Best cheap netbook: which should you buy?
25th Oct 2010 | 15:54
We hunt down the best cheap netbooks under £350
Finding the best value laptops is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and there are so many options to consider that it's difficult to know what to buy.
Fortunately manufacturers are always innovating to set their machines apart from the crowd, and you'll find a lot of great features on netbooks under £300.
Also make sure you check out our feature on the 15 best netbooks in the world today.
1. Packard Bell Dot S2 - £230
Packard Bell's Dot S2 is a true return to form for Packard Bell. It's the added extras that really make a difference: we got 463 minutes from the battery (although this does add bulk and weight to the machine) while there's a USB cable supplied so you can sync it with your desktop. What's more is that Packard Bell has included Adobe's excellent Photoshop Elements with the netbook. It's a bargain given the price, too.
2. Asus Disney Netbook - £250
We were pleasantly surprised by Asus' Disney-branded netbook. Taking its cues from Asus' Seashell series, it's the perfect machine for kids - but adults will find it equally usable. It ships with both Windows XP and a custom Disney theme, and parents can easily setup the netbook to protect their kids from harmful content. As with Asus' other netbooks, it's well-built and extremely user-friendly, and the Disneyfied extras - such as a Mickey Mouse-shaped webcam and Disney decals - are sure to make it a hit with kids.
3. Samsung NC10 - £275
We described Samsung's NC10 as "clearly the best netbook so far" when we reviewed it in March of last year, and it's still fantastic. In fact, Samsung has updated it with the "Plus" moniker, and it now includes Windows 7 Starter, Bluetooth 3.0 and a 250GB hard drive. Even with the new additions, the basic specs still impress, such as an epic six-cell battery, and Samsung's own Battery Manager and Recovery Solution software. It's solidly built, too, and the screen and keyboard are among the best we've ever seen.
4. MSI Wind U100 - £291
It was the processor that really set the MSI Wind U100 apart from the competition, and it's a rock-solid netbook design that's still at the top of its class. Unlike other netbooks, it's not fiddly to use, and the keyboard feels more like one you'd find on a properly-proportioned laptop. The other main selling point is the "Turbo Boost" button, which temporarily overclocks the CPU for a slight performance gain - perfect if you find it's getting a bit sluggish.
5. Samsung N220 - £303
Samsung's made a name for itself in well-built netbooks with amazing battery life, and the N220 is no exception. It sports a six-cell battery capable of a staggering 575 minutes on the road. The N220 also feels durable and solid, and the branding isn't the usual in-your-face logo-plastering we've seen on other machines. Samsung's also included its HyperSpace interface, which bypasses the Windows 7 installation to allow for very quick internet browsing - perfect for checking the times on your 575-minute train journey.
6. Toshiba NB305-105 - £306
If you're after a well-built netbook, look no further than Toshiba's solid little machine. The lid only shows a slight degree of flex under pressure, and the hinges are reassuringly solid. Toshiba's also fitted it with a lovely, responsive keyboard, as well as a large, comfortable trackpad and battery life is way above a standard netbook's. Handily, you can also charge your USB gadgets while the computer is off with Toshiba's Sleep and Charge Functionality. It's not the most innovative of netbooks, but it is one of the sturdiest.
7. Samsung N230 - £322
As the most recent netbook we've reviewed, we were keen to see what Samsung would bring to its N230. The answer is not a lot, but this isn't a bad thing at all; in fact, it's still a killer netbook. Samsung has obviously concentrated on the usability of the machine, and therefore you'll find a fantastic keyboard and screen, as well as an all-conquering 628 minute battery life. The performance is nothing to write home about, but this is a limitation of the form factor, not the machine.
8. Acer Aspire 1410-74G25n - £335
Acer's Aspire sports an 11.6-inch screen, which is a tad bigger than other netbooks' standard 10.1", and makes a big difference. In addition, it's got a consumer ultra low voltage (CULV) processor, which gives it an excellent 428 minutes of battery life - although this comes at the price of performance. 802.11n WiFi, an LED-backlit screen and HDMI-out make it stand apart from other netbooks, too, and it's slim, solid and well-made.
9. MSI Wind U115 Hybrid - £344
The SSD/HDD combo is something we're more used to seeing on high-power desktop PCs, but MSI has integrated it to its Wind U115 netbook. The idea is to install your operating system onto the SSD, so it boots and runs quickly, and everything else onto the HDD. It's put to good use here, and you can even turn off the battery-draining HDD to boost the Wind U115 to an astonishing 780 minutes of battery life. It's every bit as good as the original Wind, too, with the added bonus of outstanding mobility.
10. Toshiba Satellite L450-136 - £350
Toshiba's Satellite L450 is the only portable PC in our round-up that can't be classed as a netbook, due to its whopping 15.6-inch screen. Being a cheap laptop, its performance is rather limited, but if you can live with that you'll find a comfortable, stylish machine. At 193 minutes, battery life is fairly decent for a laptop of this size and price, and the included HDMI-out port means you can output the PC to a high-definition television.
Liked this? Then check out Top laptops: the 20 best laptops in the world
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