3G Netbooks Compared: Are They Really a Good Deal?

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HP Mini 110 for AT&TAT&T Wireless recently announced yet another new addition to its lineup of 3G-enabled netbooks: the HP Mini 110. It will join the Samsung Go and the Acer Aspire One as one of the carrier's new Windows 7 netbooks. As with most 3G netbooks, you'll be paying less up front for the machine, but in exchange you'll need to fork over about $60 per month for unlimited data.

With so many mini-notebooks now available from three of the four major wireless carriers, we thought you could use an easy way to compare them all. Below we've listed all of the netbooks available from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint (with a special chart for the netbooks only available through Best Buy stores).

Each netbook is linked to our review of the system, but be aware that we may not have reviewed that exact configuration. In many cases we didn't test the netbook with a 3-cell battery, for instance. Check the carrier websites for specs.

3G Netbooks Cheat Sheet

AT&T's New 3G Netbooks

 
Samsung Go

Acer Aspire One D250

HP Mini 110
Price (with contract) $199.99 $199.99 $199.99
Data cost over
2 years (5GB)
$1,440.00 $1,440.00 $1,440.00
Total Cost $1,639.99 $1,639.99 $1,639.99
OS Windows 7 Starter Windows 7 Starter Windows 7 Starter
CPU 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB
Battery 4-cell 3-cell 3-cell

AT&T Wireless Netbooks

 
Lenovo S10

Acer Aspire One

Dell Mini 10
Price (with contract) $99.99 $149.99 $149.99
Data cost over
2 years (5GB)
$1,440.00 $1,440.00 $1,440.00
Total Cost $1,539.99 $1,589.99 $1,589.99
OS Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP
CPU 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom 1.33-GHz Atom
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB
Battery 3-cell 3-cell 3-cell

Verizon Wireless Netbooks

 
HP Mini 311

Gateway LT2016u

HP Mini 110
Price (with contract) $199.99 $99.99 $149.99
Data cost over
2 years (5GB)
$1,439.76 $1,439.76 $1,439.76
Total Cost $1,639.75 $1,539.75 $1,589.75
OS Windows 7 Home Windows XP Windows XP
CPU 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom
RAM 2GB 1GB 1GB
Battery 6-cell 6-cell 3-cell

Best Buy Netbooks

 
Nokia Booklet 3G

Toshiba mini NB205

Toshiba mini NB205
Carrier AT&T AT&T Verizon/Sprint
Price (with contract) $299.00 $299.00 $229.00
Data cost over
2 years (5GB)
$1,440.00 $1,440.00 $1,439.76
Total Cost $1,739.00 $1,739.00 $1,668.76
OS Windows 7 Starter Windows XP Windows XP
CPU 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom 1.6-GHz Atom
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB
Battery 16-cell 6-cell 6-cell

Sprint Netbook

 
Dell Mini 10
Price (with contract) $199.99
Data cost over
2 years (5GB)
$1,439.76
Total Cost $1,639.75
OS Windows XP
CPU 1.33-GHz Atom
RAM 1GB
Battery 3-cell

As you can see, these netbooks will end up costing you $1,500 to over $1,700 when coupled with the data plan. Lower cost data plans that give you fewer bits per month are available on some carriers, but if you're only getting 200MB it's hardly worth it to have mobile broadband built inside your netbook. Click through to the reviews to see the current lowest price on each system. It may be $100 - $200 more than what the carriers are offering, but you won't have be two-year locked in to a data fee that only applies to one device.

More cost-effective alternatives exist. You could opt for a mobile broadband card or USB dongle; one bill, multiple computers. The USB ones are particularly good for netbooks. Or you can get a MiFi 2200 intelligent mobile hotspot and share a your wireless connection with multiple devices at once and you don't have to install extra software. Again, you pay only one data charge and you're not limited to the netbooks (or the specific configurations) that the carriers choose.

What do you think? Are carrier subsidized netbooks a good deal?

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2 comments
  • Fred Says:

    They should just give the netbooks for free with service....

  • Brian Says:

    For all the reasons you listed above, I believe the answer is "no"

    Slightly less of a concern is also the fact that the netbook you buy may be terribly obsolete in very short order, although I think that's less of a concern now than it might've been about a year ago

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