Pine Trail Showdown: What’s the Best 10-inch Netbook?
Anyone who makes a netbook–or at least anyone who matters–now offers a model with Intel’s Atom N450 processor. Code named Pine Trail, this technology promises sleeker designs (the platform’s footprint has shrunk by 60 percent) and longer battery life (thanks to 20 percent less power consumption). Now that we’ve seen and reviewed several Pine Trail systems, it’s time to pit them against each other to see which one has the best combination of design, performance, endurance, and overall value.
- Acer Aspire One 532h ($349, Full review)
- ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P ($379, Full review)
- Dell Inspiron Mini 10 ($369, Full review)
- HP Mini 5102 ($424, Full review)
- MSI Wind U135 ($329, Full review)
- Toshiba mini NB305 ($399, Full review)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we’ve seen so many netbooks that we’re pretty confident in our ability to separate the stunners from the ugly ducklings. High marks in this category go to the HP Mini 5102 for its durability and business-friendly look and to the Acer Aspire One 532h for its two-tone aesthetic for a low price. We also like the Dell Inspiron Mini 10‘s multiple color and designer lid options.
But our favorite design is the Toshiba mini NB305. This netbook lost the junk in the trunk (i.e. getting rid of the battery jutting from the back) but still retains the great textured lid and metal keyboard. It’s the second most expensive system, but the mini NB305 certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap.
In general we like the Seashell design of the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE–until you get up close. This system picks up fingerprints too quickly. MSI’s Wind U135 sports a wavy line pattern that does a better job masking fingerprints but its chunky battery makes the system a bit thick. We’re more enthused about the upcoming Wind U160, which is thinner.
For a close look, check out the image galleries of all six netbooks below:
Acer Aspire One 532h
Dell Inspiron Mini 10
HP Mini 5102
Toshiba mini NB305-N410
Winner: Toshiba mini NB305.
Although it doesn’t look all that different than its predecessor, Toshiba has streamlined an already excellent design in the mini NB305.
The most important element in ergonomics, the keyboard makes or breaks a netbook. The good news is that vendors have mostly left behind the small, cramped layouts with undersized or misplaced keys that defined the early days of netbooks. A good size is only the beginning, though. The style of the layout and key travel are equally important.
The mini NB305 continues to have one of the best netbook keyboards we’ve ever used. It’s unchanged from the island-style keys found on the NB205 and still offers great travel and springy feedback.
Also earning top marks is the Mini 5102’s keyboard. It’s also island-style, though it looks slightly different to the NB305, and has properly-sized Shift and Enter keys. The Mini 5102 earns some extra credit for replacing the row of Function keys at the top with one-button access to volume, brightness, and media controls.
Coming in a close third is the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, which also switches up the top row and employs a traditional size layout with relatively chunky keys instead of a chiclet-style keyboard.
We wouldn’t necessarily warn against using any of the Pine Trail netbook keyboards we’ve tested thus far. However, some may not like the flat feel of the Acer Aspire One 532h. And if you’re a touch typist, you may want to avoid the Eee PC 1005PE; the Shift key is small and in an awkward position. The Wind U135 also has a slightly undersized Shift key, but it’s in the right position.
We really like the sturdy feel of the Toshiba and its spacious layout, but the HP earns extra points for its DuraKey finish and spill resistance.
Pine Trail Showdown Pages:
- Intro, Design, & Keyboard
- Touchpad, Heat & Display
- Overall Performance, Graphics Performance & Battery Life
- Software, Warranty, Support, Value & Configurations
- And The Winner Is…