We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,258 News Articles

Netbooks group test: 8 laptops rated

The best nippy netbooks out now

Lengthy battery life, limited specs and a light chassis characterise the average netbook. But PC Advisor finds that not all fit the mould, in our round-up of eight top models.

If you're looking to buy a netbook, the chances are that you're either attracted by the compact, carry-anywhere form factor or the enticingly low price compared to a full-size laptop. While mini laptops tick both those boxes, it's important to remember that they are a compromise in performance and usability compared to laptops with 13in or larger screens.

Screen size is the first restriction. This is necessarily limited in order to make a laptop small enough to slip into a satchel or handbag. The first popular netbook, the Asus Eee PC 701, had a screen measuring just 7in diagonally. Later Eee PCs saw 9in screens fitted; now 10in has become the standard, giving a more comfortable view of your desktop.

Another useful consequence of the move to 10in models is that it allows netbook manufacturers to address their other big disadvantage: severely cramped keyboards.

Even 9in-screen models sport keyboards that are just too tiny for relaxed typing. Step up to a 10in screen, though, and you'll find the netbook's chassis will stretch to about 25cm across. This allows for a keyboard that's 90 percent or more of the size of a full-size laptop keyboard.

Netbook manufacturers are shy to fit a screen with a resolution greater than 1,024x600, assuming the machine uses an Intel Atom processor. These low-res screens limit the software that can be used on a netbook - many programs demand a minimum resolution of 1,024x768. Even navigation can be an issue as you routinely find the ok or Cancel confirmation button is just below the screen horizon.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as a custom-ordered Dell Inspiron Mini 10. Otherwise, if you need more than 1,024x600 we recommend you look out for one of the AMD-powered netbooks that are starting to appear. Medion's E1311 and E1312 are among the first we've got our hands on - look out for a review in the next few weeks at pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews.

Like the full-size laptop sector, the netbook market is dominated by high-gloss screens. Their colour range - with dark blacks and reasonable contrast - is impressive, but they are distractingly reflective when used under office lighting or with your back to a window. This can be a divisive issue of taste, but remember that models such as the MSI Wind U100 and Samsung NC10 are successful matt hold-outs in a shiny-screened world.

NEXT: what to expect, and life on the road >>

Business IT reviews and news

IDG UK Sites

iPhone 6 review: best ever iPhone is very good... but no longer the best phone you can buy

IDG UK Sites

Why Apple and Samsung, Google and Microsoft's schoolyard spats make them all look stupid

IDG UK Sites

How to successfully bridge the gap between clients and creatives

IDG UK Sites

How to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8: including how to install iOS 8 if you don't have room ()......