Solid State Netbook Computers – Best Values & Review

This is a follow-up update on the review performed late last year on the best laptops and netbooks. Solid state netbook computers were not part of that evaluation as at that time they were priced slightly higher. Currently, their price range match well with their hard-disk equivalents.

Having less movable parts makes solid state netbooks travel-friendly over standard netbooks employing a hard-drive. They also score higher in portability in home environments where a laptop can be found perched just about anywhere and is a draw for students too.

Acer and Asus are the primary manufacturers of Netbook computers with solid state storage option. HP has an offering in this category. Below is a comparison of the flagship solid state products from these manufacturers.

Best Value Solid State Netbooks:


Feature/ProductAcer Aspire One AOA110-1995Asus Eee PC 901HP Mini 1115NRDell Vostro A90
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Best Price$296.99 (white only)$279.99 (pearl white only)$299.99$379
ProcessorIntel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHz
Memory1 GB DDR2 SDRAM , 2 GB Max1 GB DDR2 SDRAM, 2 GB Max.1 GB DDR2 SDRAM, 2 GB Max.1 GB DDR2 SDRAM, 2 GB Max.
Solid State Storage in place of a hard drive8 GB NAND Drive, 8 GB SD card included for use in dedicated memory card slot (SD & MMC).12 GB SD memory in dedicated memory card slot (SD & MMC)16 GB solid-state flash memory (NAND) storage16 GB solid-state flash memory (NAND) storage
Additional Storage Option(s)Multi-format expansion slot - Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO and xD-Picture Card.20 GB Asus online storage.Memory Card Slot (SD & MMC)Memory Card Slot (SD & MMC)
Battery3-cell – rated for up to 2.5 hours6-cell – rated for up to 6 hours3-cell – rated for up to 2.5 hours4-cell – rated for up to 5 hours
Weight2.5 pounds2.43 pounds2.23 pounds2.36 pounds
Dimension9.8 (W) x 6.7 (D) x 1.14 (H)8.86 (W) x 6.90 (D) x 0.89 - 1.54 (H)10.3 (W) x 6.56 (D) x 0.99 (H) 9.13 (W) x 6.77 (D) x 1.15 (H)
Other Feature Summary3 USB 2.0 ports; 1 VGA, 1 Microphone, 1 headphone, AC Adapter.3 USB 2.0 ports; 1 VGA, 1 Microphone, 1 headphone, AC Adapter.2 USB 2.0 ports; 1 Microphone, 1 headphone, AC Adapter.3 USB 2.0 ports; 1 Microphone, 1 headphone, AC Adapter, optional bluetooth, security cable.


The common features applicable to all of the models described are:
  • Windows XP Home pre-installed
  • WI-FI Wireless Card.
  • Graphics Media Accelerator Chipset.
  • Wireless 802.11b/g card.
  • 10Base-T/100Base-TX Fast Ethernet LAN with RJ-45 connector
  • Webcam.
  • 8.9” Display.
  • 1-year warranty.
The table below compares the Intel Atom 270 processor used in all the three solid state Netbooks in this review with the Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core Mobile Processor T3200 which is a popular processor used in many laptops:


ProcessorTypeL1 CacheL2 CacheClock SpeedSystem BusOthers
Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core Mobile Processor T3200Dual Core64 KB1MB 1.6 GHz533 MHzDual Core true parallel processing enabled. Execute Disable Bit Virus Deterrent Technology and Intel Speedstep Power Management Technology Built In.
Intel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzSingle Core32KB instruction & 24KB data cache.512 KB L2 Cache1.6 GHz533 MHzEnhanced Intel® SpeedStep Technology, Low Thermal Design Power, Power Optimized Front Side Bus.



Summary:

These Solid State Netbooks are priced on the average around $200 lower than the best value priced Laptops/Notebooks. The processors in these devices are less powerful with limited upgrade possibilities. Pricing, size, and weight all being lower makes Solid State Netbooks a good choice for students, frugal families, folks with an external LCD monitor/keyboard/mouse environment in place, and frequent travelers willing to forgo a little performance. The intended mobility of the machine should be assessed ahead of a purchase as these companies also offer a hard drive version of these products with larger storage but can be flimsier in the event of a hard fall. They are priced almost similar for the comparable features as discussed in our review.

Asus Eee PC 1000 as a higher end option. The major differences compared to the Asus Eee PC 901 are the following:
  1. Linux preinstalled in place of Windows XP home edition,
  2. More Storage – 40 GB solid state in place of 12 GB.
  3. 10.2” LCD screen in place of 8.9” LCD screen.
  4. 6-cell battery rated for 8 hours in place of 6-cell battery rated for up to 6 hours
The above features make it a strong offering at roughly $100 premium over Asus Eee PC 901.

CTL IL1 7-inch Laptop is an alternative in the lower price range (~$200). The unproven Via C7-M 1 GHz Processor, relatively unknown manufacturer, and the 7” screen makes it a hard choice to recommend.


Overall, our pick for the best value among solid state netbooks is the Asus Eee PC 901. The new HP Mini 1115NR is a competitive model but their Flash drives are known to fail quickly. The Acer Aspire One is not as feature-rich as the ASUS. The Dell Vostro A90 is new and as such is unproven. Also, the price compared to the feature-set make it a notch below the competition in terms of overall value. Intel’s Atom chip performs well with Windows XP, which comes preinstalled. With the ASUS, there is also an option to purchase the Linux version of the product for the same price. The approximate $300 pricing is an outstanding value for the full-fledged features it offers. This choice is well suited especially for those that are already setup with an external LCD monitor/keyboard/mouse. As a laptop alternative, there is a matter of getting used to the smaller screen-size and keyboard. Compared to the performance of laptops/notebooks, the processing power and RAM limitations are the major differences, but on Windows XP, with an upgrade to a 2 GB RAM, the setup would amply suffice for most users.

Last Updated: 6/2009.

4 comments :

Greener View said...

My wife has an ASUS EEE 901 with linux and loves it. The simplified GUI runs very fast, and she does everything in the cloud over my antiquated 802.1b net just fine with FIOS underlying it.

Did your research point out any advantages of NAND vs SD storage?

ks said...

Hi Greener View:

Thanks for your comment!

Our research didn't look into NAND vs SD. In general OS, applications, & documents separation is a theme with netbooks...

Here is a link that covers several technical aspects: http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=3531

Regards,

Andrei Pushkin said...

According to graphs on this comparison, HP netbook was strongly discounted towards it's end of commercial life

Snow said...

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

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