Best netbook: top 14 in the world today

4th Nov 2011 | 15:00

Best netbook: top 14 in the world today

Find the best mini laptop for you

Best netbooks: Overview

Our continually updated list of all the best netbooks available today

Netbooks are affordable. It's the reason we love them, and the reason that they took off in the first place.

The cheap netbook isn't for everyone, but choose carefully and you'll get the best netbook on the market that will suit your needs.

The big idea when getting your head around netbook computers is managing your expectations. If you're looking to write a novel, play games, or do a series stint of work, then you may be better off going for a full notebook or a desktop PC.

While all these things are possible on a netbook, they're ideal for taking notes, editing work, watching movies, browsing the web and simply lasting a lengthy journey away from a plug socket. The battery life offered up by netbooks can be amazing, with the latest mini netbooks representing the perfect companion for a modern on-the-move lifestyle.

It seems like an age since Asus stirred up the ultra-portable market with the release of its first Eee PC, so where does the market stand now? Has the introduction of the Windows 7 netbook changed which you should buy?

Which is the top netbook available right now? Are tiny 7-inch screens still the best choice, or is a larger netbook screen a better bet? We dissect the latest netbooks reviews, to see where the best netbook deals are to be had.

So here are the best buy netbooks, in price order from cheapest to most expensive...

1. Dell Inspiron Mini 1018 - £200

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1. Dell Inspiron Mini 1018 - £200line

Dell's Inspiron Mini range has grown over the years from tiny nine-inch models to larger 12-inch ultra-portables and finally settled on the 10-inch Inspiron Mini 1018.

The chassis is by far one of the most rugged around and feels extremely tough. As such, it lacks the svelte style of the Asus Eee PC Seashell 1015PE.

The rock-solid build quality continues to the user interface, with the keyboard being one of the best we've used. Avoiding the use of the isolation-style design seen on the Asus, all keys feel larger and more accessible with the smooth typing action proving flawless.

The 10.1-inch Super-TFT screen is pleasing. One of the brightest panels on a netbook, images pop from the screen and colours are vivid. The screen only folds back 45 degrees from vertical, however, so it can be tricky to get a comfortable viewing angle.

Part of the reason for this is that Dell has indented the screen's hinge by 19mm to make room for a strip of textured plastic on the rear. It's an unusual design choice, but does make the Dell more comfortable to carry.

When combined with the 427 minutes of use we managed to get from the battery, this is a great choice for mobile workers and for school children.

Read our full Dell Inspiron Mini 1018 review

2. Eee PC Seashell 1015PE - £235

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2. Asus Eee PC Seashell 1015PE - £235line

While the Eee PC Seashell 1015PE adds little to the basic netbook concept, its unique features, great usability and ample storage make it easy to recommend.

The chassis looks impressively high end for such a low-priced machine, finished in sleek matt-black plastic. The resilient build quality is also more than tough enough for frequent travel use. Despite being one of the larger netbooks on the market, the 1.3kg chassis remains suitably slim and portable.

Asus was one of the first to use an isolation-style keyboard on a netbook and the feature is well implemented here. The spacious design and firmly fixed board ensure comfortable typing. Perfectly mirroring the wide aspect ratio of the 10.1-inch screen, the wide touchpad also makes it easy to manoeuvre onscreen.

Asus has utilised a matt TFT screen rather than a glossy Super-TFT panel. Reflections are entirely eliminated, making it easy to work outdoors. While many matt TFT screens can tend to reduce image vibrancy, we saw no such flaw here.

Where this machine stands out from the crowd is in extra features. As well as a capacious 250GB hard drive, Asus also includes 500GB of online storage, letting you safely back up your data via the internet wherever you go. A unique webcam is fitted above the screen too, which includes a sliding shutter to cover the camera when not in use.

Read our full Eee PC Seashell 1015PE review

3. Toshiba NB250 - £243

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3. Toshiba NB250 - £243line

The most remarkable aspect of the Toshiba NB250 is its absolutely superb keyboard, so we'll start with that. Unlike many netbooks, it's spread out as far as it possibly could be, from one edge of the case to the other.

