I’ve been taking advantage of Best Buy for years, but their 30-day return policy is great for picking out the computer that’s right for you. I first bought the HP 1035NR, which I used for two weeks before exchanging it for the newly released Gateway LT3103U. After having problems with the Gateway, I finally landed on the Asus 1005HA – which I absolutely love.

1. Price: The HP mini takes the cake here at $329, but the added tech in the Gateway ($399) was worth the $70. I arrived at the Asus ($399) not by price, but because of the reasons below.
2. Portability: I would say this is a toss up between the HP and the Asus – the HP is a bit smaller than the Asus, but both can easily be thrown in any bag. The Gateway, having an 11.6” screen compared to the 10.1” on the other two, made the netbook more like a notebook (the 6-cell battery also sticks out the back, adding size and weight).
3. Battery Life: This was the main reason for going through two netbooks before deciding on the Asus – it has a remarkable 10.5 hour 6-cell battery. Although I’ve never achieved that much on a charge, I have used the netbook past 7 hours (dim screen, Bluetooth off, and power settings set to max battery life). The other two netbooks would get between 2 and 3 hours, which just wasn’t enough for this type of device.
4. Windows 7 compatibility: I’m sure everyone here has heard about the next generation of Windows, but basically its Vista the way it should have been, and optimized for netbooks specifically. Win 7 runs pretty much seamlessly on the HP and Asus, but was a pain getting it working with the Gateway (another big reason for making another drive to Best Buy to return it).
5. Aesthetics: Totally subjective, but I think the Asus is curvier and nicer looking than the HP. The Gateway is just ugly. One thing, though, the piano black finish on these things attracts hair and dust like nothing else, which is kind of annoying.
6. Overall hardware: The Asus and HP are basically the same internally, whereas the Gateway is quite a bit beefier inside (graphics card, bigger screen, 64-bit processor). The Asus may have been a downgrade on paper, but it delivers a much better netbook experience.
Conclusion: If you’re playing with the idea of buying one of these mini-laptops, I would recommend the Asus 1005HAP, hands down (be sure you get the HAP, not HAB or HAV). Don’t expect to be playing games or doing any video editing on these things, but I can tell you first hand they can play HULU and Youtube in standard-def perfectly well. Here are the HP and Asus netbooks on Amazon: