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.

In the lower left is a handy home key that brings up the system's opening screen. Instead of a cluttered desktop, the Linpus Linux Lite operating system's home screen is divided into four groups: Connect (Web, e-mail, IM), Work (word processing, presentations, spreadsheets), Fun (games, media, images) and Files (links to storage). There are more choices for each category that you can get to by clinking an arrow as well as a settings section for adjusting the system's parameters. It's different from what the others -- and Windows -- provide, and I've found it to be a powerful paradigm. The system comes with the OpenOffice 2.3 suite, which includes all the basics, including word processing, presentations, Web browsing, e-mail and more.

Ports on the Aspire One are on a par with the others: three USB ports, external monitor, headphone, microphone and a LAN jack. There's also a pair of flash card readers that work with Secure Digital, Memory Stick and the tiny xD modules.

The notebook's 802.11b/g wireless client had a range of 115 feet, the longest of the four minis I looked at.

After passing every compatibility test I threw at it, the Aspire One sped through the performance tests, with the fastest times for starting up, opening an Acrobat file and printing a Word document. Paradoxically, it also ran for five hours and 15 minutes on a charge, the longest of this bunch of notebook runts and about three times longer than the 2133 Mini-Note. Even with the standard battery, the Aspire One would have outrun the 2133.

Priced at US$399, the Aspire One that I looked at is a bargain, but if it's too expensive, you can get one with a smaller battery that weighs less for US$330; a version with Windows XP Home runs to US$350. For travelers or those looking for an inexpensive second (or third) computer, the Aspire One is a digital dream come true.

Asus Eee PC 1000

Asus started the inexpensive mini-notebook party a year ago with the US$400 Eee PC 701, but not content to leave well enough alone, the company upsized the system, releasing the US$550 Eee PC 900 in May. Now we have the Eee PC 1000, which to my thinking goes too far, is too big and -- at US$600 -- is too expensive.

Easily the largest and heaviest of the bunch, the wedge-shaped Eee PC 1000 is 1.2 inches thick in the front and 1.5 inches thick in the back. Its 10.4-by-7.5-in. footprint is more than an inch longer than the G Netbook. It weighs 2.9 pounds -- nearly a pound heavier than the G Netbook -- and with its AC adapter, the Eee PC 1000 has a travel weight of 3.3 pounds. It comes with a padded case.

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