Help Me, LAPTOP: Which Netbook Is Best For $300 - $400?

Even though tablets are stealing all the thunder in mobile tech these days, there are still plenty of people out there who want a lightweight companion computer they can do real work with. And since we recently proved that an iPad isn't a great replacement for a laptop, it's no wonder consumers are still looking for a decent netbook to fill the portable/productive PC niche. Just like reader Kent:

My wife and travel several times a year and we are looking for an inexpensive way to get on the net from our motel. The netbooks look like the way to go for us. We don't want anything we have to pay a monthly fee for, nor do we need anything with lots of bells and whistles. I have been researching netbooks on the net and there must be a 1000 or more to choose from in prices from $250 to $1500. I would like to stay in the $300-$400 range. Any suggestions?

Lucky for you, Kent, there are still plenty to choose from in that price range that should make you happy. For around $300 we still like the ASUS Eee PC 1001P even though it's going on a year old now. It's still one of the longest-lasting netbooks we've seen, has a great keyboard, and a stylish chassis. And at Amazon it's only $290. For a newer model at that price, HP recently released the Mini 1103. This netbook is aimed primarily at students, but has all the features consumers love, and it looks good. You can buy it direct from HP for $299. Both of these netbooks have single-core Atom processors.

If you're willing to spend a little more you can upgrade to a netbook with a dual-core Atom processor. The difference? Dual-core systems perform a little better. You'll be able to open more tabs in your browser at a time and watch full-screen Hulu without the hitching and dropped frames. Our current Editor's Choice in this category is the Samsung NF310. Great design, good battery life, and solid performance. It's MSRP is $399, but you can usually get it for less on Amazon or NewEgg. Another strong choice is the ASUS Eee PC 1015PEM, which has a similar design to the Eee PC mentioned above. It lasted 8 hours on a charge in our battery test and costs about the same.

Bottom line: for around $300, our top pick is the ASUS Eee PC 1001P; for around $400, our top pick is the Samsung NF310.