Bigger than a standard 10-inch Netbook, but still less powerful and less expensive than even budget-minded midsize systems, 11.6-inch laptops sit somewhat awkwardly between categories. Some call them premium Netbooks, others tag them as ultraportable systems. In general, they're what you get when you take a standard 10-inch Netbook and make it a little bigger, a little more powerful, and a little more expensive.
The timing for the current explosion of 11.6-inch systems couldn't be better, as the Netbook genre was starting to feel a little dated. That's mostly the fault of Netbook manufacturers, who have frozen the performance and specs of most 10-inch $299 devices at the same Atom level, more or less, since their inception.
These in-betweeners admittedly cost more, from $399 to more than $500, but they bring more to the table, too. Many of these machines use single- or dual-core AMD Neo processors. They can handle full-screen video streaming decently, as well as some (very) light gaming. Many of these machines also add useful extra ports, such as HDMI.
We've rounded up the highlights from 2010 so far in a handy gallery format below. Though these premium portables still don't rise to the level of being a true replacement for a full-size laptop, they should have enough muscle to satisfy consumers looking for a cheap, tiny laptop that can do a bit more than a single-core Intel Atom Netbook. As a special bonus, we've also included two very different but interesting 12-inch outliers: the Intel Atom/Nvidia Ion Asus Eee PC 1201PN, and the full-featured, fast, and pricey ThinkPad X201.