The Appeal of Netbooks

Netbooks are a breed of small, slim, less expensive laptop computers that are suited for general-use functions. Also called “mini notebooks” or “ultraportables,” they’ve quickly become the weapon of choice for students, commuters and the everyday woman who just wants a simple computer that won’t break the bank. If all you do on any given day is type up some e-mails, send a few Tweets and watch some adorable cat videos on YouTube, why pay more than $1,000 for a high-end machine you’re never going to really flex?

When portable computers first came out, they weren’t really all that portable—they weighed a ton and only got a few hours of battery life. But netbooks are completely purse-ready—most are the size of a sheet of paper, two or three inches thick and weigh less than three pounds. The modest tech specs also mean awesome battery life, with 6-cell batteries boasting as much as 8 or 10 hours of juice before having to plug in. And the best part is the price: Most netbooks range from $300 to $450, a far cry from what people typically expect to spend on portable computers.

So what’s the catch? Again, netbooks aren’t powerhouses, so any demanding software will chug, and lower-end machines might choke a bit on high-quality video. And older models of netbooks have 3-cell batteries that only give three or four hours of power, so do some research before buying. Here are a few netbook models that we liked:

Asus Eee PC 1005PE (in Black), $369 on Amazon.

Toshiba Mini NB205-N325 (in Royal Blue), $339 on Amazon.

Acer Aspire One AOD250 (in Ruby Red), $439 on Amazon.