In-betweeners: Rounding up ultraportable 11.6-inch laptops

What happens when you take a standard 10-inch Netbook and make it a little bit bigger, a little more powerful, and a little more expensive? The recent explosion of 11-inch systems shows us, whether one calls them premium Netbooks or ultraportables.

The 11.6-inch Gateway LT3201u. CNET

Bigger than a standard 10-inch Netbook, but still less powerful and less expensive than even budget-minded midsize systems, 11.6-inch laptops sit somewhat awkwardly between categories. Some call them premium Netbooks, others tag them as ultraportable systems. In general, they're what you get when you take a standard 10-inch Netbook and make it a little bigger, a little more powerful, and a little more expensive.

The timing for the current explosion of 11.6-inch systems couldn't be better, as the Netbook genre was starting to feel a little dated. That's mostly the fault of Netbook manufacturers, who have frozen the performance and specs of most 10-inch $299 devices at the same Atom level, more or less, since their inception.

These in-betweeners admittedly cost more, from $399 to more than $500, but they bring more to the table, too. Many of these machines use single- or dual-core AMD Neo processors. They can handle full-screen video streaming decently, as well as some (very) light gaming. Many of these machines also add useful extra ports, such as HDMI.

We've rounded up the highlights from 2010 so far in a handy gallery format below. Though these premium portables still don't rise to the level of being a true replacement for a full-size laptop, they should have enough muscle to satisfy consumers looking for a cheap, tiny laptop that can do a bit more than a single-core Intel Atom Netbook. As a special bonus, we've also included two very different but interesting 12-inch outliers: the Intel Atom/Nvidia Ion Asus Eee PC 1201PN, and the full-featured, fast, and pricey ThinkPad X201.

About the author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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