Fastest netbooks – most powerful 10 inch laptops – best picks
The first netbooks to hit the market a couple of years ago had under 1 GHZ processors and 4 GB of storage. Speed and performance were not relevant, as netbooks were used by students at the library or early adopters loving netbooks for the heck of it. As netbooks gained mainstream acknowledgment, however, users wanted more in a 10 inch package. Checking your email or working in an Excel sheet was not enough anymore.
Manufacturers rushed to meet this demand and major processors developers, Intel and AMD, came up with increasingly fast and mobile chips. But that’s not quite enough, as you also need some serious video fire power. Nvidia created the ION platform, which initially was an integrated video solution, while the second installment was and is a dedicated video card. AMD, on the other hand, uses integrated HD graphics from ATI for netbook processors.
But maybe the more important breakthroughs were achieved by processors manufacturers. Intel created the Atom platform, which was aimed at small netbooks and that offered pretty modest performance at first. In recent times, Intel developed dual core Atom processors, like N550 and N570, with an even newer, N2xx series currently being adopted by companies.
Dual core Atom chips are pretty decent when it comes to multitasking and productivity work. Pairing one up with 2 GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home or Professional will get you a reliable 10 inch machine, able to cope with multiple apps running at once. More, if you go for a model that also packs an ION solution, you can even get HD playback and gaming.
AMD didn’t waste time and released the Fusion platform, which comprises of a ULV single or dual core processor and integrated HD graphics from ATI. Most Fusion chips are used on 11.6 to 13.3 inch machines, with the relatively slow C-50 being the only dual core processor used on 10 inchers.
The C-50 also comes with Radeon HD 6250, which delivers decent HD performance. Still, this is an integrated solution, which shares system memory and is the most basic of the multimedia treats Fusion chips have to offer. Next, let’s take a look at the fastest 10 inch netbooks packing either an Intel or AMD solution.
10 inch netbooks with Atom processors- dual core N550 and N570
First, the Asus 1015PEM. The netbook packs a dual core, 1.5 GHZ N550 chip, which is the first of its kind to be released by Intel. It’s basically double the processing power in comparison with a N450 or N455 and even has better power management. Too bad Asus doesn’t equip the computer with 2 GB of RAM straight out of the box. You only get 1 GB, a 250 GB HDD and Windows 7 Starter.
Even so, you get a pretty competent machine, able to deal with multitasking and launch apps pretty fast. And if you’re willing to make an extra investment in an additional 1 GB of RAM, you get a surprisingly snappy machine for this price range. The netbook comes with integrated GMA 3150 graphics, which is not much, but will handle video playback up to 720p.
Anyway, you couldn’t properly enjoy full HD playback on the 1015PEM, considering that the display has a modest 1024 x 600 resolution. Too bad Asus didn’t worked enough on the battery, as the stock 6 cell battery rarely goes above 4 hours of battery life on a single charge.
The 1015PEM has been replaced with the 1015PX series, that brings improved hardware and a bit better battery life. More details about that other series below
Asus Eee PC 1015PX. The netbook comes with the Intel Atom N570 dual core processor, which has a speed of 1.66 GHZ, offering an overall 11% performance boost in comparison with the N550. Everything else is quite familiar, meaning you get 1 GB of RAM, a 1024 x 600 matte display and a 250 GB HDD, as well as Win 7 Starter. Of course, upgrading the machine to 2 GB will make it run considerably faster.
It is right now our favorite 10 inch EEE PC, merging incredible build quality with excellent performances and battery life. All these for around 300 bucks, with a discount available online and Free Shipping
Asus 1015PN. The 1015PN is basically identical to the 1015PEM, with the notable exception that the first comes with Nvidia ION graphics. Everything else is the same, namely the N550 CPU, 1 GB of RAM and Windows 7 Starter. The netbook comes with a HDMI port, as the device can play 1080p content, which is much more enjoyable on a large screen than on the modest 1024 x 600 display of the 1015PN. This one goes for around 350 bucks, but prepare some extra for OS and Memory upgrade in order to benefit of its full power.
Acer AOD255. Just like the 1015PEM, the A0D255 comes with the dual core N550, but there isn’t a integrated or dedicated video card. Even so, the netbook has a 15% overall performance boost when compared to single core versions and has a very decent battery life, being able to go for more than 8 hours on a single charge. The AOD255 is also quite cheap, being available for about 260 bucks, and you can even get it cheaper if you’re lucky to catch a promotional price. Another interesting aspect is that, in non US territories, the netbook comes with Android 1.6 as an alternative OS.
10 inch netbooks with AMD Fusion chips
Asus Eee PC 1015B. This 10 inch netbook is powered by a C-30 1.2 GHZ processor and HD 6250 graphics. The single core processor is not at fast as the N550 or N570, but the onboard HD graphics can deliver a pretty decent multimedia experience. The system will run smoother if you upgrade to 2 GB of RAM and a better OS than Starter. Overall, the 1015B is more of an entertainment machine than anything else, as it can play HD video, even 1080p, and some games, especially if you’re willing to spend a little more than the asking price for some extra system memory. More details on pricing and some reviews are available here.
Toshiba NB550D. The NB550D packs the dual core C-50, running at 1 GHZ, and the same Radeon HD graphics. The C-50 is about 33% slower than either the N550 and N570, but performance is only 20% lower at worst. Also, in multimedia related tests, the C-50 outmatches Atom processsors by a long shot thanks to the integrated HD graphics. Everything else is standard netbook fair- 1 GB of RAM, Windows 7 Starter and a 1024 x 600 display, with the battery being a pleasant surprise, as it can go on a single charge for about 7 to 8 hours at times. When compared to the Asus , the Toshiba Nb550D really packs some amazing speakers and a Full-size keyboard, but it’s also more expensive (however, it’s mostly available in Europe and not that much in the US).
Last but not least, there’s the Acer Spire One D522 which is pretty much indentical to the other two above, but offer a HD display with 1280 x 720px resolution and a pretty nice price tag.
In comparison to the early days of the netbook market, today there’s much more to choose from. And “by more” I mean two . You can either go for the Intel Atom platform, that offers two decent dual core chips, N550 and N570, and Fusion chips, that are slower, but come with HD graphics included, thus offer Full HD video playing abilities. In the end, it’s all about what you need and you are willing to spend. Atom powered 10 inchers are better for productivity work and general casual use and, when paired with ION graphics, look like a very decent computer for their size.
Fusion netbooks are not that fast and able to deal with multitasking, but can surely deliver a better multimedia experience. And they’re cheaper, by the way.
Still, although we take 10 inchers very seriously and pamper them if needed, there is still much room for improvement, as these mini laptops can’t really compete in terms of performance with most laptops over 13 inches.
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