Critics' Choice: The Top 5 Netbooks

Before I spend time and money going to a movie, I like to know what the critical consensus is. So I check sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and SFGate, to determine which films are consistently getting the thumbs up from critics.

It's in that spirit that we launch "Critics Choice: The Top 5," a feature that will appear monthly on EnterpriseMobileToday. The idea is to see which mobile products-netbooks, laptops, and smartphones -- are consistently ranking among the top 5 in their product category, as reviewed by our colleagues in the industry. The more top 5 lists a product appears on, and the higher ratings it receives from reviewers, the higher it's ranked on our own list.

We're kicking off this month with a look at netbooks, based on the top 5 netbooks as currently ranked by (in alphabetical order) CNET, Computer Shopper, LAPTOP magazine, PCMag and PC World. Next month: the top 5 smartphones.

There's one caveat worth mentioning. Sometimes, there are variations between a netbook model on one publication's top 5 list and a similar model by the same vendor that ranked highly on another list.

Case in point: the Toshiba NB205 netbook. LAPTOP magazine's top 5 netbook chart currently features the Toshiba NB205-N330BL. That netbook's configuration is similar but not identical to the NB205-N210 model PCMag lists among its current top rated netbooks or the Toshiba NB205-310 model that's PC World's No. 1 netbook. So I've ranked the Toshiba NB205 as a product family, as opposed to just one specific product.

There may be some slight differences between review units sent to one publication compared to another, as well. Also, many but not all reviewers give star ratings. Bottom line: The following list isn't exactly scientifically compiled. But it should give you a good idea of which netbook models are considered tops by most of the mainstream tech review publications and sites. OK, enough preambling. Let's move on to the Top 5 Netbooks.

1. HP Mini 5101
Number of top 5 lists it appears on: 4 out of 5.
CNET rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Computer Shopper rating: 9.2 out of 10 points.
LAPTOP magazine rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
PCMag rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Current online prices: $416 and up.

Pros: Excellent keyboard and touchpad; sturdy design; optional higher-resolution display; 7200 rpm hard drives; 802.11n support; easy to upgrade memory; long-life 6-cell battery; optional integrated 3G connectivity.

Cons: No ExpressCard slot; premium price; some reviewers noticed whirring noises coming from the hard drive.

Worth quoting: "These features make the 5101 the most compelling netbook for business users." (PCMag)

Worth noting: The Mini 5101 is currently no. 6 on PC World's top 10 netbooks list.

2. Toshiba NB205 product line
Number of top 5 lists it appears on: 3.
LAPTOP magazine rating of the NB205-N330BL: 4 out of 5 stars.
PCMag rating of the NB205-N210: 4 out of 5 stars.
PC World rating of the NB205-310: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Current online prices: $409 and up.

Pros: Attractive pricing; excellent battery life; roomy keyboard; sleep-and-charge USB port.

Cons: Screen has some glare; mediocre speakers.

Worth quoting: "The NB205 (N330BL model) still rises above the sea of netbook competition with a beautiful chassis, spacious keyboard and touchpad, and nearly 9 hours of battery life." (LAPTOP magazine)

Worth noting: As mentioned earlier, the specific version of this netbook differed from one top 5 list to another. Some models listed on top netbooks charts are no longer current, but are still available online. Be aware of the differences between models if you plan to buy this netbook.

TAGS:

wireless, mobile, netbooks, netbook reviews, mobile enterprise
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