Early batches of Dell's Inspiron Mini 9 notebooks had customers scratching their heads over what appeared to be a case of paying for a larger size solid state drive but receiving a smaller one instead. How else would you explain paying for a 16GB SSD only to find 4GB of usable space in the default shipping state?
The answer, says Dell, is a partitioning SNAFU. The confusion stemmed from Dell using a 4GB Ubuntu image for new installs regardless of the SSD size, causing some customers to "freak out" before discovering the unused and unpartitioned remaining space. The problem has since been addressed, but if you own an early model with the incorrect partition scheme, running the included system restore DVD partitions the entire drive and makes the world right again.
It may have taken Asus a year to get there, but the ultraportable Eee PC has finally been spotted for an ultra-affordable price tag. For a copper Lincoln shy of $300, Best Buy is currently selling the Eee PC 900A with an Intel Atom N270 processor clocked at 1.6GHz on a 533MHz frontside bus. Other goodies nestled inside the netbook include 1GB of DDR2 memory, a 4GB solid-state drive, 8.9-inch WSVGA widescreen display, integrated graphics, WiFi, and three USB 2.0 ports all running on Linux.
Kudos to Asus for finally offering a model priced in line with its specs, though Asus isn't the only guilty culprit to avoid doing so up to this point. Despite the immense popularity of netbooks in general, many models regardless of vendor have nipped at the heels of traditional laptops in terms of price, which generally offer more power, more storage space, and, well, more of everything. Asus new 900A puts some much needed distance between the two sectors, which is great for anyone looking to pick up a mini-notebook. Then again, no matter what the price, cynics it's still a mini-notebook under the hood.
We can expect a deluge of touch panel notebooks in the immediate future. Merely a week ago, general manger of the Eee PC division at Asustek, Samson Hu, had said that the company is contemplating touch panel Eee PCs.
Nvidia scored a much needed win for its mobile graphics with the release of the 9400M GPU, which Apple has chosen to use in its refreshed MacBook line. Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave credit to the 9400M for offering better performance in the new MacBooks, ultimately leading the company to choose Nvidia over Intel.
One could argue that vendor confidence in Nvidia had been more than a little rattled after it came to light that the company's 8M series might have a more serious design flaw than initially thought. What started off as a bad batch of GPUs quickly turned into speculation that the problem could be widespread among Nvidia's silicon, affecting not only mobile parts but desktop solutions as well. But Apple could be just what Nvidia needs to turn this perception around.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the netbook sector is one of the hottest areas in the PC market. Demand has been so high that, despite a weakening global economy, mini-notebooks have played a large role in worldwide PC shipments reaching 80.6 million units in the third quarter of 2008. That's a 15 percent jump from this same time last year. Ironically enough, economic woes might be exactly the reason why sales have been so good.
"In the North America market, the economic crunch created more interest in the sub-$500 segment," noted Mika Kitagawa, principal analyst for Gartner's Client Computing Markets group. "Because the mini-notebook is still a new segment, it is too early to determine if the emerging segment created new market opportunities, or if it cannibalized lower priced systems."
Gartner notes that Asus and Acer have been two of the bigger beneficiaries of the emerging mini-notebook sector, as both companies "had a strong focus and acted quickly." As a result, other vendors are playing catch-up, but it might prove difficult to reach the same level of market expansion that Asus and Acer have been able to reach. Acer especially had a good third quarter, recording a 47 percent growth in worldwide PC unit shipments from Q3 2007.
Samsung this week announced plans to re-enter the U.S. computer market with a lineup ranging from ultraportable to desktop replacements aimed at business professionals. On the lighter side, Samsung's X-Series looks to position itself as a strong competitor to Apple's MacBook Air, and the company isn't shy about letting this be known.
"These products really go after Apple and Sony," said Bret Berg, senior product manager for Samsung's U.S. computer division. "This is the MacBook Air killer."
Samsung will look to back that statement with its X360, a 2.8-pound notebook measuring 1.2 inches at its thickest point and sporting a 13.3-inch display. For $1,900, the X360 comes with a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9300 processor, a 120GB hard drive, and 4GB of DDR3 1066MHz RAM, whereas the $2,500 model steps up to a 1.4GHz U9400 chip and a 128GB solid-state drive, or twice the storage space of the Apple Air selling for $2,600.
