There's a huge array of choice when it comes to laptops, but with everything from netbooks and ultraportables to machines suitable for gaming and those designed to withstand use in rural locations, which should you choose. We've put together the ultimate laptop guide to help you decide.
The runaway sales hit of 2008 (and possibly 2009), netbooks are an entirely new species of the mobile ecosystem that do something once considered impossible. By providing minimal processing power and viewing space in an economical package, netbooks can be inexpensive without being thick and heavy.
Asus's Eee PC started it all off as the first commercial netbook, but was quickly joined by Acer's Aspire One, HP's Mini Note models, and Sony's Vaio P series. It seems that every time we look around there's another netbook on the market. In other words, shop carefully.
Netbooks, whose screens range from 7 to 10in, are perfect as a person's second or third computer for home, travel or student use. With downsized keyboards, screens and ambitions, netbooks often leave you waiting for apps to open or tasks to complete. They won't win any awards for performance, but some provide more than five hours of battery life.
To cut the price tag to the absolute minimum, some systems come with a small amount of flash memory storage and a Linux operating system by default rather than a larger hard drive and Windows.
While you won't be able to use all the Windows-based applications you're accustomed to on these machines, you will be able to view, work on and save most of your files, such as images, videos and Microsoft Office documents, with included or downloadable Linux-based programs.
While early netbooks came with just 4 or 8GB of flash storage, newer models have larger capacities. The Sony Vaio P, for instance, includes a 128MB SSD or a 60GB hard drive.
The least expensive netbooks start at about £200, but newer 'premium' models can rise to over £500. Because they might have trouble standing up to daily use and abuse, you might consider getting an extended warranty for any netbook. However, that this can add 50 percent to the price tag, making it less of a bargain.
Netbooks at a glance
Target audience: Providing the bare minimum, netbooks are for those who need an extremely inexpensive mobile system without much power or screen real estate.
Pros: They're cheap, small and light.
Cons: Netbooks often have uninspiring performance and undersized everything.
Typical size / weight: 254x178x25mm/ 750g to 1.5Kg
Screen size: 7 to 10in
CPU / RAM: 1.3 to 1.6GHz Intel Atom / 1 to 2GB
Storage: 60 to 160GB HDD or 2 to 128GB SSD
Ports and connections: 2 to 3 USB ports, VGA, audio, Ethernet; some require an adapter for VGA or Ethernet
Price range: £250 to £500
Examples: Acer Aspire One, Asus Eee PC, HP Mini Note, Sony Vaio P Lifestyle PC
Buying tips: Some of the cheapest netbooks have a Linux operating system rather than Windows; be sure you know which you're getting.
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