Best Values in Netbooks & Notebooks - A Feature/Price Comparison/Review

This is a follow-up update on our review of the best laptops that was done a while back. Criteria for brand selection were the most popular online retailers and those that offered the most variety. One main distinction in the value lines of manufacturers is Notebooks vs Netbooks:

  1. Netbooks – Smaller Screen (8.9” to 10”), Specializes in mobility and web – light-weight (less than 3 lbs), with wireless capability, but runs on a less powerful mobile processor, and has limited upgrade options, etc.
  2. Notebooks – Screen size above 13” with widescreen, weighs upwards of 6 lbs, uses powerful mobile processor, and has several upgrade options.
We categorized our comparison into two spreadsheets based on the above criteria. Further, to contain the complexity, only one model was chosen from the top manufacturers going by web popularity. The top-branded machines dominate the line while "on the rise" manufacturers have grabbed a niche in the Netbooks line.

Best Value Netbooks:


Feature/ProductASUS Eee PC 1005PE-PU27Acer A0532H-2588Toshiba Mini NB305-N410BLHP Mini 210-1030NR
ThumbnailASUS Eee PCAcer A0532H-2588Toshiba MiniHP Mini
Best Price$365.99$275$346$279.99
StoreAmazon.comAmazon.comAmazon.comAmazon.com
ProcessorIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHz
Memory1 GB DDR2 SODIMM memory, 2 GB Max.1 GB DDR2 Memory1GB DDR2, 2 GB Max.1GB DDR2 SDRAM, 2 GB Max.
Hard Disk (HD)250 GB (5400RPM), 0.5TB web storage.

160 GB (5400RPM)250 GB (5400RPM)160 GB (5400RPM)
Other Feature Summary10.1” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition -Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n @ 2.4GHz; Webcam; 6-cell High Density Li-Ion Battery pack up to 14-hours battery life. 3 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x VGA port, 1 x LAN RJ-45, 2 x Audio input/output ports, 1 x RJ-45 port, Headphone, Mic-In, and chiclet keyboard. MMC/SD/SDHC flash card slot. Weight – 2.8 lbs. Size - 10.3"x7"x1.4".10.1” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition -Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g; Webcam; 6-cell 8 hours rated battery pack. Weight – 2.76 lbs. Size - 7.3"x10.2"x1".10.1” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition – Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g; 6 cell 11-hour battery pack; Webcam; Weight – 2.6 lbs. Size - 10.47"x7.57"x1.43".10” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition – Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g; 6 cell 9.75-hour battery pack; Webcam; Weight – 2.99 lbs. Size - 10.55"x6.9"x0.9"/1.11".




Best Value Notebooks:



Feature/ProductHP Pavilion DV4-2161NRASUS UL30A-X5KDell Vostro 1014 Productivity Pack with 3GB memory upgrade
Toshiba L505-GS5037
ThumbnailHP PavilionASUS NotebookDell Vostro 1014Toshiba L505
Best Price$619.99$599.99$608$629.99
ProcessorIntel® Core i3-330M Processor T3200 (2.13 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)Intel® Core™2 Duo processor SU7300 (1.3 GHz)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T6570 (2.1GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)Intel Core i3-330M Processor (2.13 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)
Memory4GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm); max-8GB4GB DDR3 RAM, 2 DIMM, max-4GB3GB Single Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz, 2 DIMM4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM Memory
Hard Disk (HD)500 GB (7200RPM)500 GB (5400RPM)320 GB (5400RPM)500GB (5400RPM)


Other Feature Summary14.1” WXGA Widescreen Display; Intel HD Graphics (up to 1696MB); 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery rated up to 3.5 hours. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit preloaded.13.3" HD LED display; Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD; 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery up to 12 hours battery life. Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Edition operating system (64-bit) preinstalled.14.0” widescreen HD Display w/Anti-glare; Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD; 6-cell Lithium Ion; Windows 7 Home Premium Edition (32-bit)15.6” CCFL Widescreen Display; 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery; Windows 7 Home Premium Edition (64-bit)


