5 things you need to consider before buying a netbook

It all started out as a bit of a novelty – Asus’s tiny Eee PC 700 letting web lovers with zero cash and no space cart around a laptop when

It all started out as a bit of a novelty – Asus’s tiny Eee PC 700 letting web lovers with zero cash and no space cart around a laptop whenever they fancied.

Now though, things have got completely out of hand. Netbooks, as every mug now calls them, have become more ubiquitous than a Geldof daughter clattering into the papprazzi of a Tuesday night. Confused? Don’t be. Take us by the hand and we’ll tell you everything you need to know before you buy a netbook.

Solid State or Hard Disk?

You could argue the whole point of a netbook is that you can sling it about without fear of it ending up in gadget hospital. But while solid state drives can take a battering, they’re expensive and won’t store much. HDDs can’t stand as much of a battering but will look after your docs. If you want SSD, then the Eee PC 901 is where it’s at. HDD? The 120GB Acer Aspire One should do the trick.

9in or 10in screen?

This is more about the keyboard than the screen itself. Buy a 10in netbook and you’ll have a full–size pad on which to tap out disparaging blog posts and tiresome tweets. Get a 9in and you’ll have a (far more) portable machine that’s a darn sight harder to type on. Of course, you can always compromise with the Asus Eee PC 904HD.

Eee PC or not Eee PC?

As the folks who started this whole cheap laptops shebang, Asus know a thing or two about netbooks. The Eee PC 901, with its seemingly endless battery life, affordable price tag and SSD is a winner. But newbies by Acer and Lenovo are cheaper and look the part. We’re sticking with Asus for now, but as more players saturate the market, that could change very soon.

Big price or cut price?

It’s definitely true that the more you pay for a netbook, the better quality it is. The HP Mini-note is fantastic machine, but at £410, it encroaches on proper laptop territory. At £199, the Acer Aspire One is cheaper than a night out with Danielle Lloyd, but build quality is suspect. If you’re skint and just want a lappie for getting online, then go with the latter. If you’ve got more money in the bank, spend it on something with more durability.

Buy now or hang on?

A tough one this – the Eee PCs, the Acer Aspire One and MSI Wind are all great netbooks. But the Lenovo Ideapad S9 and Dell E–series won’t be rearing their heads until later this year. The latter will most likely be a warhorse, well worth the apparently infinite delays. If you can hold on for a few months do – new models and heftier cut–price SSDs could mean netbooks will get even cheaper in the run up to Christmas.

And remember, if you love the Eee PC, you can vote for it on the Stuff Gadget Awards. You'll even get a chance to win an iPhone! Off you go then.