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Need a Netbook? This is the Buyers Guide for You!

Feb 28 2011, 1:16pm CST | by , in Shopping | Shopping Tips

Need a Netbook? This is the Buyers Guide for You!
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Choosing a netbook isn't hard if you watch for the right features


If you have been working from the same old laptop for years and years now, it's time for an upgrade. Many folks start looking for new netbooks and computers early in the year as they look for ways to spend their tax return. Netbooks are not as popular as they once were now that the tablet market has started to boom, but the small netbook is still a very popular device.

There are so many netbooks on the market that it can be hard to choose one. The main difference between the machines tends to be the amount of storage, GPU, the OS, and the screen size. One place to pay attention when shopping for netbooks is the keyboard. Many netbooks are small and some notable companies like Asus use an alternative layout for the ancillary keys like shift and the arrow keys on some units making tying a bit of a learning curve again.

The hardware inside a netbook for the most part is the same across the board. The netbook market is dominated by the Intel Atom line and most of the machines you see will all run an Atom processor. There are some alternative platforms out there. For the average computer user just looking to surf the web, play casual games on Facebook, watch streaming video, and check email the netbook is up to the task.

Other than the keyboard, one of the most important things to keep an eye out for when shopping for a netbook is the GPU. Any of the cheaper machines will have a low power integrated GPU that might not be up to the task of streaming HD video. Machines with the NVIDIA Ion platform inside tend to be better for streaming media than those with standard graphics. The best machine for you really depends on what you will for with the netbook. Battery life will vary widely with netbooks and keep in mind as you shop that there is no standard for rating battery life making manufacturer numbers suspect in many cases.

One of the most popular options for a netbook comes from Asus and is the Eee PC 1001PX-EU27. The netbook has a 10.1-inch screen, which is the common size for netbooks today. The little machine is right under $250. It uses an N450 CPU at 1.66GHz, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB HDD, and the screen has a matte finish with 1024 x 600 resolution. That matte finish screen is a big deal if you will work from the netbook more than you will use it for video. Matte finish screens have far less glare than the glossy screen netbooks. This little netbook will be perfect if you want to work more than watch media.

If your budget is a bit larger and you want a machine that has a faster processor the Eee PC 1015PEM-PU17 is a nice option. This machine has a dual core Intel Atom N550 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 250GB HDD. The 10.1-inch screen is matte finished and has a 1024 x 600 resolution. The rig also has Bluetooth, and WiFi. Asus claims 13 hours of battery life, but again that number will vary in the real world. You can pick the netbook up for about $370 in four colors.

Another of the more popular netbook brands on the maker is the Acer Aspire One family. The AOD255E-13639 is a 10.1-inch netbook with a price of $269. The lower price means it gets the older Atom N455 processor. It has a glossy screen that is 10.1-inches and has a resolution of 1024 x 600. The glossy screen will be better for streaming video than the matte finishes screen on the Asus netbooks I mentioned, but the glare will make working in bright rooms more difficult. The netbook has 1GB of RAM and 250GB of storage.

If you aren’t an Intel fan and want to give a netbook a try running one of the newer AMD processors for the ultraportable market the Aspire One A0522 is perfect. This machine uses the AMD C-series process and has ATI HD 6250 graphics. The graphics performance on this machine will be better for fans that plan to stream lots of media. The processor used runs at 1GHz and the HDD is 250GB. The GPU has 256MB of its own RAM. The screen is a glossy 10.1-inch unit and the netbook has WiFi onboard and more. You can order it now for about $330.

If you like the idea of a tablet, but you really want an integrated keyboard for when you need to work the Asus Eee T101MT might be just the thing. This is a netbook with a screen that rotates to turn the machine into a 10.1-inch screen tablet. The machine uses an Atom N455 CPU, has 1GB of RAM, and the screen supports multitouch if you run Windows 7 Home Premium. It apparently ships with Windows 7 starter though with no multitouch support. The netbook also has WiFi and lots more. The only real standout feature here to justify the price is the swiveling screen so if you aren't sure you will use tablet mode, save the money and get a normal netbook.

If media streaming is your thing, then you will want a netbook with the best graphics you can get your hands on. The Asus Eee 1015PN is one of the new netbooks that has both a dual core N550 CPU and NVIDIA Ion 2 discrete graphics. That Ion 2 GPU gives this machine graphics performance that other netbooks can match and makes streaming HD video and playing games a snap. The netbook has a 10.1-inch screen with a matte finish and 1024 x 600 resolution. It has 1GB of RAM and a 250GB HDD. The battery life is claimed to be 9.5 hours. You can pick up the 1015PN for about $360.


Any of these netbooks will make great portable machines for working and for streaming media. If you are in the market for a new netbook keep an eye on the important specs, don’t expect the same level of performance you get from a notebook and you should be happy.

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