Netbooks are an incredibly exciting new product category, and one that's undergoing constant evolution. Designed to handle e-mail, Web browsing, and some basic software apps, they are somewhat limited when compared with most full-size laptops, but how limited? I wanted to find out.
I've dug into a few dozen popular sites that I use, and made note of basic performance through extended use. Did they work? Did they not work? These were things I wanted to test.
The verdict: overwhelmingly positive. Besides a few issues with Adobe Flash performance (which we get into later), it handles most things with speed and agility. Before delving any deeper though, let's go over the test machine and browsers we used:
The machine: Dell Mini Inspiron 10 (a loaner review unit) OS: Windows XP Home Processor: Intel Atom Z530 dual-core 1.6ghz (533MHz FSB/512K L2Cache) Memory: 1GB Display: 10.1" widescreen (1366x768) Graphics: Intel GMA 500 Retail cost as configured (before magic Dell coupons): $474
The browsers: Internet Explorer 8 (v8.0), Google Chrome (v22.214.171.124), Firefox (v3.0.10). I would have loved to do additional testing in Safari and Opera, but for the sake of simplicity I stuck with the big three.
The browsers, and the OS were as lean as possible. None of the browsers was running any add-ons, or special plug-ins besides Java and the latest version of Adobe Flash. There were also no other programs running besides the Windows activity monitor.
For the sake of simplicity, I've divided up the sites I tested into two categories: work and play. Assuming you're buying a Netbook for either purpose, you're likely to dabble in both realms at some point.
These are Web apps that let you get things done, be it business, homework, or personal scheduling.
Google Docs and Zoho--Both of these online office suites performed great. Zoho clearly has far more tools in one place than Google Docs does, so for the sake of this test I just used the ones that both shared which include word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Netbook handled all of them without any slowdown, however… Read more