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LAS VEGAS, NEV.— With so much computer work done directly on the Web, ailing PC makers at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here are banking on the adoption of "netbooks," which let people browse their favorite sites and check e-mail using a smaller and cheaper (but also slower and less powerful) laptop.

When the CES exhibit floor opens Thursday, HP is set to roll out its $500 Mini 2140, a netbook that weighs in at 2.6 pounds and has a 10.1-inch diagonal scratch-resistant HP Illumi-Lite LED display. In one upgrade from HP's older netbooks, the Mini 2140 has a keyboard that's only about 8 percent  smaller than a full-size laptop keyboard. Another upgrade is a computer chip that sends a signal to shut down the hard drive if the netbook is dropped or smacks into something hard. The Mini 2140 is powered by an Intel Atom processor, designed to run cooler, using less power and improving battery life.

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. ushered in the netbook in 2007 with its $300 Eee PC, which  has  an Intel Celeron processor (not as robust as the newer Atom) and a seven-inch screen. At CES, Asus (which predicts it will have sold 7 million Eee PCs by the end of this year) introduced its Eee PC S101 and S101H (both of which cost about $650), which uses a hard-disk drive rather than flash for memory. Hard drives can store more information longer than flash, which takes up less memory and is cheaper.

Other players in the market: MSI Computer Corp., whose MSI Wind U100 is a 10-inch netbook that also uses the Atom processor (price: $500), and Sylvania, which makes three different netbook models (as low as $300).

Image courtesy of HP