BEST NETBOOKS

The smallest laptop computers have typically been the most costly.
Now, in the nick of time for cash-strapped consumer, even smaller netbooks are coming to the rescue...with even lower prices.

Consumer Reports tells us which ones deliver the most for the size and money.

Super-portable netbooks...those little laptops with an equally shrunken price tag...are getting rave reviews from people who have one.

Oscar Lopez says, "I take it everywhere I go, it's always with me."

The typical netbook weighs about three pounds, has a nine-to-ten-inch screen and costs $300-$400. But which ones truly rate?

Consumer Reports tested six netbooks to find out.

"All of them performed well enough at Web surfing and e-mail, but we did find some major differences in areas like ergonomics and battery life," said Paul Reynolds of Consumer Reports.

Testers top-rated this 10-inch Samsung, which has a 160-gigabyte hard drive, an impressive seven-hour battery life, and offers the fewest compromises.

But at $450, it was the most expensive netbook tested.

Looking to spend less? Consume Reports recommends two that go for around $350. The 10-inch Acer Aspire One has a long battery life but the keyboard is a little cramped.

On the flip side, the 10-inch Asus EPC has a roomier keyboard but a shorter battery life.

"Regardless of the model you choose, none of them have a built-in DVD or CD drive...and forget about demanding tasks like 3-D gaming or video-editing.

For those, you'll need a full-powered machine.

As Oscar Lopez learned, the key to finding happiness with a netbook is deciding which compromises you can live with in order to get the benefits of a truly tiny laptop.

When you're shopping for a netbook, Consumer Reports says be aware they tend to work best as a second computer, in addition to a home or business based system.


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