Netbooks are the hot new computing item, and luckily they’re a helluva lot easier to pick than a special lady.

This is especially true for students or people that live have their lives on an airplane.  They’re small, light, and have enough tools to get the job done. They’re the Swiss Army knives of computers, but how to choose which is best for you?  Well here are three of the best (but totally different) netbooks.

Acer Aspire One ($275-$400)

It’s small, it’s stylish (especially if you get the blue one), and it balances adequate performance with a solid price.  It’s also available in a number of trims allowing you to customize this popular netbook to your precise specifications. [Buy it].

Good: It’s got an included webcam, small, stylish, customizable. Can be found on the cheap.
Bad: The right and left mouse buttons placed awkwardly, and the 3-cell battery isn’t sufficient, but the 6-cell bumps the price about $100.

Sony Lifestyle PC ($890-$1200)

The Sony Lifestyle PC – as you might guess from the name – is all about image.  Sure, it’s got enough horsepower to handle all the basic tasks, but pretty much every netbook does.  The big selling point for Sony is that it, frankly, is just a damn good looking computer.  If you’re the type of fella that eschews brains for beauty, then this laptop without a trackpad is probably right for you.  No offense. If it’s not on other lists of top netbooks (it isn’t) it’s because other lists aren’t quite so stylish as ours.  [Buy it]
Good: It’s very, very good looking.
Bad: It’s got no trackpad, is much more expensive and has an unusual screen ratio.

MSI Wind ($290-$430)

The MSI Wind is coming from a different direction than a lot of its competitors – and that’s a good thing.  But, for our money, a netbook should be tiny, portable, and cheap.  Seeing as that’s what it’s competitors were, the MSI became more powerful, larger, and a little more expensive.  However, if the other netbooks cramp your hands or style, perhaps the Wind is a solid compromise. [Buy it]
Good: It’s got more RAM, a larger hard drive, and a larger screen than the competition.
Bad: It’s probably going to cost you somewhere in the mid-to-high $400 range but it’s heavy for a netbook and only has a single button for the trackpad.

A word on operating systems
Probably the best, fastest, and most old-school way to shave a few dollars off the price of your netbook is to choose a non-Windows operating system (probably Linux).  Don’t let a new O.S. scare you.  A Linux system will perform the basic functions (email, word processing, and basic media playback) just fine.  However, because it is unfamiliar, an MSI executive recently revealed that Linux-equipped machines are returned 4 times more frequently.

A word on mobile broadband
A number of models are offering deals if you sign up for a year of mobile broadband.  While it may seem attractive at first, mobile broadband is prohibitively slow – youtube is a stretch, for example.  MadeMan suggests waiting for the next generation of mobile surfing. And jeez, how lazy are you that you can’t just find your own wireless network?

Bonus Netbook
There’s a huge potential for a wildly innovative netbook called the Touch Book to blow the netbook market to pieces this summer.  It’s part tablet, part netbook, and it can break into two pieces.  Obviously that means two batteries which gives it 10+ hours of runtime.  Who knows if it will live up to our dreams, but you can preorder one for “early summer” on their web site.