With Fusion netbooks getting a lot of attention, the pressure will be on manufacturers in 2011 to add some pizazz to the Atom netbook.
Deciding between the two platforms will be a tough call, base on the latest Atom netbook accouncement to come our way. The ASUS Eee PC 1015PW is the company’s new flagship Atom system - it costs $469 and has a 1.5GHz dual core Atom N550 processor and 10.1in screen, along with an embossed "wave" pattern that comes in "purple rain", "gold dust" or "angel skin" colours.
Apart from the CPU and striking design, the new Eee PC comes with all the usual options you'd expect for a machine at this price: including Windows 7, a 6 cell battery, 1GB memory (max 2GB), 250GB HDD (max 320GB), 0.3MP webcam and 802.11n wireless.
By contrast, the Toshiba NB550D costs $499 and includes built-in Harman Kardon speakers, Toshiba's "speak and music" function which lets you play music when the machine is turned off, and an HDMI connection for streaming videos to a TV.
The ASUS Eee PC 1015PW in "Gold Dust". Colour options also include "Purple Rain" and "Angel Skin"
Cheap and light laptops
So where does this leave netbook shoppers? If you're after a cheap and light laptop or netbook in 2011, you're choices are currently split into three rough price brackets.
At the bottom, you've got Atom netbooks like the $399 Toshiba NB500. Unlike the N550D this entry level model forgoes extras like branded speakers, HDMI, and the Fusion chip.
Also on your shortlist should be systems with AMD's new Fusion chip, which allows for HD video playback. We've been testing Toshiba's brand new NB550D Fusion netbook.
At the other end of the scale, you've also got Core i3 laptops to consider. Our new A-List budget laptop is the Samsung Q330, which has a higher resolution 1366 x 768 13in screen and comes in at less than $1,000.
The arrival of AMD's Fusion looks like it will bring better graphical performance to the budget space. It will be interesting to see if it drives down the price of Atom netbooks this year.