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

We run through an in-depth guide to 10.1" netbooks from Acer, Asus, Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, and MSI. We even coded a special set of benchmarks. If you are in the market for a netbook, this guide gives you the performance and design cues you need.

Mobile systems have long been on our to-do-list. These days, nearly everyone has a notebook. However, picking the right notebook isn't like choosing a CPU, graphic card, or memory kit, where you can just simply swap out one piece for better performance.

While there are those rare few who upgrade, the options are still limited (hard drive and memory). For the braver few, a mobile processor might be on the menu. Yet, notebooks remain a special case where you buy something for the long haul. Motherboard and graphic upgrades are all but guaranteed to be nonexistent. For that reason, the total cost over the life of a mobile system can often exceed that of their desktop big brothers. It is also important to point out that no one really buys a notebook for performance alone. Form, style, build quality, and obviously battery life all are important, and in some cases may actually outrank performance.

More often than not, mobile systems (specifically) are reviewed as a singular product. It has actually become the de facto standard. It is hard to justify our recommendations when we haven't looked at other products. This is despite the fact that they have been available at Best Buy and Newegg for months and share the same hardware specifications.

It is pretty easy to see the flaw here. If we review 15.6” gaming notebook x and give it a good review, what about the 15.6” gaming notebook y that is also currently available, but happens to be a better all-around buy? Both notebooks are likely to get a thumbs up, with notebook y popping up in a separate review two weeks later. Honestly, this has to be confusing to everyone. In this economy, it is hard to justify reviews this way when few of us are impulse buyers.

Systems are not bought with tunnel vision. So why review that way? We have set out to deliver something different; something that is more useful than a reaction that says, “that is an awesome notebook!” Though, we certainly will feature specific systems from time to time to showcase some awesome aspect of tech, like Thomas' recent foray into high-end mobile graphics. However, we also want to answer the bottom line: “which notebook should I buy?” As a result, we set out to deliver something of a cross between a buyer’s guide and a roundup.

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  • Dandalf
    Thanks Andrew, this is really great and helpful, I've been waiting for a decent netbook benchmark guide, and Tom's is the place I'd want it from!

    All that's missing is a nice cross-section of netbook hardware, like different Atoms, different AMD platforms, and some ION platforms. Hopefully this will be updated periodically, like other types of hardware on the site. But over all great, thanks a lot :)