Category Archives: Laptops / Netbooks

Laptops and Netbooks

Are Netbooks Dying?

Dead Netbook

Around late 2007, a new computer entered the consumer market by appealing to users who wanted something in between their smart phones and laptops. Filling the gap, theВ NetbookВ was born. The main purpose of the Netbook? Its a computer that can browse the Internet, type documents, and still be portable. Most netbooks are powered by Intels underwhelming Atom CPUs which improved longevity. Besides their small form factor and long battery life, netbooks continued to penetrate the market with their attractive pricing. Most can be bought for about $300 and even giant retailers like Wal-Mart and Target started selling them. They also worked great on Linux and I even bought one! Whats not to like? They were portable, В affordable, В and cool. Today, theres a general consensus thatВ the Netbook is dead or dying. Can this be true? Lets take a look at the signs.

Mainstream

The mainstream do not like Netbooks. Netbooks are looked at as cheap, underpowered laptops. The mainstream values power over longevity. This is probably why people drool over the latest 1-2Ghz smart phones but battery life is a second thought. The same can be said about computers. If you think about it, marketing power is easy. This laptop is the fastest on the market sounds much more appealing than This netbook lasts twice as long as that fast laptop. Power is easy to market and trying to sell an underpowered laptop is difficult to say the least. Another reason the mainstream dont like Netbooks is their build quality. Netbooks are affordable. The side-effects of affordability is a reduction inВ quality. In order to keep their prices down, luxuries like a metal body must be replaced with plastic. One can argue that you are getting a good value, but try convincing that to a culture that is infatuated with expensive iProducts.

 

MSRP Buy I mean Best Buy

I was in the market for a netbook last year and Best Buy had tons of them for sale. Unfortunately, they all had the N450 single-core processors. I spoke to one of the staff and asked him if they were getting the dual-core N550 soon. He told me perhaps they are clearing out the N450 netbooks before they stock in the new one. Flash forward a year later and Best Buy still has these crappy N450 Atom netbooks on their shelves! Im glad I didnt wait. I ordered my AsusВ EeePC off Amazon and put that sucker to work. If I am in the market for another netbook, my money will probably go to Amazon again. Why? Because the retail industry suck. Why, after a year, does Best Buy still have netbooks that are years out-dated? I mean, this is not a flea market. This is supposed to be an electronics retailer. Electronics go out of date the day they hit the store shelf. Lets get some new models already!

I think a few things might be going on. They could be liquidating the ones they have in stock. That makes some sense. If netbooks are dying, why order new units? Why not just get rid of the ones you have? On the other hand, if you are trying to sell a bunch of new tablets, why promote a competing product? Out with the old, in with the new, right? Maybe retailers dont have much faith in netbooks anymore? Maybe they ARE dying? One thing is clear, if netbooks are not dying, the retail industry is not helping.

The Tablet Experience

Many analysts predicted that the tablet market will eventually kill off netbooks. People needed a product to fill in the gap between their phones and their laptops. Netbooks and tablets did just that. Although netbooks had a head start in the market, tablets continue to fill the shelves of electronics retailers gaining massive popularity. Another interesting thing about tablets is their demographic. Both tablets and netbooks aim at similar markets but tablets are more geared towards consumers. A netbooks main strength is the physical keyboard and full operation system. Tablet OS are less featured and generally dependant on app quality. App design and quality varies on most tablet OS and they havent had as much time to mature compared with traditional desktop OS. Tablets seem to have a disadvantage, right? They dont have keyboards. Their OS is not geared for production. And yet they are still more popular. This leads me to believe that most people are looking to buy tablets for another purpose; consuming media. And that is probably why the netbook is dying. The gap between smart phones and laptops is more fit for consumers than producers. Producers would rather use a laptop or a desktop to edit images and video over a netbook. The only real production work you can do on a netbook without hiccups is word processing. With tablets, you can browse the web, listen to music, view photos, watch videos, and play games easily. You cant really edit videos or images effectively on tablets but consuming media fulfill the needs of most people. Perhaps in the future, they will be powerful enough to handle production tasks.

In the meantime, the relatively new experience of using gestures and a touchscreen as a main input method is fun and intuitive. This tablet experience makes it easy for anyone to pick one up and use without being well versed with computers. Maybe the market is asking for a new way to use the computer.

 

The Future of Netbooks?

