Most powerful netbooks and mini laptops in 2012
Hey guys, time for another swoop on the netbook market in order to see which mini laptops top the charts when it comes to performance. First off, as you probably know (but never hurts to double check, right?), netbooks are meant to be secondary computers, which you should use on the go, at school or work when you can’t rely on a faster computer. Or use it as a home server, HTPC or for any other purpose that doesn’t require the computing power of a Core i7 machine.
Of course, there are premium netbooks around that stand out of the crowd and we’re going to talk about them in this article. These machines range from 10 inch to 12 inch in size and pack features usually encountered on larger computers, but you’ll have to pay extra for them. This goes against the ultra cheap, ultra portable credo of the netbook, but if you want more than just browsing the web and watching the occasional Youtube video, you might be willing to spend a little extra. Taking it slow…
Powerful 10 inch netbooks
We start right at the bottom. The 10 inch netbook. It’s the type of mini laptop that packs very basic hardware, conceived to deal with browsing, very light productivity work, like a text editor or an Excel sheet and listening to some music. You can buy a new 10 inch netbook for as little as $199, but now we’re going to talk about those that set different standards when it comes to performance. And by different we mean higher.
The 1015B goes just over the mediocrity edge, being the less impressive of the awesome 10 inchers It packs a C-50 AMD Fusion APU that comes with integrated HD video, namely ATI’s Radeon HD 6250, which will be able to share up to 256 MB of system memory and decode HD content. Think more 720p running decently rather than flawless 1080p, but it’s still a major step forward from the single core Atom processor which were able to run 480p. The netbook also has 2 GB of RAM (can support up to 4 GB) and a 6 cell battery, wrapped up in a package going right now for 279 bucks on Amazon. If you like it, order fast, as stocks are almost depleted right now.
The Toshiba NB550D packs the same hardware as the 1015B, but comes with a great set of speakers, namely stereo Harman Kardon speakers. It’s probably the best audio system to ever land on a netbook and will complement the HD playback the C-50 on board can deliver. Also, you get a battery able to go on a single charge for around 8 hours and a very appealing patterned design on the lid, something like a granulated wallpaper. Not all surprising, this setup costs a little more, namely 329 pounds on Amazon.
The Asus 1015PX changes the game a little and ditches entertainment for productivity. While AMD’s APUs are good for playing videos, they’re not very solid when it comes to multitasking. The 1015PX comes with a dual core, Atom N570 CPU, which can deal with multiple open apps better than most processors in its class, like the N550 or entry level Brazzos CPUs.
As for video playback, we found the 1015PX able to play 720p video, both local and streamed, pretty well, while 1080p played decently only streamed from Youtube in Flash format. The 1015PX goes for $298 right now, but consider investing in a supplementary 1 GB of RAM alongside the stock 1 GB you get out of the box.
The Samsung NF310 brings to the table one of the most interesting designs to ever appear on the netbook market. It has a curvy design, similar to the curves of a shark’s body, and comes with a distinctive HD screen, which has a resolution of 1366 x 768 px. Pair that with the dual core N550 Atom CPU and you’ve got yourself a very suitable netbook for both work and play.
A less stellar Samsung netbook is the NC110, which comes with a N455 single core CPU and 1 GB of RAM. It balances the rather modest processor with premium SRS sound and a 10 hour battery, which make it more suitable as a fancy (and big) music player If you really want this netbook, make sure you have $329.99 to spare.
We’re finishing this section on a high note with the 1015PN. This netbook is still one of the best choices you’ve got when shopping for a strong 10 incher, even almost a year after launch. The dual core Atom N570 processor is backed up by dedicated ION 2 graphics, a setup that surpasses the C-50 APU on the 1015B, being a decent solution for HD playback and some very light gaming.
Add to that the 9.5 hours battery and you’ve got a netbook that kind of has it all. The 1015PN goes for $299 right now, which is 20% less than the usual price.
