How time flies. It seems like just a year ago Asus announced the tiny Eee PC 4G to skepticism and eventually critical acclaim. Actually, it was just over a year ago. The 4G was imbued with such technical specs as a 900 MHz Intel Celeron M processor, up to 1 GB of RAM, a solid state hard drive, and a 7-inch screen.

Not only has Asus released two more lines for the Eee series, but nearly every major PC and component manufacturer have joined the fray. With competition comes an increased drive to add more and more features, while keeping costs to a minimum. In a one-year period, the 7-inch screen netbooks are now the exception rather than the rule.

The latest crop of netbooks boast 10- and 10.2-inch screens, more and larger keyboard keys, more storage capacity, and more powerful components. As a result, costs have gone from the sub-three hundred dollar range, to over five hundred dollars for some models. The average price for the top-rated mini-computers available are $413. Mind you, newer netbooks like the Asus Eee PC 1000, Acer Aspire One, and Lenovo IdeaPad S10 have processors with almost double the speed, and keyboards that are 95% the size of standard laptop keyboards. You get what you pay for, and for the touch typist the larger mini-computers are much easier to handle than their older, smaller brethren.

As prices for Solid state hard drives steadily decrease, more are being put to use in these computing devices. The most storage in a SSD-configured mini-computer is a mere 40 GB, so if you need yours to hold more files, consider a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 with 80 GB, or an MSI Wind with up to 160 GB. Beware that a lot of larger hard drives sacrifice speed for capacity   some spin at a paltry 4,200 RPM, making read/write times longer.

If you re worried about wireless connectivity, current models connect to B, G, and sometimes N wireless networks. 3G and WiMax-capable computers will also be offered soon. Most mini-computers have Megabit LAN cards built in, and newer models include Gigabit LAN connectivity.

Operating Systems in these mini-computers range from Windows XP and Vista, to various Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Xandros. Don t let the Linux-driven computers scare you; they re easier to use and more task oriented than any Windows-driven computer. Most also include a version of OpenOffice, so you can create and edit documents compatible with Microsoft Office products.

Have a look at our side by side netbook comparisons and reviews for more detailed information.

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