Do I think netbooks are dying? Yes, sort of. Netbooks are becoming less popular in the mainstream but there is still a demand for them. Students who want a computer are still more likely to buy a netbook over a tablet because of their physical hardware keyboard. Netbooks are becoming a bit stale. Theres nothing about netbooks that really impresses consumers. They dont offer anything new. Sure they are smaller and slowly getting more powerful. Anything else? The tablet experience is fresh and while some people thought it was a passing fad, they are still going strong. The fact that netbooks are small and affordable means they can be transported easier by student and purchased in bulk by school districts. Aside from the education sector, netbooks in the consumer market only seem to attract a small niche. Unfortunately, unless something drastic happens, like a huge bump in processing power, I continue to see interest in netbooks decline. As someone who is a part of this niche, this makes me sad. What do you thing? Are netbooks dying?

What Is An Ultrabook? A New Breed Of Laptops Or Marketing Hype?

When it comes to thin and light laptops, Apples Mackbook line is what first comes to mind. The new Mackbook Air is setting the standard for portable, powerful, and premium laptops. Not only is it extremely portable, but the second generation Macbook Air actually has good specs under the hood. Sporting either an i5 or an i7, this littleВ ultra portableВ is claimed to be up to 2.5 time faster than the previous Air. Speaking of ultra, Intel has campaigned for a new line of thin and light laptops called Ultrabooks. Some people may already figured out that this new class of laptops, the Ultrabook, is going to be a Windows version of the Macbook. Intel has figured out that people are willing to pay a premium for style and form factor. There have always been a few companies that made premium laptops like Sony and Lenovo but Intel wants manufacturers to follow a standard, their standards. Why now and why give premium laptops a new name? Lets try to figure that out.

 

Phase

Asus UX31
Asus UX31

Ultrabooks will be released in three phases. Each phase will correspond with the three upcoming Intel processor architectures. Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, and Haswell. The first, and most important phase has already started with many hardware manufacturers already on board including Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Toshiba, and of course, Apple. This first phase will focus on thin profiles, lightweight bodies, long battery life, SSDs instead of HDDs, no optical drive, Intels Core i5-i7 Sandy Bridge processors, and mainstream pricing(around $1,000). The second phase, scheduled for 2012, will aim to boost performance by 20-30% over the first generation of ultrabooks and make USB 3.0 standard. The third phase, scheduled for 2013, aims at halving the power consumption of the first phase ultrabooks.

 

A Better Standard?

So why is Intel trying to set a standard for laptops? Why not just leave hardware manufacturers alone? Profits? When you supply both sides of the war with В your CPUs, you make money. I dont see AMDs APUs mentioned in any of these phases. The Macbook Air has been out for years. They didnt need a special name. Why now call these laptops Ultrabooks? Its marketing. Think about it. You dont want to go to the store and buy a crappy netbook or a generic laptop. You want to tell all your friends that you got an ultrabook. The ultra means its better, right?

Aspire S3
Aspire S3

Maybe Intel is trying to make amends for the years they dominated the netbook market with their anemic single core Atom N4XX netbooks. A few years later, Intel upgrades with dual core Atom N5XXВ processors but the damage was done. The name netbook now means(to the masses), any small laptop that is only good for light web browsing and word processing. Even former Apple CEO Steve Jobs called netbooks cheap with the release of the Macbook Air. He knew about the negative reputation of netbooksВ and putting it in the same sentence with his Macbook Air was marketing suicide. Intel learned from their mistake. They realized the need for premium laptops and Ultrabooks is their answer.

$300 Million Fund

Intel revealed last month that they will open a $300 million fund that will help accelerate development of ultrabooks by rewarding companies that enhances them with sensors and touch interface. Intel wants companies to make the already existing tablet-notebook fusion market, mainstream. They want manufacturers to focus on sleek designs, thin profiles, lightweight portability, and affordable pricing. This initial investment, if successful, will give Intel a foothold in a billion dollar market. A pretty good investment if you ask me.

 

Possible Competitors

AMD is probably the most famous competitor to Intel and their new fusion of CPU and GPU, called the APU, will be a force to be reckon with. Scheduled to be released this month, AMDs Bulldozer is rumored to be on par with Intels Sandy Bridge i7 2600. While all eyes are on AMD to respond, ARM will eventually enterВ the notebook market becoming a competitor. They have some of their chips on a few Linux netbooks. Famous for their tablet and smartphone processors, ARM will most likely enter the market by either continuing to power high-end tablets, low-end notebooks, or both. ARM is nowhere near a threat to Intels Ultrabook market however, if they continue to improve their system on a chip(SoC), they will be a company to look out for.

