Netbooks are the new ipods this year! The took up 8 of the 10 spots on Amazon's top seller list towards the end of the year. I am going to share my experiences with the HP Mini and the Eee PC.
We first bought the Eee PC at target. They just had it laying around at the end of an aisle - they were still there the last time I was there. They go for only $299! The one we got was the 901 I believe and had a forked version of debian on it called Xandros. The out-of-the-box experience was pretty good. Firefox 2 , Skype, and a bunch of other apps were preinstalled. There were also launchers for gmail and google docs. I also give them credit for doing a great job integrating with the hardware. Most stuff worked fairly painlessly, by Linux standards at least. However, the we never could get it to work with our brothers 210c printer because the device driver wasn't on the list. Also, the wireless was flaky at times. Sometimes when it starts up from sleep mode, it takes a while for the wireless to connect, sometimes you have to even manually restart the connection. During our vacation, we could never get it to connect to the access point at the resort, whereas the windows XP machine was able to connect. The community for the Eee PC is pretty good, I figured out how to install a program someone wrote to add custom launchers to my desktop. Surprisingly, it had ruby and python preinstalled. I installed a whole rails dev environment on it too. It had only 4G of on-board storage(flash, no harddisk) so we had to be careful what to install. At the end though, the keyboard was too small and the touch pad buttons were too hard to press. It really wasn't comfortable doing dev work on it.
So, a couple of month in to using the Eee PC, we saw the HP Mini at Costco. The main thing that attracted us to it was - it looked good! We decide to get it, and if we liked it, we would return the Eee PC(Target and Costco both have 90 return policies for electronics). The Mini's keyboard is much larger than that of the Eee and much more comfortable. The mouse buttons are placed strangly on the left and right vertical sides of the touch pad. The operating system is Window XP, not Vista, what a relief! We are very familiar with XP so that's a plus. It's got a 60G harddrive in it, much more spacious, so we can put pictures on it, unlike the Eee. It's got USB and an SD-mini slot, good for use with our camera. The form factor of the Mini is lengthier than the Eee because it's a wide screen. The Mini is very fast coming out of sleep mode, and the wireless works much more reliably than the Eee. But I have had once when the wireless couldn't connect and I had to manually repair it. We like the HP Mini, and looks like we are going to stick with it.