Four new mini-laptops -- which is smallest, lightest, best?

We pit mini-notebooks from Acer, Asus, HP and Sylvania against each other. Who's the final winner?

The  Netbook uses gOS, an offshoot of Ubuntu 8.04 Linux. Sylvania doesn't sell the system with Windows XP, but the company says it can be loaded on the system.

The Netbook uses gOS, an offshoot of Ubuntu 8.04 Linux. Sylvania doesn't sell the system with Windows XP, but the company says it can be loaded on the system.

How we tested

The biggest challenge with Linux notebooks is the lack of benchmarks available to compare their performance and battery life. Instead, I put together a suite of tests that mimics the way most people work and play.

Start-up: I used a stopwatch to time how long it took to get each machine up and running. For systems that required a password, I stopped the watch to enter the information and then resumed the timing. The test was completed when the file activity light stopped blinking.

Open an Acrobat file: Each system was timed for how long it took to open a full-color six-page PDF that contained several photos and charts.

Print a Word document: This was a two-part test. First, a standard .doc file was opened using the system's included word processing program. Then, the 15-page all-text document was printed using an HP DeskJet 995C inkjet printer.

Battery life: With Wi-Fi turned on and the browser tuned to an Internet streaming "radio" station, I timed how long it took to run the battery down until the machine stopped; the results are rounded to the nearest five-minute interval.

Wi-Fi range: With the system playing the streaming radio station, I slowly walked away from the Wi-Fi router, noting where the system lost connection to the server. This was repeated to make sure of its location; results are rounded to 5 feet.

Compatibility: In addition, to make sure that these systems would not let you down on the road, I played several YouTube videos; composed, sent and received e-mail; viewed and edited and image; listened to streaming Internet radio; opened Acrobat, Word and Excel files; transferred files from a flash drive; and played an audio CD on an external Toshiba DVD drive.

PERFORMANCE TEST RESULTS

Acer Aspire One Asus Eee PC 1000 HP Mini-Note 2133Sylvania G Netbook
Start system (min:sec) 0:30.3 1:06.2 1:46.5 2:19.1
Open Acrobat file (sec) 3.4 6.1 13.9 7.2
Time to print Word doc (min:sec) 3:34.6 4:13.0 24:17.1 6:06.2
Battery capacity/life (hour:min) 5200mah*/ 5:15 6600mah*/ 3:50 2590mah*/ 1:40 2200mah*/ 3:00
Wi-Fi range (feet) 115 90 105 85

*Milli-amps

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Brian Nadel

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