Back in 2007, Asus single-handedly transformed the ultraportable laptop market with its Eee PC netbooks. These were underpowered but light and small laptops that cost a fraction of a regular ultraportable. They sold like hotcakes, and soon all the other major manufactures got in on the game.
Of course since their inception netbooks have come a long way, but they're still very limited compared to a real laptop, generally offering less processing power and RAM, fewer connections, and generally a lower screen resolution.
There are a number of guidelines that define what constitutes a netbook. They have screen sizes of 12in or smaller, with 10in being the standard. These tend to sport 1,024 x 600 pixels, which is a sub-HD Ready resolution and offers an uncomfortably small desktop area. Working on documents or reading multiple websites side by side can be a real pain, but if you’re a bit more restrained they’re quite usable.
Most netbooks use an Intel Atom processor supported by 1GB of RAM and usually a 320GB hard drive. Many lack a digital video output, though the latest generation does offer HDMI.
The netbook is currently in its twilight years thanks to the rise of tablets which – despite not being able to run X86 Windows - offer better quality screens, longer battery life and more processing power (especially convertible models like the Asus Transformer Pad 300) and the ever decreasing price of ultraportable laptops and Ultrabooks. However, if you’re on a strict budget and are looking for a cheap yet portable laptop that will happily handle the basics like web-browsing, word processing and video, a netbook can still be an attractive option.
We've put together a list of the best netbooks with links to our expert reviews so you can find the best netbook for your needs.