The cheap end of the market for laptops has seen an explosion recently, with netbooks becoming all the rage.
These cheap, compact machines mean that computing on the go no longer has to involve a physio-inducingly heavy laptop, and additions like 3G mean that you don't even have to be near a WiFi connection to browse the internet. We've rounded up netbooks under £300, and we found that there's a lot of variety for penny-pinching portable PC purchasers.
We also recommend you check out our guide to the 15 best netbooks in the world today, which will give you the rundown on the latest and greatest.
1. Acer Aspire One A110 - £139
Acer's Eee-contender, the Aspire One A110, may not have the teeth to take on more fully-fledged network, but we've included it for one reason: the price. Ditching Windows for Linpus Linux Lite has shaved considerable amounts off both the cost and boot times: it's ready to go in just 22 seconds. The only let down is the SSD, which can be frustratingly slow at times. But if you're prepared to ditch Microsoft, you'll find a sturdy and handy little machine.
2. Acer Aspire One 531 - £210
Acer dominates the lower end of the netbook market, and the Aspire One 531 shows why. It's not an exceptional netbook, but it's very well made and offers a stylish and slim chassis, as well as a surprisingly bright and colourful screen. It's got the all-essential 3G built in, too, so you can slot in a Sim and surf in Starbucks. Battery life isn't all that great, but at this price everything else is a winner.
3. Packard Bell Dot S2 - £230
Considering the low, low price, Packard Bell's Dot S2 is an excellent netbook - particularly in regards to battery life. We were able to use the netbook for 463 minutes on the road, which is all thanks to the six-cell battery; a great-value addition to such a cheap netbook. It also comes with Adobe's excellent Photoshop Elements, which allows basic photo editing. It's one of the best-looking netbooks we've ever seen, and it's highly recommended.
4. Asus Disney netbook - £230
We know what you're thinking - a Disney netbook? It's bound to be rubbish! Asus has basically taken one of its excellent Seashell netbooks and kiddified it. You'll find pink or blue Disney graphics on the chassis, a Mickey Mouse-shaped webcam and a customised Windows XP installation. It's easy to set up to protect kids from unwanted content and time their online sessions, and what's more is that it's a surprisingly fully-fledged netbook for adults. Just don't get it out in an important sales meeting.
5. HP Compaq Mini 702EA - £231
If you're a keen typist, you can't go wrong with the HP Compaq Mini 702EA - it boasts one the best keyboards we've seen on any netbook, with a responsive action that makes typing a pleasure. It's also got a lovely curvaceous body, and it's reasonably well-specced. Battery life is slightly below average but still not that bad. The screen is wonderful, but we did find we had to turn the brightness up in sunnier conditions, which impacted battery life.
6. Samsung NB30 - £249
It's not quite as ruggedised as some specialist netbooks we've seen, but Samsung's NB30 will still withstand quite a bashing. It's resistant to spilt liquids, and includes a smart scratch-resistant coating so it doesn't accumulate scratches and scuffs. Samsung has also included an all-essential freefall sensor, which stops the hard drive being damaged in the result of the netbook being dropped. Battery life is incredible, too, and we got a whopping ten hours from the machine. Ideal if you've got kids.
7. Samsung NC10 - £275
The best just got better. Samsung's NC10 was our favourite netbook last year, and the new "Plus" model (which doesn't mean it's fat) comes with a host of handy new features: Windows 7 Starter, Bluetooth 3.0 and a 250GB hard drive. Even with the new additions, the basic specs still impress, such as an epic six-cell battery, and Samsung's own Battery Manager and Recovery Solution software. It's solidly built, too, and the screen and keyboard are among the best we've ever seen.
8. Asus X58C - £275
It's unusual to find a decent full-size laptop for less than £300, but bargainmaster Asus has managed just that with its X58C, which includes a 15.4-inch panel. It's the build quality that really impresses, though, and it's got a patterned chequered finish that puts more expensive laptops to chame. It does struggle with multi-tasking and 3D gaming, but that's understandable given the price point and the bargain basement SiS graphics chip. It's perfect for simply day-to-day computing, though.
9. MSI Wind 12 U200 - £266
Boasting the kind of innards you'd find on a laptop rather than a netbook, MSI's Wind 12 U200 is the follow up to the U100, one of our favourite netbooks of the last couple of years. In addition to the U100's functional but solid build, the U200 has a consumer ultra low voltage (CULV) processor, which means it's capable of multi-tasking without draining the battery. Its battery life is impressive, too - we got 403 minutes out of it. The only real let down is the keyboard, which is a tad too bendy for our liking.
10. Asus Eee PC 1000HE - £287
Asus' latest version of the all-conquering Eee PC is sold on its battery life - the netbook giant reckons you can get 10 hours out of it. We managed seven in day-to-day computing, which is not to be sniffed at. Add to that the Mac-esque keyboard, which is apparently only 8% smaller than a standard keyboard, and Asus' reputable styling and build quality, and you've got the ideal netbook for that trans-Atlantic plane trip.
Liked this? Then check out Top laptops: the 20 best laptops in the world
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