The first consumer products powered by Advanced Micro Devices' upcoming Fusion chips will be available early next year, officials at the chip maker said today. The Fusion family consists of chips, or APUs (Accelerated Processing units), that combine CPU and GPU cores onto a single die.
The Ontario (codename) System-on-Chip, which combines two Bobcat CPU cores and a DirectX 11-capable GPU core, will be the first Fusion chip on the market. Onatrio is aimed at netbooks and ultra-portable laptops, with the chip maker promising “90% of today’s mainstream performance in less than half of die area.” According to Dina McKinney, vice president of design engineering at AMD, Bobcat's CPU core will consume less than 1 watt of power.
Intel's a little late to its own game -- a handful of dual-core Ion-based netbooks already exist -- but hey, we're all for closing the door on the single-core Atom netbook era. As of this moment, there are a dozen new netbooks based on Intel's new mobile dual-core Atom processors available in stores, the chip maker announced.
"In their short history, the netbook category has experienced impressive growth," said Erik Reid, director of marketing for mobile platforms at Intel. "Having shipped about 70 million Intel Atom chips for netbooks since our launch of the category in 2008, there is obviously a great market for these devices around the world."
Most of the heavy hitters have dual-core netbooks ready to go, including Acer, Asus, Fujitsu, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, MSI, and Toshiba. And according to Intel, it's Atom N550 chip offers "similar great battery life" as the single-core N450.
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The big question mark surrounding tablets is whether or not this emerging market will eat into netbook sales, or if the two segments can co-exist. If Asus' recent netbook performance is any indication, we may have our answer.
Asus only managed to sell 1.5 million netbooks in the second quarter, a drop of 100,000 units over the first quarter and short of the company's expectations. As a result, Asus president and CEO Jerry Shen recently told investors that Asus had to downward adjust its target shipments for the third quarter, which he blames on competition from Apple's iPad.
It's been somewhat of a rough year all around for Asus. Along with disappointing netbook sales, decreased shipments of motherboards and traditional notebooks have taken a toll on the company's financial performance, which declined during the second quarter.
What's interesting about this is that the tablet game is largely a one-man show, but will soon become crowded as 2010 comes to a close. Is this the beginning of a trend?
Asus has gone and shipped off its new Eee PC 1015PN netbook to Europe, the company's first to be built around Nvidia's Ion 2 platform.
Ion 2 gives the 1015PN some pixel pushing punch by way of a GeForce GT218 GPU, and to keep the 6-cell battery from prematurely crapping out when all you're trying to do is surf the Web, the 1015PN also comes with Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology.
Other spec include an Intel Atom N475 processor clocked at 1.83GHz, 1GB of DDR3 memory, a 250GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Windows 7 Starter.
Most European vendors have the 1015PN listed at around $500.
The mobile PC landscape is changing quicker than most probably anticipated. Look at the latest smartphones, which blaze through an increasing number of apps with 1GHz processors. And while Apple's iPad is still the only real tablet game in town, that looks to change later this year.
So where does this all leave netbooks? Perhaps where they should have been all along. Notebook players are saying that price might soon be the only selling point, forcing netbook makers to charge less than what they're accustomed to. We're already seeing this to some extent, such as the sub-$200, 10.1-inch netbook Acer recently launched under its eMachines brand.
The latest eMachines might be a precursor of things to come. According to Digitimes, the average price of notebooks from major players like Hewlett-Packard, Asus, and Samusng has dropped to around $350, whereas these same types of machines were selling for up to $500 when netbooks first got off the ground.
One of the problems netbook makers face is that there isn't a whole lot left to add in terms of new features, so they're mostly competing over price. As a result, the average selling price is down some 8-10 percent in the first half of 2010, compared to 3-5 percent for traditional notebooks.
Is “business netbook” a misnomer? Aren’t business notebooks supposed to be both portable and powerful, while emitting a confident and businesslike aura? Can a netbook ever be enough for a business user? HP is one of the few companies out there betting that a netbook can be appealing to a business audience.
The HP Mini 5102 certainly looks businesslike. Its squared-off, all-metal chassis, matte-black magnesium alloy base, and brushed-aluminum lid exude a much more professional vibe than most netbooks, including HP’s own consumer line. And though its base configuration hews close to the standard netbook build of this generation, HP offers a wide array of options that can turn the 5102 into something else entirely.
MSI has begun shipping its revamped Wind12 U230, a shrunken down version of the original 12.1-inch model with the same model number. So how do you tell them apart? For starters, the new 11.6-inch Wind12 U230 is being described as a "light notebook," while the original version was dubbed a "netbook."
Don't try wrapping your head around that one, you'll just end up with a headache like we did. Much easier to fathom is the spec sheet, which includes an AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics, 2GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 4-in-1 card reader, 1.3MP webcam, three USB 2.0 ports, a 6-cell battery, and other netbooky "light notebooky" specs.
"The Wind12 U230 Light is another extension of our very successful ultra slim U Series notebook line," said Andy Tung, vice president of sales and marketing for MSI North America. "It's a special combination of solid processing performance, HD display, and a full sized keyboard for the feel of a notebook, yet it's packaged in an ultra slim design with remarkable battery life and stylish good looks, which has proven to be very popular with consumers."
The redesigned U230 Light is available now for $400.
It would appear that new netbooks are on the horizon. According to reports, HP will launch at least two more models built around Intel's Atom N455 (1.66GHz) and N475 (1.83GHz) processors.
These will be aimed at the entry-level market, a move some analysts says is HP's way of protecting its budget business as Intel shuttles its Atom chips into low-cost notebooks.
Analysts also predict that HP's re-entry into netbook territory, along with Intel's upcoming dual-core Atom chips slated for an October release, will spark heavy competition among the industry's four biggest players, including Acer, Asus, Samsung, and HP.
Someone at Asus deserves a raise. We're talking about whoever it was that convinced the company it was a good idea to put so much time and energy into the netbook market, because that strategy has paid off in a big way. For the first time ever, Asus has positioned itself as one of the top 5 PC makers in the world, and it's mostly due to Eee PC sales.
According to market research firm IDC, Asus shipped 4.3 million PCs in the second quarter of 2010, claiming 5.3 percent of the market. That also represents an 84 percent growth rate for the quarter, putting the company shoulder-to-shoulder with Toshiba for the fifth spot.
"It's remarkable, particularly for people who haven't seen the Asus name around," said Loren Loverde, head of IDC's Quarterly Worldwide PC Tracker. "Toshiba is a long-time venerable PC player. Asus is a relative newcomer. But they have been shipping pretty significant volumes (of PCs), more substantially outside the U.S., but pretty significantly in most markets."
Hewlett-Packard still leads the pack with 18.1 percent of the market, trailed by Dell, Acer, and Lenovo, in that order.