For those who need a little more screen real estate, the X460 bumps up to a 14.1-inch display while adding in discrete graphics (GeForce 9200M GS 256MB) and a DVD burner. Like its slightly smaller sibling, the X460 will come in two flavors. The $1,700 version buys a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P3750 processor and 250GB hard drive space, or pony up $100 more for a 2.26GHz P8400 chip and a 320GB hard drive.
E-tailers will start carrying the new lineup in mid-November.
The era of quad-core mobile gaming draws closer as Asus gears up to release its G71 gaming notebook. Quad-core processors in notebooks are nothing new, but the G71 will use a true mobile quad-core CPU, specifically the Intel QX9300.
The 17-inch notebook uses a GeForce 9700M GT videocard with 512MB of GDDR3 RAM to push gaming pixels on the display's 1920x1200 resolution. Users can configure up to 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory, and on the non-volatile storage front, up to two 500GB hard drives for a total of 1TB. In other words, it will be a long time before you have to decide between installing a new game or storing porn.
Other features include a 2MP webcam, secondary keyboard display so you can keep an eye on your MSN Messenger IMs while gaming, optional Blu-ray drive, HDMI, eSATA, and everything else you'd expect to find on a modern high-end laptop.
Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, but did we mention it comes with a quad-core processor?
Battery life isn't just the bane of desktop replacements, but even moderately spec'd notebooks aren't immune from woefully short runs before requiring a recharge. And while HP has laid claim to breaking the 24-hour battery barrier, by and large we're simply not at the point of seeing extraordinary long battery life as a way of mobile life.
That doesn't mean headway isn't being made, and Toshiba thinks it can give traditional Li-Ion batteries a run for its money. Toshiba's calling its prototype the Super Charge Ion Battery (SCiB), which is being designed for notebooks. And by Super Charge, Toshiba says SCiB is capable of recharging up to 90 percent in just 10 minutes or less.
Still not impressed? Not only does SCiB hold the potential for wicked fast recharge times, but its said to both last longer and endure more charging cycles when compared to today's lithium-ion batteries. And it's not even close. Whereas lithium-ion batteries can be expected to last 500 charging cycles on average, Toshiba says its SCiB technology will last anywhere between 5000 to 6000 recharges.
By our own admission, MacBooks aren't half bad. In Maximum PC'sApple's Notebooks Take On the PC Competition, Apple's MacBook walked away as best-in-class in the professional segment, much to the dismay of the PC faithful. But that doesn't mean we're willing to squeeze our wallet dry to own one.
On average, you can expect to pay twice as much on an Apple PC versus a Vista computer. And people are doing just that. Windows PCs still dominate the lion's share of the market at 80 percent, but Apple continues to cling to a respectable 20 percent slice of the pie. Making its piece even more savory, Apple's making over 35 percent of the revenue share. Think about that. Despite claiming one-fifth of the market, Apple's cashing in on over a third of the revenue.
These numbers come courtesy of the latest NPD sales information, but some feel that Apple has done as well as it ever will at the current price point. Joe Wilcox from eWeek writes, "What's next? I predict that Apple's grab for dollars has gone about as far as it can, without price cuts. Apple's higher prices buck industry trends."
That may be the case, but can trendy hipsters be expected to buck the trend of overpaying?
Dell last week said it planned to make a major push in outfitting all of its notebooks with LED backlighting by the end of 2011, which not only represents a step towards being green, but will have customers saving green to the tune of $20 million based on a 220 million kilowatt-hour reduction. That's good news for all involved, and it gets even better if other OEMs jump on board, and it appears they are.
Citing "market watchers," DigiTimes reports that LED backlighting will make headway anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the notebook market in 2009. Overall penetration for 2008 has been much less at 10 percent, but Dell and other big name notebook vendors have put an increased emphasis on LED-backlight models resulting in a strong 15 percent penetration in the fourth quarter. Momentum is expected to carry over to next year and beyond.