Mini Netbooks – The Quest For Smaller Size

“Which netbooks are the tiniest and are the best pick for me?” Not only do I get this question landing in my inbox on a regular basis, I also come across it on forums and sales sites at least once a day. It’s really the million dollar question that all of the netbooks in the market are trying to answer to. Which one can truly be the smallest ones available for consumers to pick up?

Netbooks, by definition, are meant to be small. Their form factor is what is supposed to make them appealing to customers. Because many computer users don’t have the strength to carry around a full sized laptop wherever they go, the netbook was meant to fill in the awkward gap between not having a computer handy that you could do work on and doing without a computer altogether (clearly not an option in the day and age we live in).

As the demand for netbooks increased, so did the demand for them to get smaller and smaller. People don’t want computers that are still toying with the idea of being a full fledged laptop, and nor do they want something that’s going to break their bank either for the convenience of having a computer with them wherever they go. Today we’re going to cover the tiniest netbooks that are out there that will not only save you some cash, but will also save you some weight when you’re carrying your computer around.

Unlike the other article we did outlining the most lightweight netbooks on the market, this time around we’re going to be paying a lot more attention to form factor and how the size of the netbook affects performance and usability.

Sacrifices

As with any device, the smaller you make it, you run the risk of having it not run at its full potential. As netbooks were shrunk from sizable machines down to the almost pocket sized computers they are today, a few things had to disappear from their arsenal of features to make them even smaller.

The first, and most noticeable downsize, was the keyboard on most computers. They’ve gotten better about it in recent months, but when netbooks first stormed the market, their main problem was a shrunken keyboard that lacked a lot of the useful keys that made desktop computing so nice. Luckily, companies caught onto the complaints and started manufacturing not only larger scale keyboards, but also installing what are known as chiclet keys to make typing a lot easier than trying to scrunch your fingers together to get them all to fit over the keyboard at once.

The second issue to address with miniature netbooks is a decrease in performance. Most netbooks hover around the same specifications for a reason. The processors and equipment packed into these little guys wasn’t originally intended to be used in such a small machine. Packing everything into a small plastic frame can be tough, and most of the combinations of parts are already being utilized. In favor of size, you sacrifice the option of being able to upgrade or get a “better” machine that runs faster and has more features. Until companies start developing technology exclusively for mini computers, chances are we won’t see much more than the same Intel Atom processor we’ve seen before.

It Isn’t All Doom and Gloom

Hopefully I didn’t give off the impression that mini netbooks are terrible all around in the above segment. I’m a huge fan of them. What turns some people away from a product may not turn others away, and in the case of miniature netbooks, size matters to very large portion of the market.

The demand for smaller computers is there for a reason, so frowning on companies for meeting that goal in exchange for slower technology or smaller keyboards isn’t fair. It may take some getting used to, but a smaller keyboard isn’t a huge downgrade, and nor is a slower processor. As netbooks shouldn’t be seen as a replacement to your desktop or main laptop computer, the processing power within them is more than enough to do basic things like check email and type up documents. Hell, you can even watch movies and listen to music on them without a problem at all.

Let’s take a look at the best mini netbook available on the market today. Obviously it’s a personal opinion, but considering the size and technology included within this little beast, it’s a clear cut winner in most review books.

Toshiba NB505

Topping everyone’s Celebration lists and wish lists in the netbook world is the Toshiba NB505. From a quick glance you won’t see anything that makes this computer stand out from the pack. It has the same Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor and lack of RAM that all of the other netbooks have these days. It’s not until you pick it up that you realize its true beauty. Weighing less than 3 pounds, this is one of the lightest netbooks ever made. It’s so light in fact; you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s been added to a full backpack of books or supplies. The keyboard also stretches all the way to the edge of the frame, meaning it’s as large as they can possibly make it to try and reduce the uncomfortable transition between standard keyboards and netbook keyboards. Did I mention it has an 8 hour battery life?

  • Intel Atom processor N455 1.66 GHz, 512KB L2 Cache
  • Configured with 1GB DDR2 (works at 667MHz, max 2GB)
  • 250GB (5400 RPM) Serial ATA hard disk drive
  • 10.1? diagonal widescreen TruBrite display at 1024 x 600 native resolution (WSVGA) with a 16:9 aspect ratio and LED backlite
  • Genuine Windows 7 Starter 32-bit with a 6 cell/48Wh Lithium Ion battery pack; Battery Life (measured by MobileMark 2007): 8 hours, 21 minutes

Conclusion

If you want to buy a new mini netbook that weighs as little as possible but still provides many of the same luxuries that other laptops have (long battery life and full keyboard), the NB505 is definitely the way to go. It’s definitely on my birthday wish list. Is it on yours?

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