Netbooks are not designed with a gamer in mind. In none of the specimens we’ve seen is the graphic card muscled enough to have the equivalent of an Intel HD Graphic 4000 at the very least as this GPU defines our threshold graphics engine to qualify as a gaming device for 2013. Almost all of them use integrated GPUs that are no more muscled than an Intel HG Graphics 2500 and are therefore incapable of playing sophisticated games released even 2-3 years ago. Netbooks generally have the power of desktop PCs released 5-6 years ago and it is not surprising that they can play games released 5-6 years ago.
In short, if you want to play sophisticated games while on the road , stay clear of netbooks. You would be better off with a low-end gaming laptop with an Intel Graphics HD 4000 GPU. For instance, the $499 price of the HP Pavilion DMw-43120nr netbook with 11.6-inch display and powered by a Radeon 7340 for its graphics will not hold a candle to a $454 HP Pavilion g7-2238nr whose graphics engines enjoys a more muscled Radeon HD 7520G that can play demanding games even at low to medium setting. It even has a gorgeous 17.3-inch display to boot
But while, the market for netbooks are not gamers, even casual gamers can enjoy several classic games on the netbook if doing nothing else while on the road. Apart from Farmville, CitiVille, Zynga Poker and other Facebook games online, the early highly rated Diablo I and II can be played, along with StarCraft 1and 2, Sims 3, Fifa II, Portal 1 and 2, Half Life 2, KOTOR, Trackmania Nations Forever, Grand Theft Auto 3/Vice City, Warcarft 3, Final Fantasy VII and Age of Empires, to mention some of the better known classics.
Some High End Netbooks for Casual Gamers
Dell Alienware AM11X-2894CSB
If you are determined to find one that can decently play even those 2012 RPG and FSP games at low to medium setting, consider the Dell Alienware AM11X-2894CSB. At $609.99 for a second hand unit ($800 when new), it sports a standard 11.6-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution and is powered by a 1.3 GHz 1st generation Intel Core 2 Duo. Its GPU is the NVidia GeForce GT335M which is about 4% more muscled than the Intel HD Graphics 4000, this should give you enough power to play many of the 2012 games at low game settings.
Dell Alienware M14x R2 AM14XR2-6111BK
A newly launched model is the Dell Alienware M14x R2 AM14XR2-6111BK powered by a 3rd generation Intel Core i7-3610QM clocked at 2,5 GHZ that can jump up to 3.0 GHZ with turboboost. A 8GB DDR system RAM and a more powerful Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with its on 2 GB DDR5. Demanding games from 2011 such as Battlefield 3 becomes playable in medium to high settings. But this one is larger than a netbook with a 14-inch 1366 x 768 screen which puts it hallway between a netbook and a laptop. Just save up for its $1,149.99 price tag which beats out several sub-$1000 laptops that have more gaming power.
Acer C7 C710-2847 Chromebook
As PC makers slowly move from netbooks into Chromebooks running the Chrome OS from Google, we can’t help notice that Chromebooks have basically the same footprint as netbooks – 11.6-inch displays and 3lb weights. The market may not realize it, but Chromebooks appear to be a repositioning of netbooks. Consider the new Acer C7 C710-2847 Chromebook which at a mere $235, is powered by the Intel dual core B847 clocked at 1.1GHz with 2GB DDR3 system RAM. What makes this a standout is its Intel Graphics 4000 which should give the casual gamer more choices in playing recently released RPG and FSP games.
Samsung Series 3 NP300E5C-A08US
Casual gaming can easily be satisfied with laptops equipped with the Intel HD Graphics 4000 for its graphics engine. The Samsung Series 3 NP300E5C-A08US priced at a discounted $549.99 is one such laptop that has a 15.6-inch LED backlit display with a typical 1366 x 768 HD resolution and powered by a 2.5 GHz clocked 2nd generation Intel dual core i5-321OM with a basic 4 GB DDR3 system RAM expandable to 8 GB. It comes with a standard 500 GB SATA hard drive and an 8x SuperMulti optical drive.
Laptop with graphics cards rated at around 5% less muscled than the Intel HD Graphics 4000 may be considered for casual gaming. The Asus A55VD-AH71 sports a 15.5-inch LED backlist display with 1366 x 768 resolution driven by the NVidia GT 610M GPU which is rated 3% lower than our gaming threshold GPU. This means most ROPG and FSP games released over the last two can play at low same settings while some like the 2011 Elder Scrolls V will hardly play without skipping a beat or two. Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 will not play at all while some like FIFA 12 and the 2010 Call of Duty Black Ops can play at high game settings. Only an inch thick and weighing 5.8 lbs, it is powered by the Intel quad core i7-3610OM clocked at 2.7 GHz with 8GB DDR3 system RAM and is bundled with Windows 8.
Putting all the gaming muscle in netbook borders on the miraculous but there are a few in the upscale price points that have succeeded to go beyond the gaming abilities of netbooks. But with laptops already entering the price points , size and weight range of netbooks (i.e., VivoBooks, Chromebooks, Ultrabooks), you can expect newer models to arrive that have more in common with gaming laptops without breaking your bank account.