Lenovo Ideapad S10, Asus Eee 904HA, Acer Aspire One and Smoothbook Slice

It cannot be said that 2008 was the year of the netbook. Asus is credited with officially launching the first netbook last year with its Eee PC **, but as many first-time adopters will tell you, companies rarely get it "right" when they first launch at bat, and the Eee PC was no different.

While the device was priced right, features like the 7-inch widescreen display that can only run at 800 x 480 resolution, low-capacity storage, and a custom Linux-based operating system left many users asking for more . Let's face it – a Linux operating system may be faster and more responsive on a netbook that lacks computing power, but it simply puts off mainstream customers who are only familiar with Microsoft products.

A great second wave of netbooks arrived in mid-2008 and, as expected, improvements have been made everywhere. These netbooks offered larger screens with higher resolutions, better storage media (either SSD or conventional hard drives) and the option to have Windows XP preinstalled.

The mobile Atom processor from Intel, released in June, is the powerhouse of choice for netbook manufacturers. The Atom N270, codenamed Diamondville, is a single-core processor that was manufactured using the 45 nm process. With a TDP of just 2.5 W, the Atom generates very little heat compared to today's modern desktop processors.

The Achilles heel of the Atom processor is, of course, that it lacks the “oomph” that we take for granted in our desktops and notebooks. You have to keep in mind that the netbook is designed for minimalist needs – surfing the Internet, e-mail, word processing, chatting and occasionally watching online videos (SD quality). Anything beyond those tasks, including but not limited to video editing, modern gaming, or watching HD video content, and the Atom is quick to superior and can't keep up.

Lenovo Ideapad S10 Asus Eee 904HA Acer Aspire One SC slice
Central processor Intel Atom 1.6 GHz

Intel Atom 1.6 GHz

Intel Atom 1.6 GHz

Intel Atom 1.6 GHz

Screen size

10 "

8.9 "

8.9 "

10 "

memory
(Max)

1 GB (1.5 GB)

1 GB (2 GB)

1 GB (1.5 GB)

1 GB (2 GB)

USB ports 2 3 3 3
hard disk

160 GB

160 GB

160 GB

120 GB

Battery (optional) 3 cells (6 cells)

6 cells

3 cells (6 cells)

3 cells (6 cells)

price $ 399 $ 350 $ 380 $ 500

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the netbook is how quickly it is gaining popularity with consumers. Manufacturers jump on the scene and produce their own brand of netbooks. They mix and match what they think is the best combination of features and specifications. A more competitive market brings lower prices and greater options for the consumer, and who doesn't like that?

Today we're taking a look at four popular netbooks from four different manufacturers: Smooth Creations, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus. While all netbooks here today have similar hardware specifications, each is very different and unique. The quality, screen size, keyboard layout, and implementation of the touchpad are just a few of the many aspects that are covered in depth.

** Purists will tell you that the term "netbook" dates back to 1999, when a company called Psion introduced their "netbook" computer, which was derived from the sub-notebooks then offered. In real terms, however, Asus single-handedly brought the netbook form factor to the mainstream market in 2007 with the Eee.

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