The in-betweeners: 11.6-inch laptops and Premium Netbooks (photos)
Bigger than a standard 10-inch Netbook, but still less powerful and less expensive than even budget-minded midsize systems, these 11.6-inch laptops sit somewhat awkwardly between categories. Some call them premium Netbooks, others say they're ultraportable systems. We say they're a worthwhile step up when a single-core 10-inch Atom Netbook just isn't enough. (As a bonus, we've tossed in a couple of similar 12-inch versions at the end.)
Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1140RD
Editors' rating: 3.5 out of 5
The good: Better-than-Netbook performance; solid keyboard; good selection of ports for its size.
The bad: Unimpressive battery life; for a nearly $500, may not offer the CPU horsepower one might expect.
The bottom line: An update to last year's T115, the Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1140RD performs like a slightly larger, faster Netbook with better specs and ports. It's definitely a step up, but it may not be enough computer for those with higher expectations.
The good: Solid gaming performance in a very compact form; improves on the original Core 2 Duo version; automatic Nvidia Optimus graphics switching; impressive built-in audio.
The bad: The Core i7 ULV processor is still slower than normal Core i7 processors; higher-end configs get too expensive; no optical drive for installing games.
The bottom line: Equipped with Nvidia Optimus technology and new Core i5 and i7 processors, the updated 11.6-inch Alienware M11x has improved performance, but it takes a small step forward, not a quantum leap.
The good: Compact laptop manages to still have an optical drive as well as decent dual-core performance and battery life.
The bad: Keyboard feels flimsy; for the price, you could always get a larger, faster Core i3 laptop.
The bottom line: By adding a DVD burner to its Netbook-like form factor and dual-core processor, the Gateway EC14D07u fills a need for those who can't say goodbye to physical discs, although it comes at a price that befits a full-size laptop.
The good: Phenomenal keyboard; sturdy build; matte screen.
The bad: Underpowered for the price; battery life isn't as good as many Netbooks.
The bottom line: The ThinkPad x100e is essentially the ThinkPad Netbook users have been dreaming of, with one of the best keyboards we've ever tested. Unfortunately, its performance, though better than Atom Netbooks', comes at the cost of longer battery life.
The good: Comfortable keyboard, good screen and speakers; Ion processor offers some graphics and performance gains.
The bad: Full laptops can be had for the same price; streaming video and gaming are hit-and-miss with this single-core Atom/next-gen Ion configuration.
The bottom line: Touting the Asus Eee PC 1201PN as the first next-gen Nvidia Ion Netbook is a bit misleading, since it offers single-core Atom performance, with no automatic graphics switching in an expensive package that underperforms its predecessor.