It's the closest thing you're ever going to get to a full-sized layout on a netbook PC. The keys are moulded in the faux-chiclet style reminiscent of early Sony Vaio laptops, which makes for an excellent typing feel but some concessions have to be made. The right hand side of the keyboard is rather restricted, crushing the symbol keys and the Enter key into a rather narrow column for example.

Annoyances be damned, though: you need a keyboard. This is something a touchscreen tablet just can't provide, and that a netbook – especially this one – does very well.

Next up is storage. The NB250-108 we've tested doesn't have a gigantic hard drive, but neither do most netbooks, and the 250GB on offer here will go a long way.

And then there's the battery. It's astonishing, lasting an easy 8.5 hours on a single charge. The Atom N455 at its core might be unremarkable in terms of processing power, but it works exceptionally hard for such a power-friendly design.

Read our full Toshiba NB250 review

4. Acer Aspire One D255 - £247

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4. Acer Aspire One D255 - £247line

With manufacturers looking to set their products apart from the rest of the netbook crowd, Acer's Aspire One D255 runs the smartphone-centric Android (2.1) operating system (OS), as well as Windows 7.

Windows 7 works just as you would imagine, offering all the compatibility you could want, as well as a familiar system to work with. Android has been included to provide a quick way of getting on the web, reading emails and viewing your photos and movies.

An Intel Atom processor provides power enough for basic use. It is a dual-core version, so should provide more power, but we didn't notice an improvement over older Atom processors. The integrated graphics card provides basic multimedia performance, and the netbook is more about consuming content, such as movies, than creating it.

We were extremely impressed by the Acer's keyboard. It is large, firm and provides a very crisp typing action – one of the best we've experienced on a machine of this size, making it ideally suited for those who need to write a lot on the move.

Portability is excellent and a 389-minute battery life and 1.2kg weight make it ideal for the regular traveller.

Read our full Acer Aspire One D255 review

5. Aspire One D260 - £250

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5. Aspire One D260 - £250line

Acer was among the first to release a netbook back in 2008 and its Aspire One range has gone from strength to strength ever since. The Aspire One D260 is among its latest additions and what it lacks in storage it compensates for with all-day battery power. Running for nearly nine hours under the most demanding use, it delivers enough juice to keep you working throughout the day.

Weighing 1.2kg and with a depth of just 30mm, the slim design lets it slip easily into even the smallest hand luggage.

Despite the slim dimensions, a decent sized keyboard is in place and all the keys are large enough to comfortably type at speed. The board is firmly fixed to the chassis, with no flex on show, and all keys respond smoothly and accurately.

Graphics are limited and are intended for multimedia consumption, rather than creation. Video plays back smoothly, though, with even high-definition 1080p content handled with ease.

With so little to differentiate most netbooks currently on sale, it takes a unique feature or two to really stand out. The fantastic battery life and great usability of the Aspire One D260 are what raise this machine above its similarly specified rivals. 


Read our full Aspire One D260 review

6. Packard Bell Dot S - £260

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6. Packard Bell Dot S - £260line

Since being bought by Acer in 2008, we've seen an upward trend in Packard Bell machines. The updated Dot S adds to this legacy, combining great usability and unique features at a pleasing price.

Build quality is excellent and the resilient plastics will be more than tough enough to withstand daily family use. The slim chassis can easily be carried in a small bag, with a fantastic 502-minute battery life to boot.

The spacious keyboard is a pleasure to use, with a near-flawless typing action. The spacious touchpad is great to use too, with its wide design matching the screen of the Dot S perfectly.

A unique feature of recent Packard Bell netbooks and laptops is a dedicated social networks key. When pressed, a proprietary software application opens and provides instant access to Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

Combining a striking consumer design and all-day battery life with great usability and unique features, the Dot S succeeds on almost every level. This is by far one of the best netbooks you can currently buy.

Read our full Packard Bell Dot S review

7. Vye Jolibook - £270

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7. Vye Jolibook - £270line

The Jolibook provides a great alternative to the current glut of Windows-based mini laptops. The first thing that stands out is its garish style. With a gaudy cartoon design on the lid, it immediately sets the Jolibook out as a machine better suited to younger members of the family.

