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Santa (£350 – £450)

Santa (£350 – £450)

Once you go over £350, you're well and truly into premium netbook territory and edging dangerously close to ultraportable laptop boundaries. But then, with the bags of cash Santa makes each year from selling toys and nicknacks to shopping chains, he can afford to splurge – and so, apparently, can you.

At this stage you can expect extras such as dedicated graphics, dual core processors, digital video connectivity, and HD Ready screens. In fact, forget netbooks, our cheapest candidate is a 'proper' laptop.


Samsung X120

£349.99 (Play)

Okay, so technically the X120 isn't a netbook, as at its heart there beats a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Celeron SU2300, which is faster than even the 1.8GHz dual-core Atom found in the 1215N below. However, as it's now available for a penny under £350, its price puts it firmly within netbook range.

Surprisingly, this 11.6in laptop weighs in at under 1.4kg, making it lighter than most netbooks! Even better news is that the version for less than £400 might have a weaker processor and less RAM than the model we reviewed, but with its six-cell battery you should get at least six hours from it, making it a good overall choice.

Read the full review

Santa's Choice: Dell Inspiron M101z

£379.00 (Dell Direct)

If you sing out "Ho Ho Ho" every time you get your bank statement, you can get the £500 version of this laptop, which won a Recommended Award when we reviewed it. However, if you're more of an aspirational Rudolph you can still get the £379 basic model. This drops RAM down to 2GB and the hard drive to a slower, 5,400rpm 250GB variation, putting it more in line with netbooks.

However, it still has AMD's nippy little Athlon II Neo processor at its heart, which even in its single-core variation combines with the Mobility Radeon HD 4225 GPU to give more power than most Atom-based netbooks and more powerful graphics than the X120. This means high-definition is not a problem on- or off-line, though in a few limited (multi-threaded) scenarios the dual-core Atom in the 1215N below will give better performance.

You also get a competent, 1,366 x 768 screen, that great-looking, patterned chassis, and excellent ergonomics to go with its decent battery life. It's no surprise that it won a place in our 2010 Awards, and is certainly our preferred choice at the high end of the netbook segment.

Read the full review

Asus Eee PC 1215N

£429.00 (Amazon)

Our most recently-reviewed netbook is also the most powerful model we've ever seen (since the above choices are technically laptops rather than netbooks). With its dual core 1.8GHz Atom CPU and Nvidia ION2 graphics backed by 2GB of RAM, there's very little that this sleek and light 12.1in machine can't handle, including intensive Full HD video and online HD Flash. It shows it all off on a decent 1,366 x 768 screen, and runs Windows 7 Home Premium rather than the crippled Starter edition found on cheaper netbooks.

It's not without its issues though. The keyboard flex can really get under your skin, and its relatively high price limits its appeal further. Still, if the keyboard doesn't bother you, this is a Samsung N510 on steroids, with better battery life to boot and still weighing in at under 1.5kg.

Read the full review

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