Netbooks are a relatively new item to go on sale but the concept of a tiny laptop to carry pretty much anywhere is brilliant! They are quickly becoming fully-fledged laptops with quick processors, heaps of memory and massive hard disks.
So far, there seems to be one clear winner on the processor-front when it comes to a Netbook. The Intel Atom platform seems to be the platform of choice for pretty much all manufacturers. Those manufacturers who have chosen a different platform have found the machines suffering from poor battery life and speed. Watch out for the new AMD Geode platform though, which might make some heads turn soon!
Due to Microsoft licensing terms, you will not find a Netbook with Windows XP and 2GB RAM. If you would like 2GB of RAM (which I advise so that the machine is perfectly ready for the release of Windows 7) then you will have to choose a machine such as the HP Mini 1240 which carries 2GB RAM and Windows Vista, else get a machine with Linux installed if you can cope with it.
Screen size is all important on a Netbook. Of course, you want the screen to be as large as possible to make it easy to see, but at the same time larger screens will probably add to the dimensions and weight of the machine. Find a trade off for yourself, but a 10" seems to be emerging as the size of choice. Most have a resolution of 1024x600 which seems to be OK for using the machine as it is intended - for net browsing! You will need to make sure the machine is as small and light as possible if you want to carry it round as it is intended.
Most Netbooks carry a full array of expansion opportunities, but they all miss an optical drive - therefore software for installation will either have to come over a home network or from the Internet. Other than that, the majority carry USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port for connection to an external monitor or projector and even 10/100 or 10/100/1000 Ethernet. If you are really lucky you will find an ExpressCard slot for using a slot-in mobile broadband modem. The majority of machines carry a webcam in the top of the screen with accompanying microphones for video web conferencing.