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.

Acer Aspire One

I'm glad Acer waited out the first round of mini-notebooks. To my thinking, the recently introduced Aspire One is the best of this young breed, offering the killer combination of top performance and five hours of battery life in a design that is as good looking as it is functional. At US$375, it fulfills the promise of mini-notebooks at a great price.

At 1 by 9.8 by 7.4 inches, the Aspire One is right in the middle of this group of mini-notebooks; bigger and slightly heavier than the Sylvania G Netbook but smaller and lighter than the Eee PC 1000. With its standard battery, it weighs 2.2 pounds, but with the extended battery pack it came in at 2.5 pounds and ran for a class-leading five hours 15 minutes.

The small AC adapter adds 5 ounces, giving the Aspire One a petite travel weight of 2.8 pounds with the bigger battery, half a pound less than either the 2133 Mini-Note or Eee PC 1000. Its three-prong power plug will probably prove to be a nuisance in older buildings that don't have grounded outlets; the 2133 Mini-Note also has a three-prong plug.

I looked at the sleek white model, but Acer also sells ones that are black, blue and pink. Whichever color strikes your fancy, the Aspire One is well made and looks like a computer costing hundreds of dollars more, but it comes with a cheesy vinyl slip case.

Powered by a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor, the Aspire One has 1GB of system memory and 8GB of solid-state storage space, of which 6.4GB is available for files. This can't compare with the 104GB hard drive that the 2133 Mini-Note has and will quickly fill up, so you'll be well served by getting a memory key or flash card for more storage.

Like the 2133 Mini-Note, the Aspire One has an 8.9-in. wide screen, which may be a little short of the Eee PC 1000's 10-in. panel but shows the same 1024-by-600 resolution; it is also significantly brighter. There's a webcam above it.

While the 17.3mm keys can feel skimpy, they have a generous 2mm of depth. It was the firmest keyboard and the easiest to get used to of the test systems.

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