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The Ultimate Netbook

Keyboard & Mouse
Going hand in hand with the design are the primary input devices, the keyboard and mouse. If you're looking for an example of a great keyboard then the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC is again our first port of call, but the MSI Wind is an equally good example.

Important things to note here are the size and proportion of the keys themselves, as well as depth of travel and response. We don’t need ThinkPad X300 levels of quality here, but in this day and age it shouldn't be that hard. Other things to avoid include putting the Shift keys in stupid places (ala Eee PCs) and poorly placed cursor keys (Eee PCs again). In fact, just avoid Eee PC keyboards altogether!

As for the mouse, why on earth has no-one opted for a track point yet? It seems the obvious solution for a small machine like a netbook, since they're easy to use and create more space for that roomy keyboard we all desire.


Screen
Screen size and resolution is a tricky one. To my mind nine inches is the sweet spot form factor wise, it is part of the reason I still love the Eee PC 901 so much despite its suspect keyboard. However, though I've welcomed the 1,024 x 600 resolution, if we could push this closer to 1,280 x 800 then I'd be even happier - the HP Mini-Note is the model here yet again! Another key point here is no glossy finishes! We all want to use these things outside, so we can't have everything reflecting back at us when we're out and about.

One other issue to consider here is: do we want touchscreens? Once upon a time Eee PCs were touted to be having them, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside and I fully understand why. As the iPhone demonstrated, if you want a touchscreen device to work it needs the interface to match and this means a lot of work. Moreover, touchscreens are more the realm of your budding MID (Mobile Internet Device) than a netbook.


Processor & Memory
Memory is pretty straightforward, though power users might desire 2GBs of RAM, at the moment at least there's little reason to need more than the 1GB that's the standard at the moment. Processors, on the other hand, are less straightforward. Despite the Intel Atom CPU being more or less the de facto netbook CPU, that's largely because it's the only one readily available at the moment. Many have touted the potential of the VIA Nano platform and Edward was suitably impressed when he took a look at it, but what we've yet to see is a netbook class version of the Nano and given Intel's stranglehold on the market, it might take a while.

So, sticking with Atom for the moment, the other issue is: do we need dual-core? Ideally I'd say yes, but things aren't as simple as that. First, Intel has stated that dual-core Atoms are meant for nettops, not netbooks; secondly, what impact would a dual-core Atom in a small netbook have on thermal performance and battery life? Bearing these as yet untested concerns in mind the Atom N270 remains the logical choice and for the moment it does the job just fine and if someone shows dual-core Atom can work in a netbook, then all the better.

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