Skip to main content

Editor's choice: 6 top netbooks

MSI Wind
Which ultra-portable notebook is right for you?
Audio player loading…

The laptop market has been absolutely turned on its head in the last 12 months.

It used to be all about how much power you could fit into a small form factor.

And yet, in the year that Alienware has unleashed its frighteningly quick Area-51 m15x gaming laptop, all anyone wants to talk about is the latest low-end Eee PC rival to have broken the £300 barrier.

The first Eee PC was available for around £200, which was largely why it sold so unbelievable well.

But unfortunately for us, it seems that the more competitors the Asus Eee PC gets, the higher the prices seem to creep up. That's symptomatic of two things.

Firstly, with a lot more competition out there, there's just not enough money in the extreme low-end sub-£200 notebook market – the margins are too small. That's why even Asus has pushed the price up for the Eee PC 900.

And secondly, with the vast majority of folks expecting their notebooks to run Windows XP, and run it well, that pushes up the system requirements and thus the spec and price.

But even so, there are some fantastic buying options out there. Here are six great ultra-portable notebooks available now, and three more to watch out for in the coming months.

Asus Eee PC 700 2G Surf - £190

This is the one that kicked it all off. The original Eee PC model which was only available running Linux.

Roughly the size of a hardback book, the Eee PC is portable and easy to carry around.

However, what struck us first was the build quality.

Despite being made from plastic, it's tough and robust and certainly stands up to the occasional drop.

With a 2GB Solid State Drive (SSD), there are no moving parts, which also helps the robust nature of the unit. This limits the number of files you can store, but it will comfortably accommodate the OS and all your major files.

The 7-inch screen uses LED backlight technology, which is cheaper than a standard TFT panel and, apart from helping keep the cost down, means it is brighter than many of its peers too.

Asus Eee PC 701 4G - £210

Slightly more expensive than the 2G model, the 701 was slightly better specified.

But it offers enough to justify the extra money.

Its processor is clocked slightly higher, as is the 512MB of RAM which is also upgradeable in this model.

If you prefer to use Windows over the included Linux-based OS, Asus includes instructions for installing Windows XP. It's nowhere near powerful enough to handle Windows Vista.

We found it a relatively easy process to follow and install and, while it works fine, it does tend to run a good deal slower. So if you can get along with Linux, it's probably best to stick with that.

There's also more storage in this model – 4GB instead of 2GB, and the battery is better too.

It's not without its flaws, as the lack of storage space can be inconvenient at times.

The unit also grows warm to the touch, but these are minor niggles over what is a fantastic piece of kit.

Asus has managed to design a low-cost laptop that, if you need to have a simple word processor and internet surfer with you while you travel, is about as impressive as it gets. Read our full review

Packard Bell EasyNote XS - £300

Unlike Asus, who designed its Eee machine from scratch, the Packard Bell EasyNote XS uses a reference design compiled by chip manufacturer VIA.

This allows manufacturers to bring a device to market much more quickly.

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.