For reasons that should be clear to everyone reading this blog, I’m usually the person folks in my circle of friends and acquaintances come to when they want advice on which netbook to buy. I am the netbook queen. Plus, I get to play with (and sometimes review) a larger sample than most. Thing is, my netbook advice hasn’t changed in many months. So I thought it would be good to put it in a post here.
If you’re looking for a netbook, these are the ones I suggest:
Samsung N Series
I actually own a Samsung NC101 — after playing with dozens of netbooks for months, this is the one I chose to take home forever. I love it. It has a great keyboard and screen and lasts a long time and weighs less than 3 pounds so I can easily carry it with me everywhere. N Series netbooks are usually good, but this is one of three that I particularly recommend.
Since Samsung released the NC10 last year they’ve put out a couple of updates. The first was the N110 — it has a slicker case, a larger touchpad, and a higher capacity battery that lasts over 7 hours (the regular NC10 lasts 6.5). Sadly, it also has a glossy screen, which is a problem for some people. Recently Samsung brought the N140 to the US2, which again has a slightly different case and design and is more powerful. Weirdly, it has the same battery as the NC10, so it only gets 6.5 hours. But this is plenty for most people. Plus, it has a matte screen and Windows 7.
All of these netbooks have great keyboards, which is one of the most important factors, and long battery lives, which is the other most important factor. You’re not going to get stellar performance with most netbooks, but none of these are pokey or frustrating to use.
So, which one should you get? I advise getting the N110 because it has the longest battery life. And now that the N140 is out, you’re bound to find it for less than $400, maybe even less than $350. If you’re on a tighter budget, go looking for the NC10 as it is likely to be even less. As long as you can get the NC10 or N110, I say the N140 isn’t strictly necessary. But once those are gone, the N140 isn’t a bad choice at all.
I would not rec the N130, Samsung’s “value” netbook. It is pokey and only lasts 4 hours and 44 minutes on a charge. I am also not that fond of the Samsung GO.
Most people at LAPTOP really, really like this netbook. And I will say that it’s quite snazzy looking. Plus, it lasts 8.8 – 9.25 hours on a charge, depending on which model you get. The reason I am not as gung-ho on it is that I am not a huge fan of island-style keys. The keyboard on the NB205 is good, though, and if you like that type of key then go for it. It performs well, looks good, and lasts a long time.
When buying an NB205, keep a few things in mind. Toshiba put out a bunch of different model numbers for this netbook, so when you go to their site or Amazon or something, you’ll see about half a dozen different machines with names like NB205-N210 or NB205-N330BL or whatever. Sometimes I wonder if companies are out to confuse us purposefully.
The difference between the N2** models and the N3** models is the keyboard. The N3** models have the island-style keyboard and the N2** ones have a standard keyboard. I didn’t get a chance to try the standard keyboard, so I can’t say whether it’s better or worse. But all of my colleagues seem to think the island-style keyboard is superior.
When searching for this netbook on Amazon be careful you’re looking at the model # you want. On some pages if you change the color it will give you a completely different model, not the same model but in black or whatever. So check the specs and do a bit of hunting around. Like I said, XP is better and the model #s that start with NB205-N3** are what you’re looking for. Here’s a helpful Amazon link for you.
11.6 Inch Systems
Most people who ask are in the market for a 10-inch system. That’s my favorite size as well, so that’s usually what I recommend. But some folks like to have a bigger screen and 11.6-inch netbooks are all the rage these days. I have two recs in this category and one of them isn’t even really a netbook.
If you’re going to get an 11-inch system, you might as well get one that has some oomph. The Mini 311 has something most netbooks don’t: a discrete graphics chip. For those of you who have no clue what that even means or don’t care, this matters most when you’re doing two things: watching videos and playing games.
Netbooks can play Hulu, YouTube, etc. just fine. It isn’t the absolute best experience, but it’s also a 10-inch screen, so you’re not looking to recreate the cinema or anything. But the 311 is cool because it does smooth full screen video and HD video and, when the newest version of Flash comes out, can do full HD. You can also play games like Spore or WOW, though on the lowest quality, so you’ll have some fun in-between writing. The battery life is quite good for a system with a separate graphics card: 5 hours, 43 minutes. And the price is nice as well: starts at $399.
Though this system is 11.6 inches and only $399, it’s not actually a netbook. It’s an ultraportable laptop. What’s the difference you ask? Performance. This notebook has a more powerful processor so it behaves more like a regular laptop. You won’t be able to do some major gaming or video editing or whatever on it. However, unlike a netbook, it isn’t going to slow down once five or six programs get going at once. Yet it’s still portable and light and inexpensive and lasts 6 and a half hours.
You won’t get the same graphics performance on this as on the Mini 311, but you will get good HD video playback and smooth full screen Hulu.
Those are my suggestions for anyone looking to get a netbook. There are many others out there and you can see very comprehensive reviews on LAPTOP Magazine’s website. But, after all these months, I haven’t come across a netbook that made me want to give up my Samsung NC10. The Toshiba is nice, just not my style. And I like these 11-inch systems, but the 10-inch form factor works best for me.
Hope this post helps those of you looking for a netbook. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments, too.