The lid is pleasingly hard-wearing and the contrasting black interior tones things down slightly, while hiding dirt and smudges well. Weighing just 1.3kg, the slim chassis is very easy to carry during the day.
Usability is excellent. The spacious, isolation-style keyboard is firmly fixed to the chassis and responds smoothly, quietly and accurately.

A real strength of this netbook is its vibrant 10.1-inch screen. The glossy Super-TFT coating is less reflective than others we've seen and brings images to vivid life.

Of course, the key selling point is the excellent Jolicloud OS. While the easy-to-use Linux-based software is not revolutionary in its design, the simple icon- and tab-based interface is very easy to use and accessible for even the youngest (or oldest) laptop user.

Read our full Vye Jolibook review

8. Samsung NF210-A02UK - £275

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8. Samsung NF210-A02UK - £275line

The NF210-A02UK may not offer much innovation, but it's a solid netbook with incredible portability and strong usability.

Regular travellers require a long battery life and this netbook certainly delivers, offering 519 minutes away from the mains. While this can't quite match the Samsung N230's 628-minute battery life, it still beats a number of modern netbooks.

The sleek white lid masks an all-black interior that looks smart, although there is some flex around the palmrests.

Netbooks can suffer from reduced usability due to their reduced chassis size, but Samsung has included a well sized isolation-style keyboard. The gaps between keys make it great for touch-typing, although the right side is a little cramped.

A matt finish has been used on the 10.1-inch screen, which eliminates annoying reflections and means you can comfortably work in any lighting conditions. However, images aren't quite as vibrant as we'd like as a result.

Three USB ports let you attach peripherals. 802.11n Wi-Fi allows speedy wireless networking, and there's also built-in Bluetooth.

We were impressed by the portability and usability of the Samsung N230, making this an easy netbook to recommend.

Read our full Samsung NF210-A02UK review

9. Toshiba NB550D - £291

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9. Toshiba NB550D - £291line

For a machine so clearly geared towards portable use, all-day battery life is essential and the Toshiba delivers in spades. Running for 10 hours during constant, demanding use, you can easily work for a full day away from the mains.



The whole machine feels exceptionally well built and this quality extends to the user interface, with the keyboard proving well made and great to use. Even the touchpad manages to impress, with its large dimensions providing easy accessibility.

While the screen's 10.1-inch design is found on most netbooks and is a bit too small to use as your main machine, it's stunningly bright and vibrant. The NB550D is perfect for keeping you entertained when on the move.

Audio performance is also excellent. Stereo speakers are built into the palm rest and deliver a powerful, warm and defined sound.

AMD's Fusion technology also provides ample performance for watching HD videos and even editing your photos on the move.

Finally, the extra features are great. There's Bluetooth 3.0, an HDMI port and free software includes tools for office use, internet security, video editing and data backup.

Read our full Toshiba NB550D review

10. Samsung N230 - £298

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10. Samsung N230 - £298line

Portability mixed with usability is still the absolute cornerstone of a netbook's existence, and it's here that Samsung has hit the nail firmly on the head with the N230.

At the most fundamental level it succeeds in that the battery life is awesome, and it is a very easy machine to use, with a fantastic screen and near-flawless typing experience.

An Intel Atom N450 provides the N230's processing power, alongside 1GB of DDR2 memory. Performance here is very standard for a netbook. The N230 will happily run office applications and your web browser, but as soon as you start multitasking you'll witness quite a bit of lag.

The plus side to having such low-powered components is portability, and here the N230 shines. Samsung claim the netbook will run for just short of 14-hours before needing a charge. During benchmarking we managed just over 10 hours (628 minutes), but this was under intensive use.

To achieve this figure, a small concession to design has had to be made and the large six-cell battery does stick out of the base of the machine. However, the N230 boasts a webcam for video conferences across the web, and also USB 3.0. All-in-all, it's a great little netbook.

Read our full Samsung N230 review

11. Asus Eee PC 1018P - £300

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11. Asus Eee PC 1018P - £300line

Unlike some of Asus' earlier Eee PC models, this netbook boasts a high-end look and feel thanks to the brushed aluminium design. The 1.1kg chassis isn't a problem to carry around for hours on end and the strong battery life of 359 minutes gives you almost six hours of power.

