The other trait that all these notebooks share is the Intel Atom processor. While not as powerful as the type of CPUs Intel and Advanced Micro Devices make for full-size notebook PCs, the Atom does allow PC vendors to offer a range of new form factors and better battery life.
While the Atom chip does mean users lose some performance, Fiering believes current netbook performance is similar to what full-size notebooks offered three to four years ago. When Intel eventually updates its Atom line, there will be room for additional performance improvements.
"When you start to look at the potential of a dual-core [Atom processor], it means these notebooks can perform multiple functions and the notebook won't come to a full stop when you try to print a document," Fiering said.
The HP Mini 1000 and the Lenovo S10e both offer the Intel Atom N270 processor, which has a 1.6GHz clock speed. Previously, HP used a Via Technologies processor with its $499 Mini-Note notebook that the company introduced in April.
Dell also decided to tap an Intel Atom processor-the Atom Z520, which was originally intended for MIDs (mobile Internet devices)-for its Inspiron Mini 12. The use of this Atom processor meant that Dell could offer a 12.1-inch notebook that weighs less than 3 pounds and measures less than 1 inch thick.
With its 12.1-inch display and $600 price, the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 may not be considered a typical low-cost netbook, but the company's use of the Atom chip does mean the Inspiron Mini 12 has a lot in common with what HP and Lenovo are offering. At the same time this particular Dell notebook is blurring the line between netbooks and typical, full-size laptops that retail between $600 and $700.