What’s the Best Netbook for the Price Right Now?

43 Comments

msi-windEarlier today, I received a note from Mike, a jkOTR reader who recently got his hands on an MSI Wind netbook. Not just any Wind either; it was mine. Mike might have a little netbook fever now and he was asking my opinion on the best netbook for the price; in terms of value. Mike doesn’t have any specific requirements in terms of the hardware. He’s just planning to check e-mail and surf the web when out and about: basic tasks that a netbook is perfect for. He doesn’t even need a high-capacity battery since this is definitely a secondary device for him. Aside from those minimal requirements, he thought he’d occasionally upload photos or post to a blog using Windows Live Writer.

Of course, all I can do is offer an opinion: that and a buck will get you cup of coffee at McDonald’s. But that’s what he asked me for, so here’s my opinion on the best netbook for the money right now.

I ruled out any device with an 8.9-inch display in my thought process. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but the larger 10-inch screens represent nice “bang for buck”. You can always upgrade some components, like memory or storage capacity, but you’re generally stuck with a screen size for the life of a device. This pushed the current Acer Aspire One, the Dell Mini 9 and some of the Asus Eee PCs out of contention.

I then took a peek at the starting prices of the more well-known brands: the Lenovo S10 and the HP Mini 1000, for example. For a Windows XP version with a 10-inch display, you’re looking at around $349 for the Lenovo and a little more for the HP. Each offers the minimal but usable 512MB of RAM but they differ greatly in terms of storage capacity. The HP offers an 8GB SSD drive while the Lenovo provides a very generous 80GB drive for nearly the same price. Both devices offer a three-cell battery, a webcam and WiFi, so there’s minimal to no difference there.

I see that Amazon has my MSI Wind available for $349, which is nearly the same price as the HP and Lenovo. Spec-for-spec, it generally compares equally to those two netbooks with the 3-cell battery, but it bumps the storage up to a 120GB hard drive and provides a full 1GB of RAM. That may not be required, but remember, I’m looking at value here, which I roughly equate as price-for-specification in this case.

For another $40 on Amazon, I think I have the current value winner: the Asus Eee PC 1000HA. It generally offers the same base specs, but ups the hard drive to 160GB. That alone might not be worth the extra $40 over the MSI Wind, but the kicker is the battery. The 1000HA at $388.50 includes a 6-cell battery. Again, it might not be what Mike needs, but these specification bumps for not much additional cash are worth it in my opinion. Of course, some online shopping might yield lower prices, which could easily change the analysis. Additionally, I’d never recommend anyone buy a consumer electronics device this close to CES. Although unlikely, you just might find a newer, better or less expensive option announced this week.

The good thing about opinions is that they’re never truly right or wrong. That’s why I welcome yours here: what would you tell Mike to buy, and why?

43 Comments

VJ

I use the eee 1000ha for my email, web browsing, and in general making minor updates to my site (http://FindYourAuto.net). The things that tipped me towards the asus were: Max Ram 2GB: Very few netbooks go upto 2gb. Largest hard drive (160GB), gives me the option of running mutiple Oses. 6-cell battery, i have comfortably used it for 4-5 hours without dragging cables around. Because of the memory upgrade runs vista like a champ, xp boots in about 30 seconds. I would have wanted the screen to be glossy instead of matte, but thats a minor issue to me. And of course the shift key is kind of annoying. But its the best value for money. If you look around you can get it for around $300-$350. I got mine with ebay cashback and it cost a little under $300.

NetbookUser

I like the Dell Mini 12 – it’s a strong offering, light, sleek, and functional. The harddrive is a little small – but it makes up for it with exceptional weight qualities.

symbianguru

I lucked out and got a Fujitsu P161O for under $500, but I’m totally sold on the 8.9 inch. screen, too. I have a 13 inch Dell. so 10 inches isn’t really enough size-savings.

Kevin C. Tofel

BTW: these are ALL great comments and opinions. I’ll bet Mike never expected such great service when he asked me this question in the first place. :)

Kevin C. Tofel

“Quite a lot of the gadgets you find at CES are prototypes and concept hardware, put on display to merely tease the consumer. Some never even get to the production stage, or undergo a redesign before a retail version goes on sale.”

