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

AT&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
OSWindows 7 StarterWindows 7 StarterWindows 7 Starter
CPU1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom
RAM1GB1GB1GB
Battery4-cell3-cell3-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
OSWindows XPWindows XPWindows XP
CPU1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom1.33-GHz Atom
RAM1GB1GB1GB
Battery3-cell3-cell3-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
OSWindows 7 HomeWindows XPWindows XP
CPU1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom
RAM2GB1GB1GB
Battery6-cell6-cell3-cell

Best Buy Netbooks

Nokia Booklet 3G Toshiba mini NB205 Toshiba mini NB205
CarrierAT&TAT&TVerizon/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
OSWindows 7 StarterWindows XPWindows XP
CPU1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom1.6-GHz Atom
RAM1GB1GB1GB
Battery16-cell6-cell6-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
OSWindows XP
CPU1.33-GHz Atom
RAM1GB
Battery3-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?