Find out which is best for you.
Netbooks, highly portable mini-laptops that are smaller, cheaper, and weigh less than regular laptops, are on track to be one of this holiday season's hot sellers. The cheapest netbooks, priced well under $400, run the Linux operating system, which limits which application software you can run on them and may require learning how to use Linux. Models with Windows XP installed start at around $400 and have nine- or ten-inch screens.
We tested six of the least expensive Windows models now on the market:
None of these offered the best of everything. We found plenty of trade-offs between weight, battery life, size, storage capacity, and ergonomics. (Check our computer buying guide for more information on important computer features.)
Still, if you're considering an inexpensive, super portable computer for the holidays, we found the following tested netbooks had some particular advantages:
MSI Wind U100-016US
Best combination of a fine keyboard and light weight:
If a large screen, superior keyboard, and easy-to-use trackpad are most important, this is your best choice. Its 10-inch screen was one of two that size we tested. It's matte rather than glossy, minimizing reflections. Battery life was a short 2 hours and 23 minutes, though. You get 1GB of memory, a 120GB hard drive, and 60-day trial versions of Microsoft Office 2007 and Norton Internet Security. The Wind weighs 2.5 pounds.
(Starting at $399.99)
Subcompact point-and-shoot camera
Wireless digital frame
50-inch and 42-inch plasma TVs
Cell phone with versatile screen
DVD recorder with hard drive