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Even though iPads and other tablets have largely usurped the limelight, netbooks are not going gently into that good night. And with good reason. The netbook is still a perfectly functional form factor for when you need a miniature alternative to a laptop, and could be great for e-reading if you’re willing to overlook the awkwardness of the mini-laptop form factor (or simply turn it on its side to use it like a tablet with a large sideways keyboard hanging off of it).

Here are a few interesting netbook-related stories that have surfaced recently.

Augen, More Often

augen-genbook-108 Augen, the maker of the $100 netbook and $150 Android tablet we mentioned a couple of months back, is back, with a 10.2” 800 MHz ARM/256 MB RAM/2 GB internal storage Android 2.1 netbook, the GenBook 108, retailing via KMart.com for $189.99. Of course, the device won’t have access to Google’s Android store, but it could potentially still work as an Android e-reader and web browser, right? (Found via Engadget.)

But before you shell out for this, you should remember that the reviews of Augen’s other devices have been by and large not-great, and for the same amount of money paid to Geeks.com you could get an ASUS Eee PC 1000 Atom N270 1.6GHz 1GB 16GB SSD 10.1" LED-Backlit Netbook XP Home w/Webcam, 6-Cell & Bluetooth (Ebony), or something similar. Sure, it’s two years old and refurbished, but the specs still kick the Augen’s butt—and it can run full-fledged desktop apps, not just Android programs.

(You could also get a refurbished Augen Windows CE machine for $95, but bear in mind that they can’t have new applications installed on them—they’re just toys.)

Dude, You’re Getting a Tabletbook?

duo-inspiron-idf-gal-rm-eng-1 Engadget has a story on an interesting 10” Dell Inspiron Duo netbook prototype shown off at Intel’s IDF 2010 keynote that comes with an interesting swivel gizmo on the monitor. The screen is actually mounted inside of a frame, and can flip around 180 degrees so that when the lid is closed it appears for all the world to be a thick 10” tablet. Featuring a dual-core Atom N550 and running Windows 7, it should be out by the end of the year.

The Dell Latitude XT2 convertible netbook/tablet featured a swivel at the base of the screen, turning the entire thing around 180 degrees before closing it to make a tablet. The Inspiron Duo mechanism at least looks significantly less flimsy. And if it works as well as it looks, it would give its users the convenience of a tablet for media consumption combined with the versatility of an available hardware keyboard. Certainly looks like a nifty toy to play with to me.

Asus? Aces!

asus-eee-pc-1015pem And speaking of the N550, Asus just introduced a new model of Eee PC, the 1015PEM, using a 1.5GHz dual-core N550 and featuring up to 350 GB hard drive and 1GB RAM. It comes loaded with Windows 7 Starter Edition and starts at $349. Not specifically e-book related, but it can read e-books just as well as the rest of them. And again, it serves to show what a poor bargain spending $190 for an Augen Android device really is.

A netbook has the potential to be a decent alternative to a tablet for e-reading, with the added benefit that you can easily do things that are more keyboard-intensive, too. As the above stories demonstrate, there are a lot of choices available, both now and in the near-future—something that stands in stark contrast to the tablet field where there’s the iBook and then there’s…not much else.

As with anything, of course, the standard rule applies: caveat emptor. Be careful what you pay for.

 
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