Six Windows Netbooks Rated

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:

Asus Eee PC 904HA 
MSI Wind U100-016US
Lenovo IdeaPad S10
The Dell mini 9
HP Mini 1000
Acer Aspire One A150X

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)

 

Laptop computer
Apple MacBook Air
The lightest, thinnest notebook around, just 3 pounds and less than an inch thick. It has excellent ergonomics and a 13.3-inch display, plus a 4.5-hour battery life. It's shy on features, but hey, it's super skinny.

 

Wireless headphones
Sennheiser MX W1
Among the first to use Kleer wireless technology, these earbuds were the best wireless headphones in our tests. Twist-and-fit design locks into the outer ear cavity. Can be recharged on the go in their portable docking station.

 

Subcompact point-and-shoot camera
Canon PowerShot SD1100
Weighing just 5 ounces, this 8-megapixel subcompact doesn't sacrifice performance for size. Compared with other subcompacts, it's faster, and can take better pictures in low light without flash.

 

Wireless digital frame
Samsung SPF-83V
This easy-to-use frame offers very good picture quality, but its key distinction is the ability to display pictures from your computer with no wires, thanks to built-in Wi-Fi capability.

 

Coffeemaker
Black & Decker Smart Brew DCM2500
A CR Best Buy, this drip coffeemaker was tops among the 8-to-12-cup models we tested. It has programmable settings, and pouring was easy, helpful if you're a little clumsy before that first cup.

 

Portable grill
Weber Q 200 396002
This compact gas grill will be the toast of any tailgate. It heats very evenly, turning out perfect pre-game bratwurst, hot dogs, and more, and it's equally capable at low-temperature cooking.

 

Luggage
Delsey Helium Fusion 22274
This carry-on was the only CR Best Buy among the 12 small rolling suitcases we tested. It got an excellent score for capacity, a big deal now that most airlines are charging for checked baggage. It also has a comfortable handle and was easy to pull.

 

50-inch and 42-inch plasma TVs
Panasonic TH-50PZ800U
Panasonic plasmas consistently score well in our tests, and this 1080p set and its 42-inch sibling ($1,200) continue the trend. The THX setting provides theaterlike picture quality with vibrant colors, exquisite detail, and rich blacks.

 

Cell phone with versatile screen
LG Dare, from Verizon
This phone's bright, 3-inch touch screen provides direct access to its many features, including an HTML Web browser and a 3.1-megapixel camera with face recognition and autofocus. Enter text on a virtual keyboard or draw on the screen with your fingertip.

 

DVD recorder with hard drive
Philips DVDR3575H/37
One of the few DVD recorders that can also record to a DVR (160GB), this offers TiVo-like functionality and the ability to save or share programs on DVD.

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