Equally impressive is the 10.1-inch screen: brightness is good, as is detail thanks to the 1024x600-pixel resolution, but it's the vibrancy of colours that pleases the most, and those looking for a netbook to watch films and view photos on will find a lot to like here.

The keyboard continues the good run of form, and the isolated style allows for a crisp, clean action that's also surprisingly firm – regular typists will have no problems typing for hours on end.

The 1018P is also crammed with great features. An inclusion we are particularly impressed with is the 500GB of free online storage. This means you can save a vast amount of content from the 1018P's 250GB hard drive to Asus's servers and access it from anywhere in the world.

Read our full Asus Eee PC 1018P review

12. Samsung NF110 - £300

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12. Samsung NF110 - £300line

The Samsung's features stray beyond the usual VGA and USB ports. A 4-in-1 memory card reader provides flexibility and it features Bluetooth 3.0, which offers faster data transfer with compatible peripherals than the old Bluetooth 2.1 standard.

The chassis looks smart, with a dark finish to the lid that masks fingerprints and a neat all-white interior. The build also proves very resilient. We found no flex or weak spots, while the lid is dependably solid to protect the display.

The 10.1-inch screen lacks a glossy Super-TFT finish, which means it is less vibrant when displaying images. However, it is also non-reflective, suiting it to outdoor travel use.

We found the keyboard to be highly usable, with the bevelled keys all firmly mounted and offering a good amount of travel. Large-fingered users might struggle with the tiny directional keys, but we found we had no major problem touch-typing. The touchpad is a little cramped, although smooth and responsive.

Although the Samsung suffers from the usual stilted performance of netbooks, we were pleased with the usability, firm build and excellent battery life, while the TFT screen is well suited to travel.

Read our full Samsung NF110 review

13. Asus Eee PC 1215N - £430

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13. Asus Eee PC 1215N - £430line

With enhanced graphics and a dual-core processor, the Eee PC 1215N is aimed at people looking for a mix of portability and performance.

However, the Eee PC 1215N also comes with a rather heady price tag of £430. So what exactly do you get for your extra notes?

Well, quite a lot, as it happens. Most obvious is the display, which is larger than what you'll find on most netbooks at 12 inches. It also comes with a native 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution, which means there's not only more room on your Windows desktop compared to the 1,024 x 600 resolution found on most 10-inch netbooks, but that it's also capable of displaying 720p HD video.

The D525 processor powering the Eee PC 1215N has two cores at its disposal. This means it's far more capable in terms of multitasking. A total of 2GB of DDR3 memory is supplied too, which is double that of most netbooks and helps Windows 7 tick along that bit smoother.

If you're after something small and light, and find the current crop of netbooks don't quite meet your power expectations, the Eee PC 1215N would be a good choice.

Read our full Asus Eee PC 1215N review

14. Asus Eee PC Lamborghini VX6 - £499

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14. Asus Eee PC Lamborghini VX6 - £499line

Inspired by the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 roadster, this is easily one of the most stylish netbooks we've seen.

The curved lid mimics the roadster's drool-worthy chassis and comes in a choice of white or black. Lamborghini's famous crest is planted firmly in the centre and adds an extra touch of class to the Eee PC VX6.

We were highly impressed by the VX6's build quality, with no flex or weaknesses in any part of the chassis. The lid is incredibly solid and could probably brush off a firm knock without concern.

This quality continues inside, with a firm and highly usable keyboard in place. And while it's rare to find an attractive touchpad, the glossy finish to the Eee PC VX6's pad gives it a sleek chrome appearance that stands out and looks great. The touchpad is smooth and responsive, and a good size considering the netbook's compact chassis.

The graphical abilities of the Eee PC VX6 are respectable too. Asus has included Nvidia's Ion technology, which offers considerably better performance than integrated solutions. We found the Eee PC VX6 had more than enough power to smoothly play HD video and run older games, and you can even get away with some light video editing.

Read our full Asus Eee PC Lamborghini VX6 review

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