Tag Archives | Laptops

Are Netbooks (Finally) Doomed?

For almost as long as there have been netbooks, I’ve been meeting netbook manufacturers and other industry types who look at the little machines with disdain and predict that consumers will soon lose interest. (What will consumers opt for instead? Why, costlier laptops that are more powerful–and profitable.)

Until recently, there’s been little evidence that consumers had gotten the memo about their disenchantment with netbooks–in fact, when I’ve visited computer stores recently, I’ve been struck by just how much acreage is still devoted to the systems. But Cnet is reporting that the chip analysts at IDC are about to report a decline in shipments of Intel’s Atom CPUs–the dominant processors inside netbooks–as a percentage of Intel’s total CPU mix.

The news isn’t a definitive death knell for notebooks. For one thing, more or less traditional netbooks using Intel processors and Windows are facing competition from netbook variants such as “smartbooks” that don’t use Intel technology. And Google is going to try and inject some new excitement into netbooks later this year when the first Chrome OS models come out.

But I’m willing to contemplate the possibility that netbooks may have peaked. With basic full-blown notebooks available for less than the cost of a typical netbook–not to mention the competition known as the iPad–netbooks aren’t going to thrive just because they don’t cost much. They’re going to have to be good computers that happen to be small and cheap…


TSA: Netbooks Aren’t Notebooks

Do you need to remove your iPad from your briefcase when you go through airport security? No, says “Blogger Bob” of the TSA. But he also says that netbooks don’t need to be removed:

Only electronics the size of a standard laptop or larger (for example Playstation®, Xbox™, or Nintendo®), full-size DVD players, and video cameras that use video cassettes must be removed from their carrying cases and submitted separately for x-ray screening. Removing larger electronics helps us get a better look at them and also allows us to get a better look at the contents of your bag. If you you have a TSA “checkpoint friendly” laptop bag, you can leave your laptop in.)

Which leaves only one question: What, exactly, is a standard laptop?


Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 Looks Rough, Still Neat

You may have heard earlier this week about Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1, an 11.6-inch laptop with a fully detachable tablet screen. Lenovo had it on display tonight, and the press were clamoring to get a look.

Seeing the IdeaPad U1 up close, it’s hard not to get a bit giddy. You essentially get two machines in one, the base computer powered by a Core 2 Duo processor and the tablet running on a 1 GHz Snapdragon ARM chip. Peeling the tablet from its shell requires a simple pull away from the translucent red backing, then upwards.

Once separated, the tablet switches into a custom, Linux-based operating system that, sadly, is pretty jerky. However, the product is six months out, and Lenovo says they want to boost the smoothness factor before release. Otherwise, the tablet mode is easy enough to navigate, with four big panels for photos, videos, music and documents. There’s also a six-panel screen that includes a variety of widgets, such as weather and e-mail.

A couple other points of concern: the tablet’s screen got washed out pretty easily at off-angles — it was easy to notice this as other people handled the unit around me. And if you don’t like the red shell, too bad, because that’s all Lenovo has in store for now.

Still, the idea of a modular computer is exciting. It’s definitely possible to use both pieces at once, with the base plugged into an external monitor (or downloading files idly) while you browse away on the tablet. Put together, the computers combine resources, sharing storage and getting eight hours of battery life where the tablet alone gets less than five. Many of the other specs are up in the air, but you’ll definitely get 4 GB of RAM (512 MB for the tablet), 2 USB ports and a 1.3-megapixel Web cam.

Lenovo said they’re hoping to get the IdeaPad U1’s price under $1,000 for a May or June release.


Windows? Laptops? They’ll Never Catch On!

What’s the most wrongheaded conclusion anyone ever came to concerning computers? I covered three of the most legendary ones–“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home,” “640K should be enough for anybody,” and “I think there is a worldwide market for maybe five computers” in The 25 Most Notable Quotes in Tech History. But there’s no evidence that IBM’s Thomas J. Watson said the first one, Bill Gates staunchly denies saying the second one, and DEC’s Ken Olsen and his defenders contend that the last one is him being taken out of context.

