Netbooks have matured quickly as a category of products, and it seems that the 10" screen has become the standard for netbooks everywhere. Netbooks with larger screens do exist, but are rarer and cross the line between ultra-portables and netbooks in many ways. A few with smaller screens are also still available, but the correspondingly smaller keyboards on those netbooks make them difficult to use on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, the swarm of 10" netbooks can make it difficult to separate the winners from the losers at first glance. There are significant differences, however, with the best 10" netbooks providing significantly better battery life and keyboards than the less attractive entries.
Toshiba Mini NB205
The Toshiba Mini NB205 marks Toshiba’s first entry into the netbook market, meaning that Toshiba is quite late to the party. They’ve apparently been keeping good notes, however, as the Mini NB205 is an extremely competent netbook which ranks among the best.
When it comes to aesthetics, the NB205 knocks it out of the park. The netbook is available in blue, pink, brown, or white, and the lid of every color choice is decorated with raised horizontal lines which give the netbook a luxurious texture. The NB205 looks good when opened, as well, thanks to a silver finish which looks almost metallic from afar.
Functionally, the NB205 is even better. The island-style keyboard provides keys which have a large separation between each individual key, resulting in a keyboard that communicates well with the user’s fingertips. (Island style means that the around around the keypad is lower than the keypad itself.) The trackpad is one of the most spacious devices available on any netbook. Toshiba’s first entry also has class-leading battery life, providing between eight and nine hours with a six-cell battery. The only real weakness of the NB205 is the audio, which is a bit poor even by netbook standards.
While traditionally known more for products like televisions and cell phones, Samsung’s netbooks have made quite an impact. The Samsung NC10 wooed many with its sexy-yet-professional styling and great keyboard, yours truly included.The N120 is Samsung’s latest update on the 10" platform, and the few changes it makes are for the better.
The key to Samsung’s success has been its outstanding keyboards combined with great screens and solid battery life. The Samsung’s keyboard is one of the largest in the industry, but it isn’t island-styled, giving the netbook a feel more akin to a Thinkpad than a Mac. The screen is wonderful in every way except for viewing angles. It is also glossy – those buyers wanting a matte display should steer towards the older NC10. And the battey life of between 7 and 8 hours is one of the best.
The N110 also has good speakers (for a netbook) and retains the eye-catching qualities of the earlier models. The only potential problem is the same one that has plagued Samsung netbooks since their introduction – price. It usually fetches around $440 bucks, which is a lot more than many competitors.
ASUS created the netbook market with the original Eee PC. They have since done a stunning job of ensuring that competitors do not out-maneuver them in the market they founded, and the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA is another example of ASUS continues to be successful.
The 1005HA looks to be a winner at first glance. It boasts the new much-hyped "Seashell" design which ASUS obviously considers to be a great aesthetic triumph. While find some might find the company’s fondness for seashells a little odd (most models even ship with seashell wallpaper in Windows XP) the 1005HA is certainly a snappy looking netbook. The seashell design uses the common trick of tapering the edges of the netbook to create a product that looks slimmer than it actually is.
With all of this talk of looks, it would be reasonable to fear that ASUS has put form over function. And they have – in the more expensive 1008HA. The cheaper, arguably down-scale 1005HA has a bulging battery not shared with the 1008HA, but that larger battery makes the 1005HA good for over 9 hours of battery life. That is outstanding, even by netbooks standards. And the 1005HA still has a great keyboard and attractive screen. Considering its price of $389.99, this is clearly a solid all-purpose netbook.