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Rudolph (£250 – £350)

Rudolph (£250 – £350)

Rudolph gets a pretty decent salary from Santa - as reindeer salaries go - so he can afford to spend a little more. If you're in the same boat (or sleigh, as the case may be), you have quite a few choices. The most interesting of these is a previous generation product, which ironically is one of the more powerful choices in this guide. Some might even say it's the red-nosed reindeer of the pack, though we'd never use such a hackneyed metaphor.
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Asus Eee PC Seashell 1015PEM
£288.66 (cbccomputers)

It might not be the best all-rounder for the money, but if you want USB 3.0 this is one of the few netbook choices out there.

It also sports a dual core, 1.5GHz Atom processor, meaning you can multi-task, run non-HD Flash video and 720p films. Full HD video is not feasible and there's no digital video output though, so this is very much a case of horses for courses.

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Rudolph's Choice: Samsung N510
£289.97 (LaptopsDirect)

At £300, we're starting to see some genuine performance enhancements. Though it uses a previous generation, single-core, 1.6GHz Atom processor, CPU deficiencies are largely compensated for by the relatively powerful Nvidia ION graphics.

Thanks to ION, this netbook can decode even the highest bit-rate high definition video with ease (when using a GPU-accelerated media player). Thankfully, Samsung has chosen to pair this with a HD Ready, 1,366 x 768 screen, allowing you to enjoy uncompromised 720p material on the go. ION also means you get HDMI-out, so you can digitally hook this machine up to a monitor or television.

However, the N510 won't handle multi-tasking or Flash video as well as the Seashell 1015PEM's dual core Atom. Remaining specifications on this older machine are also purely by the netbook rulebook, including 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. Last but not least, you're stuck with Windows XP instead of 7 Starter, but that's a minor handicap rather than a major inconvenience.

Despite now being over a year old, the snail-like rate at which netbooks have evolved mean it's still one of the more powerful options you can buy for around £300. If you want a reasonably stylish yet portable machine with decent battery life, the N510 is a safe bet and our top Chrimbo pick in its class (HP's Compaq Mini 311c sports similar specs and can be found for slightly less online, but as we haven't reviewed it it's not an option we can confidently recommend).

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Honourable mention goes to the Samsung NF210 (£329.99, Currys). It would be a fairly uninspiring dual core netbook were it not for its unique and rather classy curved design, combined with excellent battery life of around eight hours. If you're buying for someone who fancies style over substance or someone who needs all-day portability, it's worth considering.

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Disclaimer: No reindeer were coerced in the writing of this article.

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