Netbooks have become wonderfully cheap. In the middle of 2009 I purchased a Samsung NC10 for a little under $400 dollars. At the time, that was a scorching hot deal. But today there are numerous laptops with similar specifications available for (sometimes well under) the $350 mark.
Of course, not all netbooks are created equal. Some cheap netbooks are capable machines well worth your money. Other cheap netbooks are, well, cheap. In this buying guide I’ll highlight my picks for the three best cheap netbooks, all of which are sold and surprisingly feature-filled machines given their price.
ASUS’s Eee PC line is basically the gold standard when it comes to netbooks. They were on the front lines when netbooks were gaining popularity and have constantly provided high-quality netbooks at impressively low prices.
The Eee PC 1001P is the essence of what has made the Eee PC line great. Despite being simple, and having few notable features, it has a solid design. The keyboard and the screen are great. The trackpad is lacking feedback, but is still solid. Most of the hardware specifications are the same as other netbooks, as well. The processor is the same 1.66Ghz Atom you find in most netbooks today. The Eee PC 1001P also has 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. And the battery life is amazing – most users report over ten hours.
And the price? Under $300 dollars. The Eee PC 1001P certainly lacks some features like Bluetooth and a webcam, but here’s the thing. My Samsung NC10 has both of those – and I never, ever use them. If you also do not need those features, why pay for them? Buy the basic Eee PC 1001P and use the money left over to get a nice massage.
MSI Wind L1350
The MSI Wind L1350 doesn’t do a lot to change this. The hardware specifications consists of the usual stuff, including a 1.66Ghz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. The MSI Wind L1350 does include some features that are unusual for this price point, however, those being a 1.3 Megapixel webcam and support for wireless b/g/n networking (most inexpensive netbooks only support wireless b/g). In terms of build quality and design the MSI Wind is comparable to the competition in this price range, although I have to say that I’ve never been a fan of the Wind’s keyboard relative to the Eee PC.
Of course, the Wind redeems itself on price. The MSI Wind L1350 can be found for as little as $279.99. if you opt for the 3 cell battery, which still can manage about six hours of battery life. If you go for the full 6 cell enchilada you’ll have to pay $329.99, but you also are given an upgrade to a 250GB hard drive. The MSI Wind L1350 is a solid choice at that price.
When it debuted at $400 the Toshiba NB205 was among the best netbooks around. It features an very large and well designed keyboard and the largest trackpad that I’ve ever come across on a netbook. The build quality of the Toshiba NB205 is superb and the aesthetics are also great thanks to the netbook’s lid, which has a uniquely textured appearance.
Today the Toshiba NB205 has been replaced by the new Toshiba NB305. Being an older model, the NB205 does have older hardware. It uses an older version of the Atom which, while just as fast, restricts the NB205 to only eight hours of battery life with a six-cell battery. There is 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. This netbook does have a webcam, and some models do have Bluetooth, although the Bluetooth models are usually more expensive.
As a result of the NB205′s slightly older hardware t the NB205′s price has been dropped dramatically. It is now possible to buy a NB205 for as little as $320. That’s an outstanding value. The Toshiba NB205 was not designed as budget level netbook and it doesn’t feel like one, either. If you’re buying a netbook with the intention to use it several hours a day you will be incredibly happy with the NB205.