There's a huge number of machines to choose from in the netbook market. A quick glance at the specs of the current crop might lead you to believe that they're more alike than different.

Nearly all of them are based on the same Intel Atom CPU (the N450), with 1GB or 2GB of RAM, no optical drive, and similar battery-life claims. But look closer, and you can see that various models are designed with different people in mind.

If you're interested in using your netbook for entertainment, such as watching high-def video or playing the occasional game, you'll want a model with a larger screen and a good graphics processor (nVidia's Ion or AMD's low-power platform with ATI graphics). You'll pay more and give up some battery life, though.

If you frequently take long business trips or need to get a little work done on the train or plane, you'll want a netbook that maximises battery life to obviate the need for an outlet until you get home for the evening.

As a business traveller, you may find on-the-go connectivity, rugged design, and a terrific keyboard and touchpad to be more important than raw performance.

Maybe performance and price don't matter to you as much as a netbook that looks good and has first-rate design, even if you have to pay more to get it.

Perhaps you find yourself on the other side of that coin, looking for the least expensive netbook that will get the job done, as a companion to your everyday PC.

Whether you're looking for a netbook with lengthy battery life, useful business features, a small price tag, innovative design, or great entertainment capabilities, read on for our top choices in each category.

Do you just want a good all-around workhorse? Our 'Group test: what's the best netbook?' feature will tell you which to plump for.

NEXT PAGE: Best Design: Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3

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 design: Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3

Lenovo's IdeaPad S10-3 is designed for business users, with a great keyboard and a multitouch touchpad.

Everything Lenovo sells, including the £279 IdeaPad S10-3 netbook, appears to be intended for the boardroom or meeting room.

This business-oriented model is a bit pricier for its specs than the competition.

Most other 10.1in,1024x600-resolution netbooks with the same 1GB Intel N450 CPU and 3150 GPU combination sell for around £30 less; they also have a more-capacious 250GB hard drive (the S10-3's is 160GB).

While 160GB is more than enough for most users, you are still getting a little less of the basics and paying a bit extra for the business features and software.

Or is it the ergonomics you're paying for? The innovative multitouch combination of touchpad and rocker button on the S10-3 is a relief for anyone (including this writer) who hates inadvertently tapping while dragging or hunting for buttons.

Simply apply a little pressure to the bottom left or right corner of the device, and you have your click.

Another time-honoured Lenovo strength is the keyboard, and the S10-3 doesn't disappoint there either.

The typing feel is as good as you'll find on a netbook, with no scrunched or misplaced keys. Working with this netbook feels less like using a netbook than doing so with any other 10.1in netbook I've ever tried.

Lenovo also bundles some interesting software.

Most of it, such as the VeriFace facial recognition security, is aimed squarely at business users.

Lock down the system with a password, and VeriFace will log you on by scanning your mug using the webcam. It works rather well, and is fun. But logging on this way is slow and gets tiring after a while.

Additional apps include DirectShare, which syncs files and folders across your network, and OneKey Recovery, which images your hard drive for disaster recovery (though Windows can do this).

Unfortunately, you don't get even Microsoft Works.

No doubt Lenovo thought business users would have their own productivity suite, or would activate the Office 2007 trial.

Other specs are standard for netbooks.

You get three USB ports: one on the left with the VGA port and SDHC slot, and two on the right with the ethernet and audio in­­put and output.

The AC port and a wireless switch are on the left.

The hard drive, memory, and free Mini PCI Express slot are easily accessible via a removable panel on the bottom.

The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3 ran for 8 hours, 27 minutes in our battery tests, but its performance score of 31 on WorldBench 6 is subpar even for a netbook, and the Windows 7 Starter operating system feels sluggish.

Lenovo piles on background processes via software that duplicates Windows capabilities. Uninstalling unnecessary apps helps quite a bit.

Regrettably, 720p HD video played smoothly only when transcoded to the very efficient QuickTime MP4 codec.

WMV was a complete fail, and other MP4 implementations continually stuttered or stalled. On the other hand, audio through the S10-3's speakers sounded better than on most netbooks.

Though it's pricier, slightly less well-configured, and slower out of the box than much of its competition, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10-3 is a netbook that remains more than the sum of its parts.

Jon L. Jacobi

NEXT PAGE: Best for business: HP Mini 5102

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.

Jason Cross

NEXT PAGE: Best for Entertainment: Asus Eee PC 1201N

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 entertainment: Asus Eee PC 1201N

The Asus Eee PC 1201N offers a bigger, better screen and keyboard than you'll find on most netbooks.

Would you spend almost £395 for a netbook-even a top-of-the-line one, like the Asus Eee PC 1201N?

At first glance, the 1201N physically resembles more-conventional thin-and-light laptops based on low-voltage (CULV) mainstream CPUs.

It's certainly priced in that market, it has both a crisp, 12.1in, 1366x768-resolution display and one of the better keyboards that I've seen on a netbook, too.

It also has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N330 processor - one, however, that is hosted by the capable nVidia Ion chipset.

The Ion's video capability, Asus hopes, is what will bring buyers to the table. In our tests, its video performance and image quality were definitely a cut above those of Atom CPUs using the stock Intel chipset.

The Ion chipset delivers robust video quality, giving smooth performance and downscaling with 1080p WMV files.

The Ion's 3D gaming performance was also better, but this is not a gaming system.

The bigger display means slightly larger dimensions than many netbooks have, giving the keyboard a more usable layout than those of many netbooks with a 10in screen.

And the larger display with its higher pixel count makes for a more productive working environment - you spend less time scrolling and more time reading web pages and documents.

The ports are typical for a netbook, consisting of three USB ports, an HDMI digital video port, and a VGA analog graphics connector, plus, on the right side, an ethernet jack, audio in/out, and a multiformat flash memory reader.

This Eee PC ships with SRS audio and the full Realtek HD audio suite, allowing you to set specific equalization settings and to spread out the sound field a bit.

I found that enabling these features muddied the sound quality, however, so I usually left the settings on standard stereo.

The system's built-in speakers won't make you cringe, but you'll enjoy better sound by using headphones.

The LCD screen offers better-than-adequate image quality, but it's also very sensitive to viewing angles.

That can make casual video viewing on your couch a little frustrating, as you must either stay in the same position or constantly adjust the display to the appropriate angle every time you shift your body.

Asus ships the machine with Windows 7 Home Premium instead of the more typical Windows 7 Starter Edition or Windows XP.

Home Premium offers more customisation choices-something welcome in a product that positions itself at the high end of its category.

Microsoft Works and Microsoft Office trialware come bundled.

Also included is Asus Webstorage, an online file backup and sync service that provides 1GB of free storage.

The 1201N's performance earned it a WorldBench 6 score of 33. Battery life, at 4 hours, 17 minutes in our testing, seemed a tad short for current-generation netbooks.

The real problem with the 1201N is its cost.

At nearly £400, the price tag encroaches on the cost of laptops with CULV (ultra­low voltage) mainstream processors, such as Lenovo's ThinkPad Edge and Dell's Vostro V13.

Though this Eee PC gives you a bigger display and a more usable keyboard, CULV notebooks are likely to outperform it.

Some people will find the Asus Eee PC 1201N's video performance and 12in display to be compelling. But I'd still like to see the netbook's price drop by about £100.

Loyd Case

NEXT PAGE: Alternative netbooks