Latest Netbooks Go Upscale

Talk about timing. The first netbooks arrived in fall 2007, selling for prices between US$250 and $400 just before the current recession kicked in. Even though the economy continues to look gloomy, however, a funny thing is happening: Netbooks are going upscale. Exhibit A: the , which sells for $900.

Yes, you read that right: $900 for a netbook. Granted, it's a Sony, meaning it has style and sex appeal to spare. But like other netbooks, the Sony Vaio P isn't designed to be as powerful as a full-fledged laptop, which can sell for $500 and up.

The Vaio P is just one of several new upwardly mobile netbooks. Here's a quick reality check on the features some of these new netbooks offer. Caveat: I haven't tested any of the netbooks that I mention. My comments are based on past experience with other netbooks and laptops. Some of the netbooks mentioned below are pictured in our online gallery, "."

Integrated Cellular Broadband

Sony's Vaio P is among the growing number of netbooks featuring a built-in cellular modem for surfing the Internet. The Vaio P connects to Verizon's EVDO network (monthly fees and contract apply). This is a nice feature to have, if you need Internet access on the go and can't rely on Wi-Fi hot spots.

Reality check: Cellular data connections can be a big battery drain, and most netbook batteries don't last more than 2 or 3 hours. (We don't have test data on the Vaio P's battery as of this writing. claims the computer can run for 4 hours with a standard-capacity battery, depending on how the Vaio P is used.)