With Intel expected to announce its new 'Pine Trail' Atom processors at CES 2010, now may not be the best time to buy a netbook with a specification set firmly in 2008. At around £230 though, the Windows 7 version of the 10.2-inch Advent Milano is temptingly priced for a pre-Christmas purchase (the Windows XP model costs about £10 less).
Doesn't look its price
By our reckoning, the Milano is one of the cheapest 10-inch netbooks available at the moment, but it doesn't look much like bargain-basement fare. It's well-proportioned for a netbook, and both thin (it's 30mm thick) and light (it weighs around 1.2kg). So far, so good.
The glossy black lid has the same pattern of pale concentric circles that we last saw on the Advent Roma laptops, and this motif is repeated on the silver interior. There's nothing remarkable about the design, but the Milano looks much more attractive than you might expect for this amount of money.
Netbooks with roughly a 10-inch chassis are usually the best option if you want a half-decent keyboard in the smallest-possible space, and Advent hasn't squandered the opportunity with the Milano. Its keyboard is nearly full-size and, while the old-school keys aren't quite as broad as those on some more modern keyboards, they're still comfortable to type on.
There shouldn't be any trouble with the trackpad, either. It's big, and a lack of support for multi-touch gestures is no great loss on a netbook. The only problem is that it's made from the same shiny silver plastic as the Milano's wrist rest and, as ever, this makes for a less-than-smooth mousing experience when your fingertip is anything less than bone-dry.
The Milano's screen is a pleasant surprise. Advent has sensibly stuck with a matte display that stays visible under all lighting conditions, and it's both crisp and bright. If we were being picky, we'd say the screen doesn't fold far enough back for the Milano to be used comfortably on a lap, but this is hardly a deal-breaker.
Same old performance
The Milano really offers nothing new when it comes to its core specification. The Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of RAM and 160GB hard disk were standard netbook fare two years ago, although you'd have paid around £100 more for this set-up back then.
Our usual PCMark05 and 3DMark06 benchmark tests refused to run -- we suspect the weedy integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chipset is to blame -- but there's no reason to think that the Milano's performance would be different to that of any other netbook we've reviewed with an N270 CPU. The Milano did, however, cope easily with running Battery Eater's tests, although its results aren't anything to get excited about. Its battery lasted for 1 hour and 52 minutes in the punishing Classic test, and 3 hours and 22 minutes in the less intensive Reader's test. That means the Milano isn't much cop for prolonged use away from the mains, but you should be able to get at least some work done on battery power.
There's nothing even remotely new in the Advent Milano, but it represents good value for money, as long as battery life isn't a big deal for you. If you shop around, however, you'll find the Samsung N130 available for slightly less, and it can last longer on battery power.
Edited by Charles Kloet