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Fall 2010 Lineup: Seven Netbooks, Strutting Their Stuff

Tom's Definitive 10.1" Netbook Buyer's Guide: Fall 2010
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The current generation of most, if not all, 10.1" netbooks is based on the Pinetrail platform, utilizing a processor from Intel's Pineview series (Atom N4XX, D4XX, and D5XX). Start flipping through the selection at Best Buy and Newegg, and it becomes easy to see that Intel has all but cornered the market on netbooks. Because these subnotebooks are often price-focused, the single core 45 nm Atom N450 (1.6 GHz) remains the most popular choice for system builders.

Announced in late Q4'09, the major improvements over Atom N2XX are the added on-chip GPU, on-chip memory controller, 64-bit capabilities, and a lower platform TDP. In the end, this means a more capable CPU, more capable graphics, and better battery life.

It is important to note that there are two versions of the Pinetrail platform. When system builders switched from Diamondville to the Pineview processor, all new netbooks were granted new model names. However, a few months back, Intel quietly rolled out a minor upgrade to its Pineview processors by including DDR3 support, and several netbooks retained their model names, while including these new processors. In what we are referring to version one, the N4X0/D4X0/D5X0 are from the first iteration of Intel's Pineview series and feature DDR2 support. And in what we are calling version two, denoted by a "5" at the end of their model name, the new N4X5/D4X5/D5X5 have moved to DDR3.

Remember, it doesn't matter that the newest Atom processors still employ single-channel memory. Even with dual-channel configurations, it is hard to see any performance difference between DDR2 and DDR3. In fact, as far as buying goes, it really doesn't matter if it is a version one or two platform. At the end of the day, it doesn't change battery life, performance, thermal characteristics, or anything else important about these netbooks, except one field in the spec list. So strike that off your shopping criteria.

Market Price
$339.99
$299.99
$349.99
$299.99
Brand
Acer
Asus
Dell
Gateway
Model
AO521
Eee PC 1001P
Inspiron Mini 10 (1012)
LT21 (LT2120u)
CPU
Athlon II Neo K125 (1.7GHz)
Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Atom N450 (1.66GHz)Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Display Type
Glossy
Matte
Glossy
Glossy
Display
10.1" WSVGA LED
10.1" WSVGA LED
10.1" WXGA LED10.1" WSVGA LED
Native Resolution
1024 x 600
1024 x 600
1366 x 768
1024 x 600
Graphics
Mobility Radeon HD 4225
GMA 3150
GMA 3150
Crystal HD (BCM970015)
GMA 3150
Memory
1GB DDR3
1GB DDR2
1GB DDR2
1GB DDR2
HDD
250GB
5400RPM
160GB 5400RPM
250GB
5400RPM
160GB 5400RPM
Wireless
802.11b/g/n
802.11b/g
802.11b/g/n
802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth
No
No
Yes
No
Card Reader
SD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
SD/MMC
SD/MS/MMC
SD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
Webcam
1.3 MP
0.3 MP
1.3 MP
0.3 MP
Battery
6 cell (48WHr)
6 cell (48WHr)
6 cell (56WH)
6 cell (63WHr)
Length (in)*10.2
10.31
10.52
10.17
Width (in)*7.4
6.95
7.88
7.28
Height (in)*1.1
1.51
1.38
1.45
Market Price
$329.99
$299
$374.99
Brand
HP
Lenovo
MSI
Model
Mini 210 HD
Ideapad S10-3
Wind 160
CPU
Atom N475 (1.83GHz)
Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Display Type
Glossy Glass Panel
Glossy
Glossy
Display
10.1" WXGA LED
10.1" WSVGA LED
10.1" WSVGA LED
Native Resolution
1366 x 768
1024 x 600
1024 x 600
Graphics
GMA 3150
Crystal HD (BCM970012)
GMA 3150
GMA 3150
Memory
1GB DDR3
1GB DDR2
1GB DDR2
HDD
250GB 7200RPM
160GB 5400RPM
250GB 5400RPM
Wireless
802.11b/g/n
802.11b/g/n
802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth
No
No
Yes
Card Reader
SD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
SD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
SD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
Webcam
0.3 MP
1.3 MP
1.3 MP
Battery
3 cell (28WHr)
6 cell (58WHr)
6 cell (64WHr)
Length (in)*10.55
10.55
10.24
Width (in)*6.9
6.6
7.94
Height (in)*1.11
1.45
1.45

*Measured for largest value.

