Intrigued by all the laptop, netbook and tablets you're seeing advertised endlessly? Some are good deals, but many are duds — like the Sylvania netbook from CVS — and you've got to sort through a lot of those bad deals to find the good ones.
To help you sort through, we’ve rounded up the top mobile devices for a showdown quarterfinal. This is last quarterfinal of our Black Friday 2010 Gadget Battles, where we'll be sorting through the most coveted buys of the season in eReaders, video game systems, HDTVs and now mobile computers. We will crown one overall best choice, by our experts and by you.
Here’s what you need to know before you buy a mobile device like a notebook, netbook or tablet:
- Performance: Getting a laptop or mobile device for under $200 doesn’t mean a thing if it won’t do what you need it to. The average home user will be OK with at least a dual-core laptop. If you’re looking for a netbook, a dual core processor will give you extra power, but a single core Atom processor should meet most needs. When you look at tablets it’s harder to compare processors, so be sure to do your research.
- Access to Apps: Be sure to check whether or not your intended machine has easy access to an app store with apps you want. Many cheap Android tablets cannot access the official Android market. If you are contemplating a switch to Mac or away from Mac, make sure your must-have apps are compatible.
- Read the Reviews: Search out experts and regular users who have shared how the device handles in the real world to see if it will live up to your needs.
Here are our top choices for mobile computers this holiday season:
||$149 (on BF)||
This is the cheapest true netbook we have seen so far for Black Friday 2010. It has OK specs, but it is running Windows XP, rather than Windows 7 starter like you'll find on many other notebooks.
If you can spend $30 more you can get one with Windows 7, which provides a much nicer experience. But if you just want a handy second computer to travel with, take to classes or keep by the couch, this is a good fit.
You'll find laptops cheaper than this one, and some HP G62 models for less, but this is really the only entry-level system you should be looking at.
With a dual core processor and 3GB of RAM, it should be able to handle the needs of your average home user without the lag you would find on the single core $198 notebooks.
This is perhaps one of the best Black Friday laptop deals we have seen for 2010. You can find this specific model for $200 off the retail price and it comes with a new Intel Core i5 processor that can scale up to faster speeds when needed.
Note, this isn't a gaming machine. But given the plentiful RAM and fast processor, it should handle the needs of even a demanding home user, even handling video editing and photo editing needs for most consumers.
At only $100 more than many dual core notebooks this is well worth the extra cash, even if it means you take someone off your holiday shopping list.
If you've been looking for an ultra-portable laptop with a fast processor and extras, the Toshiba R705 (particularly from Best Buy on sale) is your notebook.
In addition to a snappy Core i3 processor the R705 comes with Intel WiDi which will allow you to stream HD content to your HDTV with a WiDi adapter ($99). The R705 offers a great value in terms of portability and power without the need for a lot of tradeoffs.
The 11" MacBook Air is certainly a hot item this holiday season, offering a portable computing experience with long battery life in a beautiful package.
Unfortunately, the base model that starts at $999 has a pretty slow processor, only 2 GB of RAM and a paltry 64GB of storage. If you can handle these tradeoffs, the 11.6" MacBook Air does offer users a highly portable laptop that is perfect for webwork.
If you can afford the extra cash, look into bumping up to 4GB of RAM. Don't forget the deals available from MacMall or the Apple Education discount.
||$499 and up||
The iPad continues to offer one of the best slate tablet experiences for consumers who want access to the hottest apps, streaming video and a great web experience.
Access to the iTunes app store means you can use the iPad to stream Netflix or Hulu, read a book from the Amazon Kindle library or play Angry Birds on a big screen. At $499 — as low as $449 refurbished — you get a snappy tablet that can go from the office to the plane to the bedroom without skipping a beat.
Beware the iPad doesn't support Flash for web browsing. This isn't an issue for most websites, but worth mentioning. Note: There is a 3G version, but unless you really need the mobile access save yourself some cash and stick with the entry WiFi-only models.
The Galaxy Tab is positioned as a pocket-able competitor to the iPad thanks to its 7" screen. Like the iPad, you have access to an app store, in this case the Android Marketplace, but unlike the iPad you don't have access to Netflix or Hulu. On the other hand, you do gain a 1.3MP camera that allows you to video chat.
Right now you can only buy the Galaxy Tab with a data plan, which can run from $15 to $80 a month. Reportedly, Best Buy will be offering a $499 WiFi-only Galaxy Tab, which would offer a better value, but it hasn't yet arrived on store shelves.
*Prices are subject to change. You can set up alerts to check for price drops.
Now it's your turn to vote! Tell us which of these is your choice for the best buy, and we'll calculate that into our decision as we move into the semifinals. If you've got more to say that just picking your choice, join us on our Facebook page and continue the discussion.
Josh Smith is a freelance writer who writes frequently about technology and consumer electronics and is based in Ohio. Follow him on Twitter — @josh_smith. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
For more great Black Friday coverage: