For as long as netbooks have existed, people have been buying more and more of them. More than 33.3 million netbooks will have shipped by year’s end, amounting to a 103 percent increase over last year. Revenue will be up about 72 percent indicating some price cuts. But according to DisplaySearch, as laptops with ultra low voltage (ULV) CPUs become cheaper, netbook sales will slow considerably.
They project netbook shipments to only grow by about 20 percent next year. Still, the situation can’t be bad when 20 percent growth is a big drop. As ULV laptops creep below $500, consumers will begin purchasing them in larger numbers. ULV computers have similarly good battery life, but better performance than netbooks running Atom chips.
The report also suggests that the uptick in ULV sales will likely mean manufacturers will take a revenue hit of only 1% or so. While netbooks will remain big sellers, they probably won’t have another year like 2009.
This holiday, you pull the wraps off a brand new laptop and open the lid to your shiny new mobile companion. The first thought you might have is to consider which apps you should install first and what's the fastest way to load the up the hard disk with music and movies. Of course, you inevitably have to think about your old laptop, and what price you can sell it for on Craigslist. But before you dump an old laptop or retire it to the den of forgotten gadgets, here are eight practical ideas on how you can extend its life.
GammaTech’s Durabook D14RM is the antidote for folks who are really rough on their hardware. The notebook’s gray and black magnesium-alloy case, complete with black rubberized corners, not only makes the rig look burly, but also serves to protect it from aggressive manhandling.
GammaTech says the notebook complies with MIL-STD-810F guidelines for ruggedness, so we put those claims to the test. We “accidentally” knocked the D14RM off a desk when the machine was open and running a program, dropped it from a standing position onto a concrete floor (a few times, because it gave us such a thrill), and spilled a full 16-ounce cup of liquid across its keyboard. The D14RM withstood all that abuse without any apparent damage to its structure or functionality. And mind you, the D14RM uses a mechanical hard drive. Yes, an SSD seems like a more obvious choice for a notebook that’s meant to be tossed about, but then it wouldn’t be nearly so affordable.
These days, netbooks have become a very popular alternative to conventional notebooks for mobile computing. Netbooks are lightweight, have great battery life, and are relatively inexpensive compared to full-sized notebooks. This makes them ideal for students or people on a budget. Of course, the lower cost and extended battery life does not come without a trade-off—many netbooks have lower system specs as well, which means that they are not designed for heavy-computing applications.
Although many netbooks now run Windows XP because of Microsoft's hurried entry into that market, many earlier models were built to run Linux. (For instance, the Asus Eee 700 Series ran Xandros, and the current models are offered with either Linux or Windows) And although most current netbooks are x86-based (running the Intel Atom CPU), the usage of ARM-based CPU chips is likely to increase in the future since ARM offers far superior energy efficiency over x86 and battery life has always been a major factor in mobile computing. ARM chips have been used successfully for some time in smartphones and music players, including the newest Zune HD. Since ARM is a different CPU architecture than x86, Windows will not work on ARM. Earlier this year, Microsoft's Steve Guggenheim said that the company currently has no plans to port Windows 7 to the ARM architecture. Therefore, any new wave of ARM-based netbooks will run Linux once again. Unlike Windows, most Linux distros can be compiled for ARM if you have the requisite skills for doing so.
Linux is an ideal choice for netbooks for multiple reasons in addition to CPU architecture. Netbooks generally have lower specs than most full-size notebooks (not to mention desktops) so they are ideal for lightweight applications like web browsing, document preparation, etc. Linux does these tasks very well without the bloat that Windows systems have to deal with from anti-malware utilities. This primer will help you set up and optimize Linux for your netbook.
If the Voodoo Envy was HP's answer to Apple's Macbook Air, than the just-announced Envy 13 and 15 laptops are diect responses to Apple's Macbook Pro lineup. Sacrificing edgy styling and ridiculously-thin dimensions (seriously, who cares anymore?), the new Envys are built more for performance to meet the demands of the high-end market. These are definitely not underpowered thin-and-lights -- the 13.1-inch model packs a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, 3GB of DDR3 memory, and an ATI Radeon HD 4330 discrete graphics card. The 15-inch model is even more powerful. And both support an innovative battery slice add-on for prolonged use.
Read on for our full impressions of both laptops and a large gallery of hands-on photos!
With all the fuss being made about netbooks, you’d think they were God’s gift to computing convenience. Sure, there’s something to be said for those low-cost, low-power machines, but what if you actually need to get some real work done? There’s nothing convenient about being hobbled by an anemic processor, a relatively low-res screen, a shrunken keyboard, and the various other compromises that contribute to a netbook’s cost savings.
