We've taken a closer look at three of the most exciting new netbooks on the market, the Asus Eee PC, the MSI Wind PC, and the Dell Inspiron Mini, to give you a better sense of what these netbooks are really like, and what they are capable of. It's definitely important to have a realistic set of expectations when purchasing such a device, but if you've got the right mindset and set of needs, any of these laptops could be a satisfying solution.
Asus EEE PC
Asus is perhaps the most recognizable brand name in the netbooks category, and their Eee PCs have been dominating the market mostly because, until this point, there hasn't been competition. Now that there is though, Asus is determined to retain their leadership position, and is offering Eee PC netbooks that are robust, versatile, and quite affordable.
The available configurations run the gamut from the barebones Eee PC 700 (also known as the 2G surf) all the way to the Eee PC 1000, which straddles the line between netbook and a traditional ultraportable laptop. While most models have a solid-state flash memory hard drive, the 1000HD and 1000H models have included a more traditional hard drive, with capacities of 80 or 160GB. Naturally, this adds a little bit of heft and bulk to the Eee PC, but if the thought of limiting yourself to a 2, 4, 6, or 16GB flash drive is simply beyond conception, the option for more space is available. The Asus Eee PC 900 seems like the most appealing series in the line, offering a moderately sized 8.9" display, 1GB of RAM, and the choice between a Linux operating system or Windows XP (for roughly $50 more).
The Asus Eee PC 901 is a particular standout, as it comes with Intel's new Atom mobile processor, giving it a slight advantage over the other Celeron based 900 models. Asus Eee netbooks typically cost between $250 and $500, depending on model.
MSI Wind PC
Made by Micro_Star International, the MSI Wind is seeking to unseat Asus. Though their name may not be familiar, this is a segment of the market where lesser-known brands can make their mark. The MSI Wind is similar to the Asus Eee 1000 series: it features a 10-inch display and the Intel Atom mobile processor, but unlike the Asus computers, the MSI Wind does not feature flash-based hard drives, instead only offering 80, 120, and 160GB hard disk drives. Still, it manages to be a relatively slim and lightweight option for netbook shoppers, and a solid competitor for Asus. The MSI Wind costs between $450 and $600, depending on model.
Dell Inspiron Mini
Not content to allow a bunch of unknown companies dominate the netbook market, Dell introduced its Dell Inspiron Mini 9 this past September, taking direct aim at Asus. The Mini 9 is fairly similar to the Eee PC in specifications, but it's packaged in that classic Dell chassis, giving it a familiar, albeit smaller, appearance. The Mini 9 has an 8.9-inch display and can also run either Linux or Windows XP. This would be a very appealing purchase for someone worried about purchasing from a relatively unknown brand. With a Dell, you know what to expect.