In the Test Lab: 10 New Netbooks

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Is the line between laptops and netbooks blurring? Lower-priced laptops now cost less than $500, while higher-priced netbooks cost between $400 and $500.

And the products themselves are increasingly similar. Netbooks aren’t necessarily bare bones—some new models have bigger hard drives and more memory. Screens are also getting larger. While most netbooks started out with 9-inch displays, that size has largely been replaced by 10-, 12-, and most recently 11-inch displays. Meanwhile, we’ve seen Atom processors, meant for netbooks, in 13-inch laptops.

You’ll soon be able to check out for yourself the details of the 10 new netbooks currently in our CR Test Labs. Here’s a quick preview.

Acer. The Aspire One AO751h-1259 is one of the more loaded netbooks we’ve seen. With an 11.6-inch display, it’s got a 250GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM. Instead of Linux or Windows XP, it comes with Windows Vista Home Basic. It weighs less than 3 pounds (according to Acer) and costs $400.

Asus. The $390 Eee PC Seashell 1005-HA is a 10.1-inch netbook with a 1.66GHz Atom processor and a 160GB hard drive.

Gateway. Two netbooks from Gateway’s LT series take different approaches. The 10.1-inch LT 2021U (pictured above) has an Atom processor and runs Windows XP Home; it has 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive and costs $300. The AMD Athlon-based LT3130U has 2GB of RAM, a larger 250GB hard drive, and runs Windows Vista Home Basic. Its display is 11.6 inches, and it costs $400. We’ll let you know if it’s worth spending the extra $100 when our tests come out.

HP. HP’s latest Mini offering is the Mini 110. With a 1.6GHz Atom processor, 1GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, and Windows XP Home, it costs $370.

Lenovo. If you’re looking for a 12-inch netbook, Lenovo’s got the IdeaPad S12. It has an Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive, for $450. There’s also a 10-inch model similarly configured for $440.

Samsung. Netbooks from Samsung have been topping our Ratings. The model in our labs, the NP-N310-KA02US is a $480 model with a 10.1-inch display, 1.6GHz Atom processor, 1GB of memory, and a 160GB hard drive. It runs on Windows XP Home. This one weighs 2.7 pounds and is a bit more than an inch thick (according to Samsung).

Sony. The first true netbook from Sony, the VAIO W Series, weighs 2.6 pounds (according to Sony), includes 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive, and costs $500. It runs Windows XP.

Toshiba. Battery life of nine hours is Toshiba’s claim for its mini NB205-N210. Check back with our Ratings to see if it hits the mark. The mini NB205-N210 costs $350. —Donna Tapellini