Hands on with HP Mini, Lenovo S10, BenQ U101

This generation of Intel Atom-based netbooks has reached a certain maturity

The Benq U101

The Benq U101

With netbooks selling well in the run up to the holidays, I took a look at three of the latest entries into the fray, Hewlett-Packard's Mini 1000, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 and BenQ's Joybook Lite U101.

The reason for putting these three devices all together in one "Hand's on" story is because newer netbooks are starting to look a lot like what's already out there. This generation of Intel Atom-based netbooks has reached a certain maturity, with similar components, functions and size, as well as similar prices. The best bet for anyone considering buying one is to figure out as close as you can, what you want to do with it and what functions you want the most. Then find the best price.

Netbooks are the computer industry's answer to the desire for more mobility in devices. Asustek Computer started the netbook craze with its Eee PC line of devices, which deservedly won a product of the year award from Forbes Magazine. The company's netbooks continue to be best sellers according to Amazon.com's rankings, which also include Acer's Aspire One and Samsung Electronics' NC10 among top-selling computing devices.

The standard netbook today weighs around 1 kilogram, comes with a screen between 8.9 inches and 10.2 inches across the diagonal, and has a Web cam, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom microprocessor, 1G byte of DDR2 (double data rate, second generation) DRAM, USB and Ethernet ports and slots for memory cards and more. It typically has a variety of wireless technologies including Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth, runs either Microsoft Windows XP or a Linux OS, and has either a hard disk drive (HDD) up to 160G bytes in capacity or a solid state drive (SSD) with 8G bytes or more of flash memory.

HP Mini 1000

HP has made marked improvements with its second netbook, but the price tag may still be high considering the large number of rival devices with similar functions. I tested an HP Mini 1000 with an 8.9-inch screen, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom microprocessor, Microsoft Windows XP, 512M bytes of DRAM and a 60G byte HDD that ran at 4200 rpm (revolutions per minute).

The company actually offers a variety of component options on the HP Mini 1000, including a 10.2-inch screen and SSDs for storage.

One thing that really stood out about the HP Mini 1000 was the high definition audio, especially the sound quality of the onboard speakers. Songs play well, as does the sound on videos. Speakers may not be that important to some people considering netbooks are often used in coffee shops or other public places where headphones are more appropriate, but good audio is a nice touch on a device otherwise very similar to what's already on the market.

Typing on the Mini 1000, another major consideration because netbooks are much smaller than regular laptop PCs, is great. The Mini 1000 has a keyboard 92 percent the size of one on a normal laptop. Keys are spaced out to make typing comfortable. One area I wasn't as impressed with was the trackpad. HP opted to use a trackpad similar to Acer's Aspire one, with the left and right mouse buttons at the sides of the trackpad instead of below. It's workable on a small device, but it's not as comfortable as having them below the trackpad.

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Dan Nystedt

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