The smart money has been veering towards the latter for a while now, as the extra performance is worth it, but if only there were a third choice somewhere in between. Well, now there is with Toshiba’s new T110.
This ultraportable looks like a netbook, costs less than a CULV machine and performs somewhere in between.
It does more than just fill the fiscal niche left by its underpowered or higher-priced competitors. With its bright and impressively well-coloured 11in screen, it's nothing less than a full frontal attack on netbooks in general.
The design of the T110 unashamedly apes a netbook, but in a good way. It's hidden under a thick, glossy shell and feels more fun than bleeding-edge cool, but importantly there's no weak spot in the casing like a wobbly hinge or flimsy keyboard to concern us. It's budget, but well built.
Inside, though, Toshiba has stuck a single-core Celeron processor. Now, if you know anything about computers you'll know that the mere mention of such a diabolical CPU can send shivers down the spine, but the latest generation of Celerons isn't all bad.
It's based on Intel's impressive Penryn architecture, so it's quicker than its 1.43GHz would suggest and extremely light on battery use.
To put it another way, it feels like a real laptop, not a netbook, and still has 11 hours of battery life.
The T110 isn’t as powerful as a CULV laptop, though, and if you're looking to play games or edit video you're better off with something else. But for light use and watching movies – the kinds of things you might use a netbook for – the T110 is ideal.
If there is a weakness, it's that the T110 comes with too much bloatware. Some of it is useful, like the Eco monitor that gives you a realtime graph of your power usage (around 7-10W in the battery-saving desktop). There are over 50 entries related to Toshiba's software in the Start menu, and that's too much.
At this price, though, these are deal-breakers. Between the iPad and laptops like the T110, it's clear that the era of the netbook is drawing to a close. It was good while it lasted, but this is better.