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Are 'netbooks' worth the cheap price tag?

June 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the past, the smallest laptop computers have been the most costly. However, cash-strapped consumers can now find even smaller netbooks available for some very low prices. Despite the drop in sales for larger laptops and desktop computers, "netbooks" are incredibly popular. Eyewitness News teamed up with Consumer Reports to test out some pretty good choices.

Super-portable netbooks, also known as those little laptops with an equally shrunken price tag, are getting rave reviews from people who have one.

The typical netbook weighs about 3 pounds, has a 9-10 inch screen and costs between $300 and $400.

"All of them performed well enough at Web surfing and e-mail, but we did find some major differences in areas like ergonomics and battery life," said Paul Reynolds, Consumer Reports.

Testers top-rated a 10-inch Samsung netbook, which has a 160-gigabyte hard drive, an impressive 7-hour battery life and offers the fewest compromises. But at $450, it was the most expensive netbook tested.

If you are looking to spend less, Consumer Reports recommends two that go for about $350. The 10-inch Acer Aspire ONE has a long battery life, but the keyboard is a little cramped. On the flip side, the 10-inch Asus ePC has a roomier keyboard but a shorter battery life.

"Regardless of the model you choose, none of them have a built-in DVD or CD drive. And forget about demanding tasks like 3-D gaming or video-editing. For those you'll need a full-powered machine," said Reynolds.

As some netbook users learn, the key to finding happiness with a netbook is deciding which compromises you can live with in order to get the benefits of a truly tiny laptop.

When you're shopping for a netbook, Consumer Reports says be aware that they tend to work best as a second computer, in addition to a home or business-based system.

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