But here are a couple of seriously silly statements that can’t be disowned–because they appeared in columns in the New York Times in the mid-1980s. Both are by the same guy, Erik Sandberg-Diment (who certainly wasn’t always obtuse–he was visionary enough to found ROM, one of the best early magazines about personal computers). Between them, they add up to one of the least accurate takes on the future of computing that I’ve ever read.

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Dell’s Adamo XPS: Incredibly Thin! Unexpectedly Odd!

Dell Adamo XPSOkay, now we know why Dell was being so secretive about its new Adamo XPS laptop: It’s not only remarkably thin (9.99mm) but also uses a design which is unique, as far as I know. The keyboard hinges to the display not at its edge but part way up,so the keyboard is angled upwards. As seen in the photo above, the ports are on the display half of the system rather than the keyboard part. And you swipe your finger across some sort of band to open the case. Very, very unusual.

Most attempts to “improve” laptop design have flopped, but the Adamo is intriguing, at least. It’s kind of hard to figure it out without seeing it in person–which I haven’t done–but reports from those who have are at least guardedly positive, and say the angled keyboard makes for comfy typing.
Props to Dell for trying something different, at least. It has a preview site up with basic specs for the new Adamo; it’ll cost $1799 and be out for the holiday season.

Any guesses as to whether the slanty keyboard will be successful? Can you envision other PC manufacturers plagiarizing the idea, or is this the 2009 equivalent of an IBM butterfly Thinkpad?


Laptops: Are More Screens Ever Better?

Four ScreensWhen it comes to laptop CPU speed, RAM, hard-drive capacity, and USB ports, more is definitely better. With screens, however, the ideal number may well be one.  Many inventors have come up with multi-screen laptop designs; few have reached the market and none have been major hits. (Even Microsoft’s mundane and useful-sounding Windows Sideshow technology never took off.)

In my latest guest post at WePC.com, “A Brief History of Bad Multiple Screen Portables…and How to Improve on Them,” I take a look at the whole idea of building more than one screen into a portable computer, and try to provide some advice for making it make sense. I’m still skeptical, but I’m willing to believe it’s one of those technical challenges that remains unsolved for eons–until the moment someone figures it out.

If you read my post, share your thoughts over at WePC–and as long as you’re there, check out the contest (you could win a gaming PC, laptop, or netbook by participating).

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Intel Unveils the Mobile Core i7 Processor

Intel Core i7 InsideWhile I’ve been at DEMOfall in San Diego, Intel has been holding its equally newsworthy Intel Developer Forum conference back in San Francisco. Today’s big announcement was the mobile version of the Core i7 quad-core CPU (code-named Clarksfield),as seen in such new laptops as Toshiba’s latest Qosmio. Laptop Magazine has benchmarked a Core i7 notebook provided to it by Intel, and found it to be smoking’ fast–but with iffy battery life. As usual, there’s a limit to the conclusions you can draw about a processor from tests of one computer–especially one supplied by the chipmaker in question. But as more machines ship from major manufacturers–including, eventually, Apple–expect some really powerful systems, starting at a relatively reasonable $1000 or so.

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Toshiba’s Qosmio Gets Blu-Ray

Toshiba’s Qosmio is one of those laptops that’s pretty much an all-in-one desktop PC in disguise: With its 18.4-inch screen and beefy specs, it’s more transportable than portable–and with its emphasis on entertainment, it’s like a Windows Media Center you can fold up and move from room to room.

The company announced the newest Qosmio model today, the X500 series, and the most notable new feature is the overdue, inevitable inclusion of a Blu-Ray drive or burner–Toshiba’s first. (The one-time proponent of HD-DVD formally announced it was getting into the Blu-Ray game last month.) The X500 also has Intel’s new mobile version of its Core i7 processor, 6GB of DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTS 250 graphics with a gigabyte of DDR5 memory, HDMI, Harmon/Kardon sound, and room for two hard drives (one of which can be a solid-state disk).

How much will all this run you? Toshiba says it’ll announce pricing on October 13th, and that the system will be available on October 22nd–which, uncoincidentally, is Windows 7 launch day.