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?
  • (Computerworld)
  • — 17 September, 2008 09:50
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.

  • 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.
  • Bigger can be better, and the Asus Eee PC 1000's 10-in. display provides nearly double the viewable space that the G Netbook's 7-in. screen does.
  • Whichever color strikes your fancy, Acer's Aspire One is well made and looks like a computer costing hundreds of dollars more.
  • Instead of a cluttered desktop, the home screen of Aspire One's Linpus Linux Lite operating system is divided into four groups: Connect, Work, Fun and Files.
  • At just 2 pounds, Sylvania's G Netbook is one of the smallest computers available anywhere; even with its petite AC adapter, it weighs 2.5 pounds, 10 ounces lighter than the Eee PC 1000.
  • Based on Xandros Linux, the Eee PC 1000's home page has tabbed selections for Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings and Favorites.
  • The HP 2133 is built around the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop; oddly, it has a Windows key that brings up the operating system's shortcut screen.
  • While HP's 2133 Mini-Note PC has a cool-looking rounded brushed aluminum case, it's a lot of computer stuffed into a small package with excellent audio.

The Eee PC 1000's specs match that of the Aspire One almost perfectly with a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of system memory. But its solid-state flash memory can hold 40GB of data, files and programs, five times that of the Aspire One. Plus, the company includes 20GB of free online storage for archives, backups, and the flotsam and jetsam of a digital life.

Bigger can be better, and the 10-in. display provides nearly double the viewable space that the G Netbook's 7-in. screen does. Its 1024-by-600 resolution matches that of the 2133 and Aspire One, although the Eee PC 1000's display looks dull and dim by comparison. It's got a high-resolution webcam above the display.

As with the others, there's no modem, but the Eee PC 1000 can get online with a wired Ethernet plug or an 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi client. It had a range of 90 feet, a bit short of the group's average. The array of connections also matches that of the Aspire One with three USB, external monitor, microphone and headphone jacks, although it lacks the 2133's Express card slot. The Eee PC has a slot that accommodates Secure Digital, Memory Stick and xD flash cards.

The system's 17.6mm keys with 1.9mm of depth make for reasonably accurate and comfortable typing, although the touchpad's buttons were quite stiff. There's a handy home key that brings up the operating system's tabbed main page.

Based on the Xandros Linux, the page has tabbed selections for Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings and Favorites. It comes with the OpenOffice suite, a Web browser, e-mail and other programs. There's a good assortment of software, but its best programs are the educational ones, including a star map program and an interactive periodic table.

The Eee PC 1000 passed each of our compatibility tests and finished in the middle of the pack on the performance tests. The 6,600 milli-amp hour battery, the largest of the group, lasted for three hours 50 minutes, an hour and a half less than the five hours and 15 minutes of life the Aspire One got out of its smaller battery.

Overall, it's too much of a good thing. For a mini-notebook, the Eee PC feels bloated, oversized and at $600, expensive compared to the others. It pushes the limits of this new category but offers little more than a bigger window on the world.

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Brian Nadel

Computerworld
Topics: ultraportable laptops
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