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The Year of the Netbook. That’s 2009. You can’t walk into a consumer electronics store without seeing netbooks everywhere. Actually you can’t really walk into a consumer electronics store, period, since they’re closing up faster than costume shops the day after Halloween. But that’s another story for another time.
While traditional netbooks sales will almost certainly see a decline in 2010 as they make way for the new class of low-voltage ultraportables, there’s still plenty to choose from this holiday season. Here’s a handful of purchase-worthy netbooks – in no particular order — for your perusal. The only real rule for this list (besides having to be a netbook) is that screen resolution must be greater than 1024×600. Those 1024×600 netbooks are so 2008.
Sony VAIO W Series: Starting at $499.99 (SonyStyle.com)
Although priced a bit higher than its competitors, Sony’s VAIO W line manages to stuff a full-resolution screen into a 10.1-inch form factor while most of the other netbooks on this list are of the 11.6-inch variety.
Gateway LT3118u: $379.99 (Gateway.com)
Looking to buck the trend of Intel-based netbooks, Gateway’s gone with an AMD Athlon processor and ATI Radeon X1270 graphics for a bit more pick-me-up than you’d find in competing offerings. You’ll miss out on the 6+ hour battery life that you’d enjoy with an Atom-equipped machine, but you’ll get more power for light gaming and HD videos.
ASUS Eee PC 1101HA (Seashell): $429.99 (ASUS.com)
Promising over 9 hours of battery life, a multitouch trackpad, and a spacious keyboard, the ASUS 1101HA – informally called the Seashell Series – attempts to meld day-long productivity with an inspired design. ASUS’ “Super Hybrid Engine” technology can even squeeze 11 hours out of a slightly higher-capacity battery if you’re so inclined.
Nokia Booklet 3G: $599.99 or $299.99 with 2-year data contract (Nokia.com)
Available exclusively at Best Buy, the Nokia Booklet 3G is one of the newer netbooks to hit the market, differentiating itself with standard built-in 3G wireless, GPS, and unbelievable 12-hour battery life packed into a 2.75-pound frame. At $600, it’s not cheap, but you can get it for $300 if you sign up for a two-year wireless data plan.
Dell Mini 10: Starting at $499 (Dell.com)
Dell’s build-to-order business model means that you can customize its 10.1-inch Mini 10 series of netbooks with extras like an integrated GPS chip or even a TV tuner. The Mini 10 now packs a 1366×768-resolution screen standard — not to be confused with the Mini 10v, which comes with a 1024×600 screen.
Samsung NC20: $549.99 (Samsung.com)
Like the Gateway LT3100 series, Samsung’s 12.1-inch NC20 also bucks the Intel Atom trend by going with a low-voltage 1.3GHz VIA Nano processor. You also get a big 97% (of full size) keyboard, standard six-cell battery, and standard Bluetooth connection.
HP Mini 311: Starting at $399.99 (HP.com)
With an almost irresistible list of features for the price, HP’s newest netbook line has a lot going for it: both VGA and HDMI outputs, standard six-cell battery, and HD-friendly NVIDIA ION LE graphics make the 11.6-inch Mini 311 enticing, to say the least.
MSI Wind U210: $479.99 (MSIMobile.com)
Another entrant in the no-Atom-CPU field, MSI’s Wind U210 sports a nimble 1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo processor, ATI Radeon X1250 graphics, and 2GB of RAM. What you’ll gain in power, you’ll lose in longevity, though, as the U210’s six-cell battery tops out at around four hours. And, sure, MSI apparently didn’t get the memo that we’re in a Windows 7 world now, but the Vista-based U210 includes a Windows 7 upgrade voucher in the box.
Lenovo IdeaPad S12: Starting at $429 (Lenovo.com)
For the ultimate in configuration options, look no further than the 12.1-inch Lenovo S12. It’s available with a VIA Nano processor and XP Home at $429 or opt for an Intel Atom/NVIDIA ION/Windows 7 Home Premium combo starting at $599.