Top 11.6 to 12 inch netbooks
Bigger means better, as larger netbooks pack better hardware, better batteries and use better displays than 10 inchers. The top models in this section are able to compete with mid range laptops when it comes to performance, but don’t cost as much and won’t take too much room in your bag.
The 1215N is one of the luxury entries in the EEE PC series. Although the quality plastic finish and the sleek body make this netbook also a looker, but the true hot stuff is on the inside. The netbook packs the D525 dual core Atom processor clocked at 1.8 GHZ and a dedicated ION 2 video card, which you can switch on or off using Optimus technology. The 1215N supports up to 4 GB of RAM and comes with Windows 7 Home Premium pre installed, all this in a package worth 400 bucks right now on Amazon.
The kid brother of the 1215N, the EEE PC 1215B, also offers a very decent experience for a significantly lower price. The 1215B packs the E-350 Zacate APU, which is a dual core processor bundled with on board HD graphics from ATI, a setup able to deal with 1080p video playback and some light gaming, helped by the stock 2 GB of RAM. If you’ll grab this, you should know it works better as an entertainment machine rather than a productivity mini laptop, hence the smaller asking price of $299.
The HP dm1z packs the same hardware, but you get an extra 1 GB of RAM out of the box- so 3 in total and a faster, 7200 rpm 320 GB HDD in comparison with the 5400 rpm on the 1215N. The Zacate APU is the same, but you also get the class of the dm1 (it’s basically the same machine, but there’s the “z” inside), which will cost you significantly more, as the dm1z goes for $574.99 on Amazon right now.
Lenovo’s X120e is a business oriented 11.6 inch netbook that packs that great, traditional Thinkpad design that’s been around for ages, while having on the inside AMD’s Zacate E-350 APU and a very solid 4 GB of RAM out of the box. Add to that a fast 7200 HDD and Windows 7 Professional and you’ve got yourself a top notch netbook worth spending 467 bucks on.
And if you’re willing to spend twice as much on a brand new toy, you should know that the MacBook Air 2011 is out for some time now. It’s still one of the thinnest netbooks around, being 0.68 inch thin, partially thanks to the SSD inside. There’s no HDD option, so expect lighting fast boot times and a better battery life (around 10 hours), as well as a second generation Core i3 or Core i5 dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM and a HD screen with a native resolution of 1366 x 768. As for the price, you won’t too surprised to know that the base model goes for a little under 1000 bucks.
The natural anorexic competitor for the MBA is the 11.6 inch version of the Samsung Series 9, which is just as slim- 0.68 inches, but packs less impressive hardware, namely the first generation Core i3 dual core ULV processor and can accommodate a maximum of 2 GB of RAM. You get a similar 64 GB of initial storage like on the MBA, but there’s also the perk of a WIMAX 4G optional module and a USB 3.0 port. This doesn’t sell cheap, as the 11.6 inch Series 9 goes for around $899 on Amazon.
We saved the beast for last and we’re of course talking about the Dell Alienware M11X R3, which is just formally a netbook. It has a 11.6 inch display with a 1366 x 768 resolution, but on the inside it packs hardware worthy of desktop PCs. It features either a Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors, up to 16 GB of DDR3 RAM and video card with dedicated 2 GB of memory. This mini laptop is capable of running newer games at decent frame rates and can deal with any kind of apps you might throw at it. The R3 starts at around $800, with the breathtaking configurations costing well over a grand.
We hope at least a couple of the netbooks we’ve talked about caught your imagination and entered on your list of options if you’re shopping for a netbook. We had in mind netbooks with above average performance and features like good battery, better screens and perks like USB 3.0 ports or better connectivity. There are solid entries in any size category, from the C-50 powered 10 inchers to the battleship 11.6 inch Alienware. Whether it’s productivity or entertainment, these netbooks can take you through a decent experience and, as long as you keep in mind that these small laptops are not meant to replace a desktop computer, these little weasels won’t disappoint you.
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