Stripped of nonessentials like DVD drives, netbooks are mini laptops best suited for Web surfing and word processing—and they're storming the market. Here are our three favorites, each loaded with a Windows operating system and a 160-gigabyte hard drive, enough to hold more than a dozen movies.
Best for the plane: HP Mini 110
Just an inch thick and weighing less than three pounds, the Mini 110 has a nearly full-size keyboard (92 percent) and an LED antiglare display that's good in bright and dark conditions. High-definition audio plays through built-in stereo speakers, so you can listen to your personal playlist in your hotel room. Another nice touch: The Mini 110 comes with software that lets you automatically synchronize music, videos, and other files with your primary computer when you're logged in to your home network. hp.com, $330, in black, pink, or white.
Best for kids: Disney Netpal by Asus
The company that kicked off the netbook trend two years ago, Asus, released the Disney Netpal this summer. The tiny machine, just 2.65 pounds and about the size of a hardcover book, has a spill-proof keyboard and parental controls that allow you to specify which websites and e-mail addresses your kids can access, as well as limit the hours they can surf the Web. The Netpal comes with a large, child-friendly touch pad and a customizable, Disney-themed desktop interface. disneystore.com, $350, in pink or blue.
Best for the long trip: Toshiba Mini NB205-N325
Yes, it's priced a little higher, but what really sets the Toshiba apart is its nine hours of battery life (most netbooks last between three and six hours). This 2.9-pounder has a full-size touch pad and special key commands that allow you to zoom in and out on images and Web pages. A USB port charges gadgets even when the computer is off, and if you drop the machine, a Hard Drive Impact Sensor minimizes damage by instantly separating the moving parts inside. toshibadirect.com, $400, in brown, blue, pink, or white.