Want a great netbook for video, music, and light gaming? Or a machine with all-day battery life? Or maybe just a cool companion PC on the cheap? Look no further: We've uncovered suitable netbooks for all sorts of users.
Best for business: HP Mini 5102
HP's Mini 5102 is optimised for business - and its pricing, depending on the options you select, is steep.
The Mini 5102 is HP's latest business-optimised netbook, with a ruggedised metal chassis and design elements tailored for the business traveller.
Though packed with features that business users want, it's expensive: The configuration we reviewed, with a touchscreen, 2GB of RAM, an Atom N450 CPU, and a six-cell battery, costs about £393 - easily as much as a larger, more full-featured laptop.
The lid's brushed-metal finish is handsome and doesn't attract fingerprints or smudges.
The keyboard is quite easy to type on, with extra-wide , , and keys.
It has a good, clicky feel with plenty of travel, but no backlight or keyboard light for working in the dark.
The touchpad looks a little small (common on netbooks), but in practice it isn't much of a problem. It tracks well, and the buttons are separate, distinct, and easy to use accurately without looking at them.
The machine's display quality is slightly better than average, with decent contrast and viewing angles, but the 10.1in screen has a resolution of 1024x600, which isn't a lot of desktop real estate--it results in frequent scrolling.
You can pay a bit extra for a higher-resolution, 1366x768 display, and it's probably worth it; that option isn't available, however, if you go for a multitouch screen.
Two USB ports are on the front left edge; on the back left edge is a VGA port. An ethernet port and a third USB port are on the back of the right edge, with headphone and microphone jacks in the middle, and a card reader up front.
The front edge has only a Wi-Fi switch. Above the keyboard, you'll find a power button and two quick-launch buttons.
Both 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth are standard..
You can choose from several operating systems: SUSE Linux, Windows XP, Windows 7 Starter, and even Windows 7 Professional. Hard-drive options range from the 160GB drive of our test unit up to 320GB, or an 80GB or 120GB solid-state drive.
If you deck out the system with all of the most expensive options you can combine, you'd push the price up.
With a WorldBench 6 score of 34, the performance of the Mini 5102 is similar to other netbooks using the Atom N450 processor, though the 2GB of RAM makes things a little snappier when multiple apps run.
Our test unit's extended six-cell battery improves battery life: It ran for 9 hours, 41 minutes in our tests. As on other Atom-based netbooks, the graphics and video decoding is quite poor.
Though its design and feature set are good, especially for business users, all but the barest configurations of the HP Mini 5102 cost as much as many full-size laptops that perform much better.
The Mini 5102 is a great netbook for simple note-taking and document editing on the go, as well as for long business flights, but if you just want an inexpensive companion PC, you'll be better off considering less-pricey models.
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