GADGETS

Netbook PCs bring portable computing down to size.


Label it common sense and a victory for the modern road warrior. So-called netbooks -- low-cost, ultraportable laptops that skimp on frills in favor of practicality -- are the best thing to happen to mobile computing since the global adoption of wireless, high-speed Internet.

Also known as sub-notebooks or mini-laptops, these adorable carry-ons not only cost and weigh a fraction of what their bulkier, multimedia-focused counterparts do, they minimize aggravation and chiropractor bills. Systems eschew frivolous extras such as massive screen sizes, DVD players, and high-end graphics cards -- which plunges the retail prices for these little babies to between $300 and $900. As such, while units won’t double as powerhouse gaming rigs or cutting-edge video workstations, they’re perfect for everyday on-the-go usage.

Best suited to simple, routine tasks such as sending e-mail, surfing the web, and word processing, this rapidly expanding category is quickly proving that, for today’s gadget hound at least, functionality trumps all. Despite a dismal PC market (experts are predicting an unprecedented 11.9 percent drop in sales), the netbook category is anticipated to be the one bright spot this year for hardware manufacturers: Expected growth is set at a whopping 80 percent, and sales are projected to reach 50 million units by 2012, according to research firm Gartner.

That makes complete sense to us, because these affordable, slim, durable devices make ideal travel companions and are perfect secondary systems for use around the home or office. Here are five of the slickest new models that, for discerning technophiles, prove less is truly more indeed.


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1 HP Mini 2140
$449
Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. You’ll dig the scratch-resistant monitor and aluminum casing, which make for a snazzy all-around performer. www.hp.com

2 ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

$399
The category’s first breakout hit brand strikes back with an all-new model featuring 802.11b/g/n WiFi support, a 10-inch screen, and -- most impressively-- 9.5 hours of battery life. www.asus.com

3 Sony VAIO P Series Lifestyle PC

$900
Nosebleed price notwithstanding, this chic 1.5-pound option offers 3G wireless mobile broadband access, GPS functionality, and a dazzling eight-inch display. A full-size keyboard doesn’t hurt either. www.sonystyle.com

4 Dell Inspiron Mini 10

$399
Stream photos/films on a 10.1-inch widescreen display, enjoy a multigesture touch pad, or record video via integrated webcam. There are even six colors available to suit your wardrobe. www.dell.com

5 Samsung NC10

$440
It runs Windows XP, prevents carpal tunnel’s onset by offering a comfy (it’s nearly full-size) keyboard, and cuts back on CPU horsepower (without sacrificing performance) to deliver enhanced battery life. www.samsung.com