Netbooks will always be limited by processing power, memory, disk I/O, and FSB. It is kind of like making a portable stove. Sure, it can get the job done, but there's only so much you can cook up on it. When looking at a netbook consider these objectives:
Quality of the screen is important. Screen resolution on netbooks with lower screen resolutions may lack substantial quality. Screens that are capable of rendering higher are few and far between, but resolutions like 1080P may be unusable due to the physical size of the screen.
With duel-core Atom processors now available, this will now effectively double processing speed and is recommended. 4GB memory modules for netbooks are becoming possible. With a standard of 2 slots, could give you 8GB, which your underpowered netbook will enjoy.
Forget the super small 7200 RPM hard drives coming with a lot of newer netbooks. Look for solid state hard drives that are compatible and have a better read/write/burst than these drives. Finding all of this in one package will not be easy. Higher end Acer Apire One models came with ATI Radeon HD 4225, but do you really want to run Photoshop on a micro-computer that can lack basic airflow?
Netbooks are not capable of any advanced graphical capability due to the lack of miniaturization in the dedicated graphics market. There have been advancements in on-board Intel display hardware, but that as good as it will go. Dedicated graphics installed on high-end netbooks defeat the purpose of netbooks: Low cost systems that allow you get on the net and author documents on the go. Do not expect to be playing the latest and greatest games on a netbook any time soon, or even be satisfied by doing so.
The Asus Eee PC was revolutionary for its time. Similarly,the Acer Aspire One expanded on this concept. The Dell Mini series was an attempt to jump into and take over this market, but lacked the horsepower and battery life most ussrs were looking for. When Dell first placed the Mini 9, they could not provide a Windows version with 2GB of RAM. This was because contractual arrangements with Microsoft classified any computer with 2GB of RAM or higher as requiring license purchases from manufacturers. Manufacturers could classify their hardware designs as netbook with Microsoft and take benefit of Windows at a reduced cost for so long as the onboard memory as 1GB. This meant Dell could never sell a Mini 9 with Microsoft Windows at the price they were looking at, while also providing 2GB of RAM. To get around this, they started offering Mini 9 N's with Linux. The systems were identical to the Windows versions. At the time, you could have acquired a 2GB Linux-powered Mini 9, upgraded it with a clean install to Windows 7, upgraded the SSD to a higher speed Runcore drive, and enjoyed a reduced cost.
However, when you consider all of the loops and hobbles necessary to do this, a dedicated laptop/notebook is probably the best idea. Outside of what are considered netbooks, Sony has marketed high-end, aesthetically appealing "micro-computers". Similarly, other companies followed suit. Realistically, netbooks are a great way for computer manufacturers to make money on hardware they could never, ever sell in a traditional laptop: slow processors, limited graphics, and almost no RAM. These systems are good for those with little space, a low budget, and want Internet access. They pale in comparison to newer laptops, many of which have adopted a slim, space conservative design.
Netbooks without touch screen technology will be obsoleted by 2013, following the release of Windows 8. The touch screen interface and support is likely to embarrass manufacturers and force them to bring touch-screen or body and hand tracking technology (see: Kinect). While netbooks were hyped early last year, their staying power in the industry is currently in wait.
With the power of ARM processors becoming more apparent, one might want to wait and see what Windows 8 netbooks amd smart devices will have to offer