The HP Mini 210 (NB-210-1017TU_01) is a 10in netbook with plenty of style. It looks and feels different to the netbook it replaces -- the HP Mini 110 -- but it still performs like a netbook. It offers a very solid keyboard with isolated (island-style) keys, a very smooth and responsive touchpad and an enclosure that feels almost rubbery when you touch it. Like most netbooks, it has its drawbacks: it gets warm, it only has 1GB of RAM and 802.11n Wi-Fi is absent.
Notebooks / Netbooks
Toshiba's NB300 is a 10in netbook with a slim frame, a long battery life and an advanced Sleep-and-Charge USB port. It's an almost perfect netbook for travellers thanks to these features, but even students and business users who are in the market for a tiny laptop should consider the NB300. However, it's not a very fast netbook -- its hard drive, in particular, is a bit of a slow coach — so don't expect it to be anything more than a convenient tool for Web browsing, creating office documents and watching standard-definition videos.
Toshiba's Satellite M500 (PSMKCA-009007) is a 14in, fully featured notebook that's suitable for business and home users alike. It has a dual-core Core 2 Duo CPU, modern ports and slots and a surprisingly good speaker system for a notebook of its size. It's also a surprisingly heavy laptop that actually feels more tiring to lug around than many recent 16in models we've reviewed.
MSI's CR620 is a 16in desktop replacement notebook that costs just $1199. It comes equipped with an Intel Core i3-330M CPU, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 500GB hard drive, so it will perform just fine when running office applications and even more taxing tasks such as media encoding.
ViewSonic's ViewBook Pro one of the rare ultraportable laptops to have a built-in optical drive along with a competitive price -- it costs only $1349. A DVD burner is installed in the right side of the notebook and it's a refreshing change compared to all the inexpensive ultraportables we've seen over the last few months that forego an optical drive primarily to keep the overall cost down.
Once you figure out which category of laptop best suits your needs, it's time to examine the specifications.
The ASUS N61Ja is a 16in notebook with a fast Core i5-430M CPU and a lot of modern features. In fact, it's the first notebook we've seen to sport a USB 3.0 port. It's a hefty laptop that weighs 2.7kg and it's best suited as a desktop replacement. With a little determination, you could take it to class or to the office, however.
It may look big and bulky, but Samsung's R580 is a 16in notebook that's surprisingly light. It weighs only 2.5kg and it feels very well built; it also looks stunning in its gradated, burgundy colour. While it's best suited as a desktop replacement, you'll still be able to take it with you to the office or the classroom — provided you have a bag that's big enough to accommodate it.
HP's Pavilion dm3-101tu (VV707PA) is a 13.3in notebook with good speed, long battery life, a strong yet lean body, and an affordable price tag.
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The ASUS U50Vg notebook is like a 15.6in portable reflecting pool — but without the benefit of ripples. It has an all-over gloss that reflects any lights within its vicinity and you can see yourself in its screen and chassis when you use it, which can be distracting. It has a backlit keyboard so that you can type in the dark, but, most interestingly, there are lights in the touchpad that follow every vertical movement your finger makes.
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Lenovo's ThinkPad Edge 13" is a 13.3in business laptop that looks unlike most ThinkPad notebooks. It has a glossy screen, raised and rounded keys and a two-tone colour scheme, and it doesn't have some of the traditional features we expect on a ThinkPad (such as a screen-mounted keyboard light). There is good reason for this — it's designed to be an inexpensive, yet very portable machine with good performance and battery life. For the most part, it succeeds in meeting these goals.
With so many makes and models to choose from, buying a new laptop can be a harrowing experience. However, the good news is that you don't have to spend too much, especially if you want something small and basic. Even laptops based on the latest Intel Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs can be found at very competitive prices, and along with a fast processor you also get plenty of RAM and storage space.
If the iPad doesn't succeed as a consumer electronics device--its initial target market--it may find a successful second career as an electronic textbook reader.
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