Very true Luscious. We knew the HP Mini-note was getting a nice refresh at CES (news hit at midnight this morning), but items like that are generally the exception at CES time. ;)

Alan

@Rahul – You are wrong – the EeePC does indeed have a multitouch trackpad.

“I ruled out any device with an 8.9-inch display in my thought process. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but the larger 10-inch screens represent nice “bang for buck”.”

Kevin, I have to disagree with you on this. 10 inch screens do not hold a better value – they take more power, cost more money, weigh more, and do not present the user with any additional screen resolution. The main advantage of 10 inch models is not the screen itself, but the larger keyboards, which many will prefer.

That being said, if you are looking strictly at value like you mentioned, an 8.9inch netbook is a much better value proposition. As some have mentioned, the Asus 900ha is a fantastic deal for a netbook and should probably be at the top of anyone’s list if they are looking for maximum value from a netbook.

gmazin

Wow, posted a comment at the same time as AFD. Ok, so someone else said 900HA too :)

gmazin

Why hasn’t anyone said the 900HA? $319 with features comparable to more expensive systems. Battery isn’t a 6-cell (4 cell), but you can stretch it out to about 4.5 hours, or 4 with normal use.

Also the form factor is that of the original 701.

AFD

EEE 900HA is the best bang-for-your-buck 9″ right now, in my opinion. Atom CPU, 160GB HDD, XP, and 4-hour battery for $330 at Newegg. Bought two on eBay during Microsoft’s 30% cashback deal for $245 each before the price dropped. Even at the original $350 price they’d still be a bargain.

Pam T.

My two cents worth – unless you like the headache of managing your disk space, get the hard drive versions. More options there, such as loading up your music or video for portable entertainment.

VitaminCM

I bought my daughter an MSI Wind for Christmas. I set up all of the software to get her going. I was very impressed with the build quality and performance.
I highly reccommend it.

Nate

I prefer the 8.9 inch screened devices. For me, size is second only to price on my list of important netbook features. I like ’em small and cheap.

If I was looking for a netbook, I’d troll the Dell Outlet. They routinely have nicely specced Mini 9s for well under 300, and if you do some coupon hunting, you can get one near 200.

Rahul Gaitonde

Missed this:

The Lenovo S10 also has a multi-touch touchpad (unlike the Wind and the EeePC) and separate right and left touchpad keys (unlike the Wind)

Luscious

“Additionally, I’d never recommend anyone buy a consumer electronics device this close to CES. Although unlikely, you just might find a newer, better or less expensive option announced this week.”

I have to disagree with you there Kevin. Quite a lot of the gadgets you find at CES are prototypes and concept hardware, put on display to merely tease the consumer. Some never even get to the production stage, or undergo a redesign before a retail version goes on sale.

Also, having a product announced at CES is one thing – finding that product at your local Best Buy is another. I’ve seen some devices hit the shelves as much as six month after CES, and by then other manufacturers had competing/newer products out or already being planned.

If you follow technology well enough, and know the roadmaps of the major players, CES won’t matter in your decision to buy that device you know is coming out in 4 months time.

gmich

I had an Eee 1000H and really liked it a lot — a great touchpad compared to the Wind (at least the newer versions), and I never found anything wrong with the keyboard, though some people don’t like it. I’ve also tried out several in stores — the Aspire One, Mini 1000, Lenovo s10. But I bought a Samsung NC10 about a month ago, and I have to agree with those who have commented above. All around, I think it’s the best one out there.

Rahul Gaitonde

From reader comments and a quick peek at a Samsung NC10 review, it’s a runaway winner if your reader is willing to pay $100 more. But let’s assume he isn’t.

That leaves us with the MSI Wind, the EeePC 1000HA and the Lenovo S10.

The S10 beats the MSI Wind because of solid build quality (I evaluated both at a store before settling on the S10). This is truly necessary for a device that’s this small, and therefore will be carted around a fair bit.
My S10 has 1GB RAM and a 160GB HDD, which I believe are standard specs for the device now.

The S10 is also much more solidly built than the EeePC 1000HA, but the latter’s 6-cell battery might just give it the edge. I think it’s a function of how much your reader values the extra battery life (my 3-cell packs 3.5 hours). If not, the S10 is a clear winner.

