GB HDD 120GB HDD 80GB / 120GB / 160GB HDD 60GB HDD 80GB HDD
Screen size 8.9in 8.9in 10.2in 8.9in 8.9in 8.9in 10.2in 8.9in 10.2in
Screen resolution 1,024 x 600 1,024 x 600 1,024 x 600 1,024 x 600 1,280 x 768 1,024 x 600 1,024 x 600 1,280 x 768 1,024 x 600
Touch screen No No No No Yes No No Yes No
Internal optical drive No No No No No No No Yes No
Weight 2.78lbs 2.80lbs 3.30lbs 2.27lbs 2.87lbs Unknown 2.93lbs 2.65lbs 2.6lbs
Battery 3-cell / 6-cell 6-cell 6-cell 4-cell 4-cell Unknown 6-cell Unknown 3-cell / 6-cell
Launch date July 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 August 2008 October 2008 October 2008 July 2008 (Japan only) May 2008
Operating system Linpus Linux Lite / Windows XP Xandros Linux / Windows XP Xandros Linux / Windows XP Ubuntu Linux / Windows XP Windows Vista Home Basic / Windows XP Ubuntu Linux / Windows XP Windows XP Windows Vista Home Premium Linux Novell / Windows XP
Starting price £219.99 £299 £359.99 £299 £424.99 £269.99 £369.99 £620 £349.99

That's quite a lot of information to take in, so let's take a closer look at each of the netbooks mentioned, shall we?