There’s no denying that netbooks possess many positive attributes, as evidenced by their meteoric rise in popularity. But all the attention garnered by their portability and low cost can’t mask the deep and troubling performance that netbooks suffer.
The fact is, there are undeniable trade-offs inherent to a sub-$400 computer. You’re just not going to get the same performance from a netbook as from something that costs three times as much. Slow single-core Atom processors; middling hard drives; pokey, undersized SSDs; and only 1GB of RAM rob the netbook of its potential.
But there is hope. Whether you have an old Eee PC with a 12GB SSD or a new netbook with an Atom N280 chip and a 160GB hard drive, you can make substantial improvements without forking over too much dough. We’ll show you first-hand how netbooks can overcome their humble beginnings. We’ll upgrade a typical older netbook—an Eee PC 901 with a 4GB SSD soldered on the mobo and an 8GB PCI-E SSD—as well as a brand-new Toshiba NB205, to show how every netbook, from bottom-of-the-barrel to top-of-the-line, can benefit from upgrades.
Begin your journey to netbook empowerment after the jump.
HP's newly announced Mini 311 netbook isn't the first ION-powered portable we've seen -- the Lenovo S12 and Samsung N150 both equip Nvidia's low-powered graphics accelerator (the equivalent of a 9400M). But HP's 11.6-inch offering is possibly the first accelerated netbook with the potential to break into the mass market. Part of that is due to its aggressive $399 pricing, which isn't shabby considering that the system is equipped with an Intel Atom N270, 1GB of DDR3 memory, 160GB storage, and a relatively high-resolution display. We got some hands-on time with the Mini 311, running several processor-intensive tasks to see if the ION chip makes a difference in real world performance.
Read on for the full specs, impressions, and more pics!
According to the AMD rep, consumers often buy netbooks expecting things the machines are not capable of. Indeed, studies have found that people often don’t know what they’re getting, but can dropping the jargon really change that?
Sobon said that Intel is concentrating far too much on marketing CPU clock speeds to consumers. She went on to indicate that Intel’s success with the Atom chip for netbooks has undermined the overall notebook market. So, are these valid concerns, or just sour grapes?
With the latest crop of netbooks beginning to sport Intel’s new Atom N280, which features a slightly higher clock speed (1.66GHz vs. 1.6GHz) and a faster front-side bus (667MHz vs. 533MHz), how well does a netbook built around the earlier Atom N270 hold up? To find out, we put Samsung’s NC10 to the test.
The Samsung NC10 is a pearl-white clamshell with a chrome-like strip running around the outer edge of its base. It has a 10.2-inch, LED-backlit, anti-glare monitor; a 1.3MP integrated webcam; 1GB DDR2/667 RAM; a 160GB hard drive; and a 6-cell battery—basically, nothing we haven’t seen before. But while it’s not the newest kid on the block, the NC10 is still more than capable.
The recession is getting so bad that stock market refugees are snapping up Treasury bills at 0.2 percent interest, and car dealers have tried everything but adding immortality to their option packages. So you would think that a hot-selling product would be universally welcomed.
Netbook computers are a rare bright spot in a dimming economy. They’re selling faster than copies of Foreclosure for Dummies. The Asus Eee PC opened the door. Now there are too many to count.
However, critics say netbooks might be a bad thing. Their reasoning is that most netbooks use Intel’s Atom processor, which costs less and has lower profit margins than Intel’s other mobile processors. Atom’s popularity, they say, might actually hurt Intel and drag down profits for system vendors and their suppliers.
That shiny new netbook is light and portable, plays music and movies, and cost less than an iPhone (with service). Problem is: you might be ready to chuck it off a bridge. Running the Intel Atom processor at only 1.60GHz, netbooks are a bit on the clunky side when it comes to actual data processing. No one is going to play World of Warcraft on one of these thin machines, but it sure would be great if OpenOffice, a music player, and Mozilla Firefox could run a little faster.
The answer to the netbook dilemma is: find an alternative operating system. Of course, this is a time-consuming proposition, considering you have to download the OS, burn it to a CD or USB key, load the OS, and then configure it. To find out which OS will actually add pep to your Sony P – or any number of low-cost, Atom-based netbooks – we loaded six different options on the same machine and performed a series of tests – looking at the interface, networking features, the browser and built-in apps, and how much customization you can do and ended up picking a clear winner.
Linux or Windows? Read on to find out which OS is best for your netbook.
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.
Today Toshiba's taking the wraps off its new netbook. That's right, the same people who brought you the original ultra-portable, the Libretto, are rolling out their first sub-$400 netbook! We got our hands on a pre-production sample of the NB200-series netbooks.
Toshiba sat out the first generation of netbooks, so they could address shortcomings with the genre, and at first glance the NB205 seems to make good on that. The main typing keys are full-size and use a chiclet-style design. When paired with Toshiba's standard-sized touchpad (the largest we've seen on a netbook to date), this is an extremely comfortable laptop for typing. Toshiba claims 9.5 hours of battery life (we haven't tested yet, but we'd expect 6ish hours in a real-world scenario).
The entire staff is back in the office this week, eager to grill Gordon about his thoughts on the new Star Trek movie. Was there enough intersteller diplomacy for him? Did he find its message heavy handed enough? Will caps the Star Trek chat to 5 minutes, after which we jump into recent tech news. Apparently, the US military is going to adopt Windows Vista, Intel announces a new anti-Ion netbook platform, and we uncover the real size of the internet. After numerous debates and tangents, we eventually tackle a few listener questions, and Gordon unleashes his rant of the week. All that and more on this week's Memorial Day weekend podcast!
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How do blokes at the S60 on Symbian Consumer Operations (SOSCO) contend with monotony that usually plagues people at workplaces with such unimaginative names? They savagely slaughter time through such wild undertakings as the porting of Symbian to an off-the-shelf Atom-based motherboard – please do try that at home.
“ A few of the bright and capable guys in the SOSCO (S60 on Symbian Customer Operations) team have Symbian compiling via GCC and now running on an off the shelf Atom based motherboard from Intel,” Lee Williams, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation, wrote in a blog post.
Williams wrote that the “responsiveness of the UI and upper application layers” impressed him the most. Williams’ bluster apart, the screenshots are rather vapid.