Netbooks have settled into a comfortable set of stock components, offering basic PC functionality for prices unheard of even a few years ago. The typical setup of a 10-inch display, Intel Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Starter is easy to find for as little as $299, and more than adequate for many tasks, from e-mail to Web surfing.
But those low, low prices mean PC makers are eager to upsell, and a handful of Netbook-plus systems have turned up, with larger HD displays, more RAM, and even better CPUs and graphics capabilities, such as the Asus Eee PC 1201, which pairs a bigger screen with Nvidia's ION GPU for what some call a "Premium Netbook" experience.
The latest system to offer a little more Netbook for a little more money is the Gateway LT32. This 11.6-inch laptop skips the typical Intel Atom for an AMD Athlon Neo II K125 processor. While still a single core chip, AMD has always positioned the Neo as a better performer than the Atom, and during initial anecdotal hands-on use, that certainly seems to be the case. The LT32 also includes ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 graphics--still not a discrete GPU, but a small step up from the integrated Intel graphics found in most Netbooks.
Almost as important to the end user experience is the 2GB of RAM (double what's in a typical Netbook) and Windows 7 Home Premium operating system instead of the more common Windows 7 Starter Edition.
The design of the LT32 is reminiscent of the Acer Ferrari One, an excellent 11-inch Premium Netbook from earlier in 2010. That system was even better, with a dual-core AMD CPU and 4GB of RAM, but it also cost nearly $600, putting it in solid mainstream laptop territory. … Read more