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    frederico , October 5, 2010 6:37 AM

    Very indepth excellent review. Pleasantly surprised. A lot of people out there have little clue of netbooks or even their uses. I got a little samsung last year and now I use it more than my main PC, obviously not for gaming, but watching webcasts/films at night, listening to music, grabbing it while watching TV to check something on the web, etc, etc. Not to mention completely essential when travelling on train/bus/wherever - 6 hours batt life still holding up.

    Very handy little things - easy to become addicted to. Theres some new models coming out this month that can handle HD but still have great batt life, will be tempted to pick one up.


Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    frederico , October 5, 2010 6:37 AM

    Very indepth excellent review. Pleasantly surprised. A lot of people out there have little clue of netbooks or even their uses. I got a little samsung last year and now I use it more than my main PC, obviously not for gaming, but watching webcasts/films at night, listening to music, grabbing it while watching TV to check something on the web, etc, etc. Not to mention completely essential when travelling on train/bus/wherever - 6 hours batt life still holding up.

    Very handy little things - easy to become addicted to. Theres some new models coming out this month that can handle HD but still have great batt life, will be tempted to pick one up.


  • 0 Hide
    ScoobyJooby-Jew , October 5, 2010 6:44 AM
    I have used a Gateway netbook with vista and 2 gigs of ram. I loved it. The 2 gigs really helped smooth things out. And when I loaded the netbook distro of ubuntu, it was ridiculously awesome. It satisfied everything except gaming. Which is what I wanted it to do.
  • 7 Hide
    DjEaZy , October 5, 2010 6:50 AM
    ... AMD FTW!!!
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 7:06 AM
    As far as I know the battery makes a difference between 1000P and 1001px.
  • 1 Hide
    amk09 , October 5, 2010 7:13 AM
    I have been looking forward to an article like this!!!!!

    Great job TH ily ;) 
  • 2 Hide
    Luscious , October 5, 2010 7:33 AM
    That's the best performance rundown I've seen to date on the Broadcom Crystal HD - nice to get critical, hands-on info without the marketing BS. That said, AMD's Nile platform is seriously spanking Intel.

    I recently tested the HP Pavilion dm1z with the dual-core K625. Only slightly heavier/bigger than the 10" HP 210 Mini, but far superior when it comes to performance:

    http://lgponthemove.blogspot.com/2010/09/first-impressions-hp-dm1z-notebook.html
  • 0 Hide
    lashabane , October 5, 2010 7:35 AM
    Huh, never knew that a full propane tank weighs ~38 lbs.

    *Ninja edit*

    Super good roundup/review. I'm in the market for a netbook this season and this review helped a lot.
  • 0 Hide
    braneman , October 5, 2010 7:47 AM
    I actually found that on my last netbook (toshiba satalite, amd based) with a ram upgrade the only game it couldn't play passably on lowest settings(resolution included) was red faction guerrilla, even then it was graphical errors, you could even bring Crysis up to MEDIUM on some settings. meh now I got an m11x, it's very nice.
  • 8 Hide
    KingArcher , October 5, 2010 7:52 AM
    OMG this review is like drugs for the technically inclined.
    Good....no, Excellent job Andrew Ku. Amazing stuff. Really learned something new.
    I look forward to reading more reviews from you. :bounce: 

    P.S. Editors, give this man a raise ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    super_tycoon , October 5, 2010 8:02 AM
    If you're doing a 12 inch in the near future, I hope you include the Asus 1215n. I've had mine for three weeks and it's brilliant. ION2 and Optimus are easily worth whatever I paid for them. Playing any HD youtube video yields unicorns and butterflies while my friend's gateway (the one reviewed here) only gets the look of disapproval.