For extreme portability in a machine that packs a punch, you’ll need to set your sights higher, to an ultraportable notebook. Ultraportable notebooks are every bit as light, or lighter than, a netbook, with the added benefit of superior features and a more powerful processor. As a general rule, you’ll find your hardiest ultraportables among the business-class models, which are made for both regular travel and all-around productivity. Of course, convenience of this caliber comes at a premium price—usually four to five times the cost of the average netbook.
Thus, choosing an ultraportable is not a decision to be taken lightly. To help you out, we gathered up four elite representatives of the class and put them through rigorous testing. Obviously, we can’t expect any ultraportable machine to have the muscle required for chores like video editing, batch transcoding, or serious gaming. But we do expect these notebooks to accomplish the gamut of typical day-to-day tasks, including photo editing, slide-show creation, and multitasking. And we expect them to offer all the comfort and features necessary for full-fledged computing on the go.
We’re unabashed fans of HP’s Touch-Smart desktop machines, so we were really looking forward to getting our digits on the new technology in a convertible touch-screen notebook PC. But our eager anticipation only made the reality of the TouchSmart tx2 all that more disappointing.
This is the first convertible touch-screen PC designed for the consumer market, and its underlying hardware—which in our review unit included AMD’s best mobile CPU—delivered enough horsepower for this machine’s touch-screen elements. Benchmark performance, on the other hand, was dismal (more on that later).
You can use the TouchSmart tx2 as a conventional notebook PC or rotate its 12.1-inch screen 180 degrees, lay it flat, and use the machine’s tablet functionality. The 1280x800 touch screen uses active digitizing technology and supports the use of either a fingertip or a digital pen (as opposed to the simple stylus that HP shipped with its first-generation TouchSmart desktops). The digital pen delivers hover feedback (it doesn’t have to touch the screen to activate user-interface elements, such as tooltips) and considerably more precision than a fingertip.
While other manufacturers stretch the “netbook” designation by upping their screen sizes to 11, 12, or even 13 inches, HP seems content to stick with the 10.1 inch form factor and Atom 280 architecture. But the new Mini 5101 “Executive” deviates from the norm in several respects—including, doubtless, the price.
The HP Mini 5101 is one of the classiest-looking netbooks we’ve seen, with its anodized black brushed-aluminum shell and magnesium chassis. Most of its internal specs are standard for this year’s netbooks, including a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor, 1GB of DDR2/533 SDRAM (easily accessible and therefore upgradeable), and integrated Gigabit Ethernet. But unlike standard netbooks, which usually cap out at 160GB of storage, the 5101 can be customized with up to 320GB of standard hard drive space (with a built-in hard-drive accelerometer), or solid-state drives in either 80GB or 128GB flavors. More unusually, the Mini 5101 can be upgraded with a 1366 x 768 screen.
While there are plenty of notebooks that can lay claim to stylishness, whether it’s with a sleek, metallic chassis or a trendy graphic enveloping the chassis, the Lenovo ThinkPad T400s foregoes the fashionable aesthetics in favor of comfort, performance, and reliability.
Though it’s outfitted in simple, unassuming black matte, this lightweight gem sports a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SP9400 processor and a 128GB SSD drive with 2GB of memory, along with a mixture of other hardware delights, including a USB/eSata port, a 14.1-inch LED-backlit WXGA display, and an optical drive . The T400s also comes equipped with an ergonomic keyboard that’s extremely comfortable for typing on for extended periods of time and includes the ThinkPad’s standard TrackPoint navigation system, as well as a Multi-touch Touchpad.
The Alienware brand conjures images of powerful and elite computing hardware—think of the nearly invincible antagonist from the 1987 action flick, Predator. Alienware’s M17 looks the part, but the unit we received for review was about as dangerous as E.T.
Our zero-point notebook is based on Intel’s Core 2 Duo E6700 and Nvidia’s GeForce Go 8600M, so we’ve grown accustomed to newer challengers gutting it. But for all its bulk and menacing looks, the M17 proved to be only slightly faster than that aging reference rig, and it was considerably slower in our nongaming benchmarks than the HP HDX 18 we reviewed in January.
Despite the presence of two ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 GPUs running in CrossFire X, the M17, which came equipped with 64-bit Vista Home Premium, turned in an anemic performance in our gaming benchmarks, with Quake 4 clocking in at 119.2fps and FEAR at just 26fps. Compare that to the Gateway P-7811 FX we examined in our October issue, which pumped out Quake 4 at 133fps and FEAR at 108fps.