How Big is Too Big for a Netbook?

The two most attractive netbook features are price and size, at least according to the reports from customer surveys. People like the small size and smaller price compared to a regular laptop. So how big can a netbook be and still be a netbook? A new review on TechReport, Aspire One 751 vs. Gateway LT3103 covers the two devices in depth, and the reviewer loves the larger size. Is size what makes a netbook, or something else?

Both units fall under the Acer umbrella and thus are siblings. Processors differ, which leads to uneven performance. But the reviewer most likes the larger, 11.6 inch screens, with resolutions of 1366x768. This compares to a typical 10.1 inch netbook screen with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels.

Yet we pay the price for a larger screen with a much larger case depth. My HP 2140 screen is 10.1 inches, meaning the case depth is about six inches. This fits quite well on an airplane tray table with room to open the lid far enough to get a good view of the screen. If the person in the seat in front of me leans back, there's room for my netbook. With many laptops, if the person in front leans back, your laptop case can get squished and even broken.

Perhaps the Acer/Gateway netbooks with the 11.6 inch screen won't get squished, but they might. Their case is eight inches deep, and the format looks much more like a typical small laptop than a netbook.

I want to get hold of one or both of these units soon and see what they feel like in normal use. Will the roughly 8x6 HP 2140 case feel slightly smaller than the Acer/Gateway 11x8 case, or considerably smaller? Will my friend Lisa believe the larger units are purse-worthy, or stick with her 10.1 inch screen?

When does a netbook become a small laptop? More on this later.

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