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Best Budget Netbooks: Great Netbooks Below $350

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/20/2011

Netbooks are known as being inexpensive, with many models selling for under $300. Those models are often stripped out of interesting features, however. In truth a good netbook with a long-lasting six-cell battery can cost over $400. But there are some netbooks which offer a compromise.

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    Price is a big part of what makes a netbook a netbook, but there is still a significant difference between the least expensive and most expensive models. While netbooks like the Samsung NC20 and Eee PC 1008HA are all highly praised, their price of around $400 dollars - and sometimes more - is more than many consumers are willing to pay for such small computer.

    That doesn't mean, however, that a top-grade netbook can't be bought for less than $400 dollars. The three netbooks listed here are fully loaded models with six-cell batteries but still manage to keep their prices under $350 dollars.

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    ASUS Eee PC 1005HA V Series

    The 1005HA is surprisingly cheap for such a full-featured netbook Those who are familiar with netbooks may find it surprising that this netbook makes the list. For those unfamiliar with netbooks, allow me to explain why. The 1005HA is one the newest models in the ASUS Eee PC lineup, and it is considered by many to be the successor to the throne of the wildly popular 1000HE. It features the attractive new clamshell design, and wonderful keyboard, and a six-cell battery. Yet the new 1005HA be found for as little as $349.99.

    What's the fine print? Well, the 1005HA which makes the sub-$350 price point is a slightly less powerful version. It uses a 1.6Ghz Atom processor rather than a 1.66Ghz Atom processor found in the more expensive models. It also has a less capable webcam and a battery which is smaller, although it is still a six-cell.

    Practically speaking, most users will be extremely hard pressed to find a difference between the cheaper 1005HA models and the more expensive ones. The most visible difference, in fact, is probably in their name - the cheaper models carry the name VU1, while the more expensive models carry the name PU1. The 1005HA-VU1 still has over seven hours of battery life, is as fast as most other netbooks, and offers plenty of features, making it a great compromise for those who want the newest model but don't want to pay a fortune for it.

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    MSI Wind U-100

    MSI's Wind is a budget jack-of-all-trades netbook The MSI Wind has been around for awhile, but it hasn't gained the same press as models from ASUS, Acer, and Samsung. Why isn't exactly clear. Granted, the MSI Wind has never been quite as stylish as those competitors, nor has its battery life ever been as good as its competitors when mated with a six-cell battery. But it has always provided solid performance at a budget price.

    The MSI Wind U-100 is one of the older models, and it offers the usual netbook combination of a 1.6Ghz Atom with 1GB of RAM and Windows XP. Its keyboard and trackpad are both better than many other netbooks. With the six-cell battery installed it can offer between six and seven hours of battery life, just slightly behind the best netbooks available. The Wind U-100 does not have Bluetooth, but it does have a better webcam than the 1005HA VU1 models, and it also one of the easier netbooks when it come to upgrading the RAM.

    Although the MSI Wind does not excel in any one area, it makes up for it on price. The MSI Wind U-100 with a six cell battery can be found at many online retailers for under $330 dollars. Newegg currently offers it for $325 with a $30 dollar mail-in rebate, making it a sub-$300 dollar netbook. The MSI Wind may be a jack-of-all-trades, but at these prices it is an outstanding value.

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    Toshiba NB205-210

    Toshiba's NB205-210 isn't pretty, but it has many features Like the Asus Eee PC 1005HA VU1, the Toshiba NB205 is the less-expensive version of a highly praised new model. The Toshiba NB205 may be the first netbook from Toshiba, but it is also one of the best on the market. Its keyboard has a better feel than that of the 1005HA, and its trackpad is probably the best of any netbook. It even has the faster 1.66Ghz Atom processor.

    That said, owning a Toshiba NB205 does require acceptance of the fact that the 210 is the budget model. While the 1005HA VU1 differs from the PU1 is many important ways, it looks and feels the same. Toshiba's budget model, in contrast, is technically the same in almost every way, but it looks and feels like the budget model. Its keyboard, while good, is nowhere near as impressive as the one on the NB205-310. The 210 model also comes in only one color (black) while the 310 model offers a choice of four different colors. These may seem like superficial touches, but its not unimportant to find a device that may be used every day attractive.

    Those who truly do not care about the aesthetic sacrifices, however, will probably find the NB205 to be the best netbook available in this price range. At $349.99 theToshiba NB205-210 offers features that are sometimes not found in netbooks costing $50-100 dollars more.