Netbook sales have pretty much fallen off a cliff compared to this time last year, and Intel appears to be gearing up to drive another nail in the coffin. New Sub-$400 notebooks have begun appearing on Best Buy’s website, and they are actually pretty compelling. These cheap and cheerful little machines are rocking new stripped down Sandy Bridge parts that put last generation Atom chips to shame.
Remember that old Johnny Carson bit where he pretended to be the swami and guessed the contents of an envelope he held over his forehead? Maybe some of those psychic powers transferred over to us here at Maximum PC. No, we're not saying we can pick tomorrow's lotto numbers, but damn we have a knack for timely scheduling. Hot on the heels of our ARM vs. x86 feature – you've checked it out, right? – comes the news that ARM processors are projected to be the driving force behind nearly a quarter of all notebook PCs by 2015.
The Samsung Chromebook is up for sale a bit early, but you’re never going to guess where. Google is sending out email invites to select CR-48 users directing them to high-end deal site Gilt for a special pre-sale of the Samsung Series 5 ChromeOS device. The uninvited can use this link to get in on the fun, though. You need a Gilt account, but the price seems pegged at $499.
It’s difficult to pick just one standout feature of the HP EliteBook 8740w mobile workstation. Certainly a bright, 17-inch, 10-bit LCD panel that’s capable of displaying more than 1 billion colors and remains visible at up to about a 170-degree offset without any color degradation is worth noting. But so is the notebook’s durable design, with its spill-resistant keyboard, magnesium-alloy chassis, and magnesium-aluminum display enclosure. Then there’s also the 8740w’s impressive performance that runs circles around our zero-point configuration.
The Envy 17 is the biggest and most powerful model in HP’s top-end line of laptops, which are known for their sex appeal and solid build quality. The Envy 17’s 11x16.5x1.5-inch chassis is constructed of magnesium alloy with an aluminum wrapping that’s decoratively etched on the lid and palm rest. The chiclet keyboard is large, with a dedicated number pad, and the keys feel pleasant to type on. The keyboard’s backlight can be turned on and off with a key press. The Envy 17 also features a ClickPad, an enlarged touchpad that incorporates the right and left buttons under the same roof. The pad supports multitouch gestures, which can be a mixed bag—two-finger scrolling just never seems as responsive as one-finger edge motion. Two solid metal hinges connect the body to a 17.3-inch, 1920x1080 screen featuring edge-to-edge glass. It all makes for a handsome package.
3D is everywhere these days. From new TVs to Hollywood blockbusters to gaming consoles, the technology, which has been around for ages, is now poised to give consumers a more immersive, in-your-face form of entertainment in the home. And the PC is no exception. In fact, it’s a natural fit. The PC games we’ve been playing for years are already rendered with a 3D engine—stereoscopic technology and a suitable set of glasses just bring them to life. Newer games will only optimize that potential. Add to this a spate of Blu-ray 3D movies coming down the pike and you can see why the PC is well within the clutches of this latest trend.
Sure enough, a cadre of new 3D laptops and monitors make it possible for you to enjoy stereoscopic content both on your desktop and on the go. The vast majority of these offerings rely on Nvidia’s 3D Vision kit—a set of powered shutter glasses, a USB-connected IR emitter, and the appropriate drivers—which, when paired with the right GPU (a GeForce 8 series or newer) and a 120Hz screen, provide an “active” 3D experience. In other words, as a rapid succession of alternating screens presents slightly different views to each eye, the shutter glasses ensure that the correct view is seen by the correct eye by shuttering the opposite lens accordingly.
A new report (PDF) by market firm DisplaySearch suggests that even though 3D is making a strong push to penetrate the notebook market, consumers are a little reluctant to buy into the hype.
"Is the market ready to accept 3D in a notebook PC? If the sales this year are any indication, then it seems that consumers are, so far, hesitant to embrace 3D notebook PCs," DisplaySearch said in its report. "Since the beginning of the year, less than 100,000 3D-equipped notebook PCs have been sold in a market of more than 100 million notebooks. That is less than one-tenth of one percent of the total notebook PC market."
In another recent study -- this one conducted by Nielsen -- consumers who viewed 3D content became less interested in purchasing a 3D TV. Factor in higher costs and concerns over having to wear 3D glasses, it could be awhile before 3D truly enters the mainstream.
Do you think 3D is here to stay, or just a passing fad?
In last year’s ultraportable notebook roundup (August 2009), HP’s EliteBook 2530p put in a strong showing, wowing us with its good looks, sturdy construction, and strong performance. Its successor, the EliteBook 2540p, is strikingly similar in many regards but has the advantage of new and improved components and a lower price.
At 11.1x9.5x1.5 and a lap weight of three pounds, 16 ounces, the 2540p is not the slimmest or lightest business ultraportable out there, but frequent travelers will no doubt appreciate how solid it feels. The notebook—which is built to military standards for toughness, we’re told—sports a magnesium-alloy casing with a scratch-resistant brushed metal exterior, durable hinges, and a secure clasping mechanism. The keyboard is sizable and easy to type on, and you’re given both a touchpad and TrackPoint for navigation. The notebook also offers a handy, popout keyboard light.
Dell has chosen the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco to give us the first glimpse of their upcoming DUO 10-inch convertible tablet computer. The device itself is expected to be packing a dual core Intel Atom N550. It will at least have Windows 7 Home Premium. The real is the way the screen "converts" into a tablet.
Unlike the last round of convertible tablets, there is no swivel hinge on this device. Instead, the screen itself rotates inside the bezel to flip around. The lid can then be closed, and you have a Windows 7 tablet. Dell plans to push a docking station for the computer to plug into when in tablet mode.
The DUO is expected to launch later this year. In the demo, the touchscreen did not look particularly responsive, but this is still a prototype. The DUO's screen does appear to support multitouch input, though. Still, you have to admire the self-control it must have taken to pretend it was just a slate for 5 minutes of the demo in preparation for the big reveal. No pricing information was available. What do you think would be a reasonable price? The internals appear to essentially be that of a netbook, but it does have a few extra tricks.
Veteran gaming-PC company iBuypower is offering the first multitouch gaming laptop, along with a workaround for the complete dearth of multitouch games.
The 15.6-inch MT20X features a capacitive screen with glass overlay to take full advantage of Win7’s multitouch support. All the neat features we’ve come to associate with multitouch—finger-based dragging, scrolling, zooming, rotating—are performed with smoothness and precision on the MT20X’s screen. But neat as this is, it felt a bit unnatural to use on a conventional laptop. For instance, we resented that the trackpad’s lack of a scroll feature forced us to move our fingers from the keyboard to the screen to scroll through web pages and documents.