Battle of the netbooks

Before you permanently ditch your desktop, consider the comparisons of these five models we road tested.

5 of 5
Dell Mini 12
Dell Mini 12
Price*: $569

Looks: The Mini 12 has a 12-inch screen, making it look and feel like a traditional laptop, albeit it a thin and crisply designed one. And if you prefer a snazzier look, check out the Tristan Eaton case designs.

Keyboard: The large footprint of this netbook provides space for a roomy keyboard and touch pad, with easy-to-use mouse buttons. The keyboard feels flimsy, however, with noticeable bowing in the middle.

Screen: The screen is large but dim, and video is sometimes a bit choppy. The audio is just barely audible at full volume.

Battery life: 1 hour, 52 minutes (3-cell battery)

Bottom line: Dell's netbook is slim and cleanly designed, but its performance is sluggish. The price knocks it out of anyone's value range.

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Last updated May 05 2009: 11:04 AM ET
*Configuration as tested

How we did it: We picked five popular netbooks with similar hardware configurations and used them for Web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, file downloads, word processing, and photo editing. To test battery life, we turned off all power-saving features, pushed the screen brightness to 100 percent, and looped a movie in full screen with audio turned up halfway and Wi-Fi networking on.
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