Love them or hate them, netbooks are becoming blazingly popular and promise to become even cheaper than they currently are. A netbook is typically described as a smaller laptop that offers less performance but small form factor and reasonable price. They came about largely because of the One Laptop Per Child project which attempted to deliver a $100 USD laptop to children who did not have access to technology. The term netbook was official introduced by Intel, and there is still some confusion about what to call this popular emerging market. Subnotebook, Netbook, regardless of what you call them, there are a few companies you’ll want to follow.
The only major differences besides screen size and keyboard layout relate to processors. Most of these subnotebooks are opting for the new Intel Atom Processor that offers solid performance, longer battery life, and lower energy consumption. In fact, most of the new netbooks lack a fan because they aren’t as hot as traditional notebooks. All good things for people who want to be mobile.
If you’ve gotten swept up by the netbook craze, these are a few companies and machines that you’ll want to pay attention to:
MSI Wind: The MSI Wind looks to be one of the strongest newcomers to the netbook scene. Besides a larger 10 inch screen, utilization of the Intel Atom Processor, and cheap $399 price (with linux and 3 cell battery), it features a larger keyboard. There are also rumored to be a few clones that might simply be rebranded and cheaper versions of the Wind. I’m excited for the Wind as the 6-cell version offers 5.5 hours of battery life and offers great mobility. Engadget reports that these should be available in 3 to 5 weeks. Learn more by visiting the MSIWind.net.
Everex Cloudbook: The current Cloudbook came about around the same time as the Asus Eee PC, but didn’t find quite the same success. It relies on the VIA C7-M Processor which performs sluggish compared to the new Intel Atom. These badboys can be picked up at your local Walmart for $349. I’d expect to see prices dropping as the next version of the Cloudbook will more closely resemble the MSI Wind. Called the Cloudbook MAX, this netbook is rumored to come with 3G WWAN / WiMAX capabilities.
Dell E: The specs of the upcoming Dell E Series that is designed to compete with the Asus Eee PC aren’t completely concrete. Dell’s fan-base and quality for building somewhat solid machines should make it a big player in the netbook arena. Engadget reports that the Dell E Series will have a starting price of $299– that’s makes us pay attention.
Asus Eee PC Series: Most people somewhat familiar with the netbook bandwagon will know the famous little Asus Eee PC 701. It could be argued that the 701’s success has brought all of these newcomers to the fight. The 701 is a solid machine with good performance despite a tiny 7 inch screen and small keyboard. Trying to continue their success, Asus has introduced the Eee PC Series that gives more options for consumers. Perhaps the strongest selling point of the Eee PC is the rich community support that has developed. There are many mods, tweaks, and hacks to improve your Eeexperience. Checkout the forums at eeeuser.com for more information.
Acer One: The Acer One looks to make a strong running when it is released. The Acer One should be directly competing with the Dell E and MSI Wind as they have very similar specs. This little machine has a sleek, bold design similar to the HP Mininote. The $399 price point also makes it worth considering.
Intel Classmate: The Classmate was one of Intel’s children and was marketed to schools in competition with the OLPC XO laptop. While I don’t see the current Classmate PC competing directly with these netbooks, you might be able to pick one up for a lower price. It offers essentially the same options as other netbooks as long as you can get over its 1980’s retro look. CTL currently sells a rebranded "2go PC" Classmate PC with the original Celeron M Processor for $399.
Ultimately, you have to decide which netbook is right for you. Wikipedia has a great comparison of current netbook devices. This may be a good starting point as you decide how to be more mobile.
Which netbook will you be opting for? Leave your response in the comments.