HG

Well I agree with what Kevin says that for the best value the MSI Wind is hard to beat. I happen to get one for Christmas; my daughter gave it to me. I have been using it daily and can say its a very nice notebook. I had Windows XP on it, but I installed Vista Business, and Leopard on it this past week. After using XP on the Wind, the speed difference in XP and Vista is not much that I would say not to install Vista on it. On the keyboard, now I know what Kevin and Matt mean when they say its a great keyboard. I have been using the Gigabyte M912 and Kohnjinsha SC3 and this keyboard is great. I also upgraded the memory even though it says warranty void if removed, MSI posted that its ok to upgrade memory but not other parts.

JMG000

I liked the criteria used here. For me, 10 inch screen and 6 cell battery were a must. I went with the 1000HA back in October; very happy with it. I really wanted the Wind but at that time it wasn’t available with the 6 cell for under $420. My ideal option would be a black Lenovo S10 with a 6 cell, but who knows when that’ll be available?

Jonathan Greene

Loving the NC10 after only a few days … this little machine packs a serious punch. I’ve got mine triple booting with Win7, XP and OSX (still sorting out my networking) and really think this is the one to beat. I know it costs a bit more, but it is well worth it.

seanabrady

I have been quite happy with the 8.9″ screen on my EEE 901, and I prefer netbooks with SSD’s as opposed to HD’s but I do agree that if you can go from a 3 to a 6 cell battery for less than $50.00 you should do it. IMHO, battery life is what makes a Netbook great. Third party batteries are often a) really expensive and b) not a “perfect” fit for the computer.

Kevin C. Tofel

Good point on the Samsung as it’s a nice device. I kept it out of the post because it’s nearly $100 more and I was focusing on value. Does the extra 2 hours of battery life justify the additional cost? Tough call and the answer will vary depending on who you ask. Still, well worth the mention for consideration!

seamonkey420

i’m always a backer of the MSI Wind since well i own one too.

had a first-gen ASUS EEEpc and really didn’t like the smaller 8.9″ lcd and keyboard. plus, having a usuable kb, bluetooth, wifi, webcam, mic, and an SDHC reader are essentials in a netbook imo.

i opted for a third-party 6cell and so far am very happy with it (get about 4hours in vista)

but the NC10 is sounding pretty nice and seems to be the big bang if you want the longer battery and willing to shell out a few more bucks (not sure if teh NC10 has bt though, bt was essential for me since i tether to a mobile via it).

pick your poison.

DP

It’s a little more money (currently $479 at Newegg), but the Samsung NC10 is just a terrific machine. Great build quality, top-notch keyboard, beautiful screen, 160GB hard drive, and supremely excellent battery life of close to seven hours. You don’t hear about it as much as some of the other netbooks out there (they probably haven’t sent it out to sites like this one for reviews), but I can’t praise it enough. It’s just in another league from the other netbooks I’ve seen.

Kevin C. Tofel

jwang392, I’d agree with you if OS X is a requirement. I had it running on my MSI Wind a few months ago and it handled it like a champ. Now that there are OS X drivers for the Realtek WiFi chip, it’s even better. BTW: congrats on your completion of the Honolulu Marathon! That’s an outstanding achievement! I’m thinking of a marathon comeback since I haven’t run one since Chicago in ’99: 3:19:58.

AndyT, I bought the 6-cell version of the Wind and I don’t think I’ve regretted it yet. Good advice.

AndyT

I bought an MSI Wind in Dallas and am extremely happy with it. I got the last one they had in the store at the time. The store (Micro Center) manager said they sell like hot cakes. He cannot keep them in stock. If you cannot find a Wind than I would recommend the ASUS 1000HA (A is for Atom processor). I would also strongly suggest going with 6-cell since that seems to be the most common complaint among existing netbook owners. you can thank me later.

MSI Wind Netbook (U100)
1.6Ghz,1GB DDR2,160HDD,Bluetooth,6-CELL

BTW, the word “Netbook” is printed on the computer and its carrying case !!! Please don’t call this machine a notebook or mini-notebook.

mike

relax its not a bog deal what people call them. dont go crazy over something stupid

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