Small wonders: Putting mini laptops to the test

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

They're tinier, faster and more portable than ever – but how do the new wave of mini-laptops measure up in the real world? Five readers put them to the test

The housewife

Helen Love, 44
Asus EEE PC, £249.99

Does it pack a punch?

It runs not on Microsoft Windows but on Linux, a free operating system, and I was sceptical about how easy that would be to use, though it obviously does help keep the price down. I'm trying to set up my own business from home, and I have been brainwashed by standard PC software and applications, but I found that this machine is actually really intuitive.

My children were straight into the "play" section and having a whale of a time, too. The built-in webcam fires up easily and I dumped a load of music files direct from my mp3 player into the machine and suddenly there was no need to take the Asus and my mp3 player on the train. I've used a high-spec laptop in the past – and I would say that the Asus is even quicker. I love the fact that I can plug my SD card straight into a slot and see camera's photos on the seven-inch screen. There are three USB ports, so plenty for printers, mp3 players and anything else you need to hook up. 4 stars

How portable is it?

I can scarcely believe how dinky it is. It weighs 936g and measures 22.5x16x2.5cm; the novel I'm reading measures 1,200g and measures 24x16x6.5cm. 5 stars

Would I buy one?

The only snag is that it doesn't have a CD drive. This is fine for most things and only a bind when you want to install software. The inconvenience is only slight though, especially when you consider the portability and the price, and I'm very tempted to buy one. 5 stars; available from

The blogger
Henry Brennan, 21, recent graduate
Apple MacBook Air, £2,028

Does it pack a punch?

This is more than just a cool object to look at. It's incredibly fast and one of the most impressive features is that it's silent: it has 60Gb solid-state memory rather than a hard drive, which means there is no whirring of disks, no noisy fans and no overheating of the nether regions when it's on your lap. It's very fast, and the latest version of the Mac operating system is very good – especially the new "spaces" trick, which lets you to split the screen into four different activity zones, like having four mini-screens. The touch-pad lets you scroll through text and pictures and zoom in and out by using finger strokes – like the iPhone. 5 stars

How portable is it?

This is the sort of laptop that deserves to be called portable. The 13.3-inch screen means it's wider than all the other laptops here, but it scores because it's so thin (less than 2cm at its widest point) and light (only 1.3kg). This is a laptop you acn carry around without feeling as if gravity is tugging the fingers away from your hands. When closed, it feels more like a stylish A4-sized clipboard, and the tapered edges of the mean that it slips easily in and out of the pockets of a shoulder bag. 3 stars

Overall, would you buy one?

It only has one USB port, which is a bit tricky if you want to use a memory stick and download pictures from your camera at the same time. And there's no DVD or CD drive. The price has to go down as another drawback, but there is a model with a normal, 80Gb hard drive rather than the solid-state memory, and that's £1,199 – more than £800 cheaper. 3 stars

The social networker
Ali Pope, 27, office temp
HP 2710p, £1,200

Does it pack a punch?

As a technophobe – though one whose Facebook and MySpace obsessions are at worrying levels – I was surprised by how easy this is to use. The big selling point of this "tablet laptop" is that you can twist the screen and fold it back over the keyboard, so you're left with the 12.1-inch screen on which to write. It works incredibly well – it translated mine and various friends' scrawl into type instantly. But it struggles with slang, which makes it more suited to formal reports than MySpace. It's quick and has a 60GB hard drive. 3 stars

How portable is it?

This is about as small as tablet laptops get. At 1.7kg and 28mm thick, it's no great burden, though it's not as small as other mini laptops. 2 stars

Would I buy one?

Another potential downfall for this laptop is that you need a special pen to write on the screen, and to use instead of a mouse. I found that a bit fiddly, and dropped it a few times. To be honest, I often found that I'd use the keyboard instead of writing on the screen, and that sort of misses the point. It might not be worth the money if you'd do the same. 2 stars; 0845 270 4142

The executive
Nick Grange, 40, video games PR director
Samsung Q1 Ultra, £800

Does it pack a punch?

The first thing I noticed about the Samsung Q1 Ultra is that it's really funky looking – shiny, tiny and a real boy's toy. I first used it on a plane when I was away for business and everyone sitting near me was asking what it was. It has a touch-sensitive screen which is supposed to do away with the need for a mouse – it's a cool idea but using it is a bit fiddly. As for the keyboard, there are three ways you can type. There's the on-screen keyboard. Second, there are "qwerty" keys split into two groups on either side of the screen, where your thumbs are. Or, third, you can plug in a separate keyboard. I don't like the separate keyboard as I think it spoils the whole idea of an on-the-go device. In some ways it's impressive – it comes with Windows Vista, 1GB of memory and a 60GB hard drive – but I found the battery life disappointing. I thought that the small screen would mean that the battery would last a long time but a charge only lasted about three hours – not brilliant when you're on a transatlantic flight. 3 stars

How portable is it?

It's incredibly portable – only 22.7x2.3x12.3cm – but that's without the separate keyboard. A slide-out keyboard would be better. It's lightweight and fits into a jacket pocked. It worked well for going through my emails while I was away from home and didn't want to drag my big work laptop around with me. 5 stars

Would I buy one?

It looks amazing, and it's very slick but I think it fails in practicalities – and price. Realistically, I need a proper keyboard to type on, not a touch screen, and you can buy a laptop for less. In fact, I'd rather buy an Apple iBook. 2 stars; 0845 726 7864

The student
Elsa Vulliamy, 13, student
Packard Bell Easynote XS20-006, £349.99

Does it pack a punch?

It's slightly slower than other laptops I've used, which is a bit frustrating, but not bad enough to have a big impact on what I use it for. The mouse function is annoying because the click button is on the top left of the keyboard and the mouse pad is on the top right so I have to use both hands to move the mouse. My mum thought it would be difficult to set up but it was quite and easy and it connected to the internet instantly. It doesn't have a DVD drive, and that's something I use quite a bit, but at this price you could go out and buy a cheap external one. It does have a webcam and it's installed right next to the seven-inch screen, which is neat. It had all the programs I need – like Microsoft Word and Explorer – with the added thrill of pinball. 2 stars

How portable is it?

Amazingly tiny – 23x17.1x2.9cm. And light, too – 950g. My mum was concerned about the size of the keyboard because it's so small but it doesn't bother me. It slips into my schoolbag and feels the same as taking a paper file with me. 5 stars

Would you buy one?

I would definitely like one. It's just so small and light, and does everything I need it to. 4 stars, 0844 5610000

With thanks to PC World

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Recruitment Genius: Support and Development Engineer

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The leading provider of Employee Managem...

    Recruitment Genius: Creative Designer

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Kent based design consulta...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Gazetteer Consultant

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking to work for an ...

    Day In a Page

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate