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Tom's Definitive 10.1" Netbook Buyer's Guide: Fall 2010

Fall 2010 Lineup: Seven Netbooks, Strutting Their Stuff

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
BrandAcerAsusDellGateway
ModelAO521Eee PC 1001PInspiron Mini 10 (1012)LT21 (LT2120u)
CPUAthlon II Neo K125 (1.7GHz)Atom N450 (1.66GHz)Atom N450 (1.66GHz)Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Display TypeGlossyMatteGlossyGlossy
Display10.1" WSVGA LED10.1" WSVGA LED10.1" WXGA LED10.1" WSVGA LED
Native Resolution1024 x 6001024 x 6001366 x 7681024 x 600
GraphicsMobility Radeon HD 4225GMA 3150GMA 3150Crystal HD (BCM970015)GMA 3150
Memory1GB DDR31GB DDR21GB DDR21GB DDR2
HDD250GB 5400RPM160GB 5400RPM250GB5400RPM160GB 5400RPM
Wireless802.11b/g/n802.11b/g802.11b/g/n802.11b/g/n
BluetoothNoNoYesNo
Card ReaderSD/MS/Pro/MMC/XDSD/MMCSD/MS/MMCSD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
Webcam1.3 MP0.3 MP1.3 MP0.3 MP
Battery6 cell (48WHr)6 cell (48WHr)6 cell (56WH)6 cell (63WHr)
Length (in)*10.210.3110.5210.17
Width (in)*7.46.957.887.28
Height (in)*1.11.511.381.45
Market Price$329.99$299$374.99
BrandHPLenovoMSI
ModelMini 210 HDIdeapad S10-3Wind 160
CPUAtom N475 (1.83GHz)Atom N450 (1.66GHz)Atom N450 (1.66GHz)
Display TypeGlossy Glass PanelGlossyGlossy
Display10.1" WXGA LED10.1" WSVGA LED10.1" WSVGA LED
Native Resolution1366 x 7681024 x 6001024 x 600
GraphicsGMA 3150 Crystal HD (BCM970012)GMA 3150GMA 3150
Memory1GB DDR31GB DDR21GB DDR2
HDD250GB 7200RPM160GB 5400RPM250GB 5400RPM
Wireless802.11b/g/n802.11b/g/n802.11b/g/n
BluetoothNoNoYes
Card ReaderSD/MS/Pro/MMC/XDSD/MS/Pro/MMC/XDSD/MS/Pro/MMC/XD
Webcam0.3 MP1.3 MP1.3 MP
Battery3 cell (28WHr)6 cell (58WHr)6 cell (64WHr)
Length (in)*10.5510.5510.24
Width (in)*6.96.67.94
Height (in)*1.111.451.45

*Measured for largest value.

  • frederico
    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.


    Reply
  • ScoobyJooby-Jew
    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.
    Reply
  • DjEaZy
    ... AMD FTW!!!
    Reply
  • As far as I know the battery makes a difference between 1000P and 1001px.
    Reply
  • amk09
    I have been looking forward to an article like this!!!!!

    Great job TH ily ;)
    Reply
  • Luscious
    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
    Reply
  • lashabane
    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.
    Reply
  • braneman
    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.
    Reply
  • KingArcher
    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 ;)
    Reply
  • super_tycoon
    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.
    Reply