The common features applicable to all of the models described are:

  • Windows 7 (Netbooks - Starter Edition, Laptops - Home Premium) with pre-installed software (mostly very basic, starter and/or evaluation copies)
  • WI-FI Wireless Card.
  • Graphics Media Accelerator Chipset.
  • Lithium Ion 3, 4, 6 or 9-cell battery.
  • Wireless 802.11b/g card.
  • 10Base-T/100Base-TX Fast Ethernet LAN with RJ-45 connector
  • Two or more USB 2.0 ports.
  • One or more Audio/Video Jacks.
  • Media Card Reader.
  • 1-year warranty.
The table below summarizes the core differences in the CPUs:



MachineProcessorL1 CacheL2 CacheClock SpeedSystem BusOthers
HP Pavilion DV4-2161NR & Toshiba L505-GS5037Intel® Core i3 330M Processor3MB Intel Smart CacheNA2.13 GHz800/1066 MHzHyper-Threading, Virtualization, Speedstep, Thermal Monitor, Fast/Flex Memory Access, Execute Disable Bit.
Asus UL30A-X5KIntel® Core™2 Duo processor SU73003MB Intel Smart Cache


NA


1.3 GHz800 MHzVirtualization, Speedstep, Thermal Monitor, Execute Disable Bit.
Dell Vostro 1014Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T657064 KB2 MB2.1 GHz800 MHzVirtualization, Speedstep, Execute Disable Bit.
NetbooksIntel Atom 1.66 GHz N450 Processor32KB instruction & 24KB data cache.512 KB L2 Cache1.66 GHz533 MHzHyper-Threading, Speedstep, Thermal Monitor, Execute Disable Bit.


  • Hyper-Threading: Thread-level parallelism takes advantage of multi-threaded software.
  • Virtualization: Hardware assist for virtualization software.
  • Speedstep: voltage & frequency adjustments based on load for power conservation without affecting performance.
  • Execute Disable Bit: Hardware assist for virus deterrence.
  • Flex Memory: Support different memory sizes to facilitate upgrades.

Summary:


The Netbooks are priced on the average about $200 lower than the best value priced Notebooks. The processor used is not as powerful and upgrade possibilities are limited. The lower pricing, smaller size, and weight makes Netbooks a very good choice for students, frugal families, people who already have an external LCD monitor/keyboard/mouse setup, and frequent travelers who are willing to forgo a little performance.

Overall, our pick for the best value among netbooks is the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-PU27 at $365. Intel’s Atom chip performs well with Windows 7, which comes preinstalled. The approximate $365 pricing, while higher compared to some of the competitive models, is an outstanding value for the full-fledged features (chiclet keyboard, LED backlit display, 0.5TB external storage) & extended battery life it offers. Compared to the performance of notebooks, the processing power and RAM limitations are the major differences, but on Windows 7, with an upgrade to a 2 GB RAM, the setup would amply suffice for most users.

The major manufacturers have very competitive offerings huddled together in the $550-$650 price range. The Toshiba L505-GS5037 & HP Pavilion DV4-2161NR offerings have the latest Intel Core i3-330M chip. The Dell Vostro 1014 uses the older Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 chip and cut a few other corners (Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit instead of 64-bit, smaller hard-drive, etc.) but still failed to keep the price substantially lower compared to the competition. Hence, we cannot recommend it unless you can get it in the $550 price range. The ASUS used a slightly less powerful chip and succeeded in keeping the price below $600. Further, the extended battery life makes it a good choice. Among the major manufacturers, our choice is the Toshiba L505-GS5037 - as we blogged previously, we are not big fans of HP laptops.

Related Posts:
  1. Best Values in Netbooks & Notebooks - A Comparative Review (this post).
  2. Best Value Portable Computers for Students (Laptops, Netbooks, and MacBooks) - A Comparative Review.
  3. Tablet PCs - A Comparative Review.

Last Updated: 03/11.


1 comment :

johnxuster said...

good post, thank you.

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