    My concern is that drivers for ION2 are a bit -fast- slow and loose now, the stock asus drivers were crap, the Nvidia update at launch was crap, but about two weeks ago there was a major update that requires manual installation. It gets roughly double, yes double, the fps of the old pos. Now I didn't write the thing, but it felt like it addressed the PCI-Ex1 link narrowness. (After all, what else could it be? It's just a 210m at it's core, but whatever's drawn on the Nvidia gpu also has to go back down the PCI-E link to be written to the Intel gpu vram (Optimus))

    Anyhow, forget the broadcom thing, my friend (a different one, I promise they're real and actually have these things!) has the dell and it's pretty bad. Even I couldn't get that stupid thing to work reliably except for WMP. At least he got his with his new xps 16.

    TL;DR I've actually used the gateway and dell netbooks reviewed here and they're both crappy. The gateway gets good battery life though and feels nicer. I love the asus 1215n with it's ION2 gpu and Optimus, and you should too.
  • 4 Hide
    enewmen , October 5, 2010 8:08 AM
    Great article!

    I think the performance of the Acer is a sign of things to come - except with even an even lower TDP..
    In 2011, netbooks may change completely. Might even find a 3DMark and Crysis benchmark?? I'm expecting a lot of good things next year :) 

    Please keep it coming!
  • 4 Hide
    jsowoc , October 5, 2010 9:06 AM
    Awesome review. I think all "complete systems" (be it notebook or pre-configured desktop) review should be done as round-ups. This way we have a direct comparison to what is out there.
  • 4 Hide
    acku , October 5, 2010 9:38 AM
    jsowocAwesome review. I think all "complete systems" (be it notebook or pre-configured desktop) review should be done as round-ups. This way we have a direct comparison to what is out there.


    I'm glad you agree. :) 

    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware
  • -1 Hide
    ta152h , October 5, 2010 12:37 PM
    10 inch systems are a nightmare. You have to be a real pencil-neck to use the keyboards without wanting to end your life, and the screens are just too small for anything near good resolutions. I don't know how they sell at all, at least to men.

    They need to move to 11" or really 12" displays so they can get a proper keyboard in there. There are too few of these out there, and artificially limiting the size of netbooks is like car companies putting ugly plastic on their low end models. Getting the keyboard big enough for normal men is a better starting spot then making it tortuous. Hopefully, more larger screen models will come out, and with matte screens. The makers of the cheap glossy screens seem to lose sight of the fact that most people use these things in varying light conditions - they are ultra-mobile.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , October 5, 2010 1:14 PM
    Very interesting. That Acer may be what I'm looking for to replace my Dell e1505.
  • 0 Hide
    whiz , October 5, 2010 1:29 PM
    Hey guys what's with the photo quality? Are you using a 6 year old 3mp digital camera that was lying around in the drawer? Get yourselves a G10 or something similar and a decent lightbox - it will save you a lot of photoshop afterwork as well.
  • 3 Hide
    Tamz_msc , October 5, 2010 1:38 PM
    Great review!
  • -2 Hide
    frederico , October 5, 2010 1:55 PM

    Guys..

    Hold off, new Samsungs are coming this month - combination of dualcore/ION and apparently great battery..

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 2:01 PM
    yo, look what i found, sandy bridge is here since may or maybe early

    http://qdms.intel.com/MDDS/MDDSView.aspx?mm=868042

    type in 0688 at the search MM number there

    906884 Yes SANDY BRIDGE-HE-4 3192-1.1 AV8062705008382Q 0AB Q0AB FC-BGA10 03/05/2010
  • 2 Hide
    nevertell , October 5, 2010 2:21 PM
    I'd love to see some ION netbooks with great battery life. I think ION is really important, because how the hell are you going to crack wpa with an atom ?
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