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Tech Throwdown: Netbooks vs. Laptops

Stocks in this article: SNE HPQ

Toshiba and others are increasingly blurring the lines. The manufacturer rolled out its Pentium Core Duo-powered, nine-hour-battery-driven Satellite T115 laptop in October. At 11.6 inches and $449, the full-powered laptop makes its memory-deprived Mini netbook counterpart seem less like a bargain and more like a redundancy.

H-P put a little more breathing room between its Mini 110 netbook (10 inches, $350) and its newly released Pavilion DM3 laptop (13 inches, $549), but that $200 gap shrinks quickly when the latter's battery life (an estimated 10 hours) and memory (4 gigabytes) dwarfs the former's (7 hours, 1 gigabyte).

In the same vein, the $250 gap between the Acer Timeline and the 14-inch Sony (SNE) VAIO shrinks like a bad sweater when comparing the Acer's offerings to the VAIO's 4 gigabytes of memory, Blu-ray drive and 250 megabytes of extra memory for games.

The netbook should supplement your laptop by making less important information easier to transport. And your laptop should be a bit more functional than a smartphone.

"If you're shopping for a portable computer right now, the first question you need to answer is 'is it your primary portable computer?'" Fox says. "I can't believe we're to the point where there's a 'primary portable computer.'" matched up three top netbooks against three laptops of similar size or price. Read on to see what we found.

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