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If you're constantly running off to class, your portable has to be really light. You need something that you can take notes on all day long and use for assignments at home. And it shouldn't cut into your tight budget--living on mac and cheese is bad enough!

We're talking netbooks here, for bookworms who don't need a big, beefy machine. All you engineering students and future Photoshoppers, see our buying guide to desktop replacement laptops; you might require the same kind of muscle that gamers do.


The Intel Atom CPU, which powers most netbooks, is strong enough to run Windows XP. (Some foolhardy vendors have tried using Vista on Atom-powered netbooks, but those models run in slow motion.) These days, alternatives are popping up, namely the VIA Nano and the AMD Athlon Neo. AMD's product is capable of running Vista and is faster than conventional netbook chips, but it's still not nearly as speedy as what you find in ultraportables. Our test Athlon Neo machine earned a mark of 45 in WorldBench 6 running Vista (netbooks normally score around 36). But we are waiting to see how Intel's new low-cost, low-voltage Core 2 Solo CPU does in the upcoming HP Mini 133.

System Memory

You won't find many netbooks sold with more than 1GB of RAM, but several have opened up a little, allowing you to jack up the memory on your own. The new Toshiba NB205 netbooks, for example, can go up to 2GB.

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