 

If Intel succeeds, there will be a new niche market of fashionable high-end laptops once exclusive to Apple users. In this case, having more options is a good thing. Personally, I dont think there is anything ultra about ultrabooks. A thin i7 laptop with integrated graphics is not something I consider ultra. Intels second generation core i7 processors are in todays laptops. This is simply Intels way of marketing the prestige of the Macbook to Windows user. There is no dedicate GPU. The price is still high at around $1k, and USB 3.0 will not be standard until the second phase. On paper, the only thing ultra about these ultrabooks is the slim form factor but to those familiar with the Macbook Air, thats nothing new. I still believe they will be successful. For most people, the measure of a laptops performance is how well it handles YouTube and if itВ can log into Facebook. No doubt, Windows users who have been waiting for a slick Macbook Air-like laptop will be happy this fourth quarter. Lets see what the future holds for ultrabooks.

 

Samsung QX410-JO1 First Impressions

Samsung QX410-jo1

New Technology in the morning is the right way to start off your day! And IВ literallyВ justВ got my package containing the Samsung QX410 from Amazon yesterday morning. I went to Best Buy to find the Samsung QX410 S02 and fell in love with the design. Sadly, it was 900 bucks and out of my budget. I did some research and found that the previous generation, QX410-JO1, was pretty much the exact same machine but with last gens processor. Everything else, from design to display were exactly the same. I then did some more research to find that the processor update from the two wasnt a huge update. And to my advantage, I was able to find the Samsung QX410-Jo1 refurbished on amazon for 580 bucks. Considering I had 140 bucks in amazon credit, I couldnt help but buy it. Ive only been using this machine for 2 day, but I must say, my Macbook Pro hasnt been touched once since because of this beast Samsung Machine. I wont be covering every spec and detail yet. These are just my first impressions. Keep an eye out however for my full review that should be coming along after Ive had some more time with it. Lets begin.

 

 

Specs

The machine boast Intels i5 at 2.53ghz, 4gbs of ram, 640gb HDD and В nNidias 310m respectively.

Display

To be blunt, I thought this 14 screen was very nice. The screen (I suppose the entire machine!) reminds me of the Macbook Pro, which if you know me well enough, is a great thing. The Edge to edge glass makes this screen feel veryВ professional. However, the pixel density at 1366768 isnt anything mind boggling. But even then, I really do like this display.

My only gripe, would be that if you turn the brightness down, the screen is extremely reflective: Almost mirror like. I guess thats the price you pay with a glossy screen.

 

 

Keyboard

Fantastic. When I use a new keyboard, it usually takes me a few days to get used to. However, these chiclet keys were just comfortable and easy to use right off the back. I typed this article on it with zero complaints. I really loved that Samsung spaced out each key nicely to prevent accidental clicks. Each key feels extremely responsive and Ive notice no flex. While it is no mechanical keyboard, I really do think that this keyboard, as well as the beloved Lenovo X100es key, is in my top 5 favorite keyboards. At the end of the day you really do have to ask yourself, does the keyboard just work seamlessly. And my answer, yes.

 

Trackpad

Errr I suppose the trackpad as a whole is pretty good. However, I did not like the actual buttons for your right and left click. It felt like the right and left button slows down or renders theВ trackpadВ to be useless; as soon as I click the buttons I notice the trackpad slows down. Ill try to explain more in my full review. I use this machine mainly as a desktop replacement so my Razer Deathadder mouse compliments it nicely. So, I personally dont even use the trackpad anymore! Go figure! haha

 

Speakers

They are nice, crisp and loud enough for me. Ive read a few reviews that suggested deep crackling with these speakers. But to my liking, Ive experienced none. They are loud enough to understand vocals from my music playlist, В while having a ton of noise В in the background.

 

Features and Ports

This laptop does indeed have a DVD drive so have no fear, they havent been completely taken out of the marketyet. 3 Usb 2.0s, headphone and speaker jack, an HDMI output, and of course an SD slot to top it all off. For my personal usage, these are exactly what I need. Nothing more and nothing less. Thanks Samsung!It also does have a webcam, which isnt too impressive, but hey, its there right?

 

Design

I saved this for last because I think Samsung really nailed this one right on the head. I think this machine is absolutely georgous. I would personally say, that this machine (And maybe the Sony Vaio S) was the best looking machine Best Buy had to offer. Everything from the display, to the keyboard all the way to its ports, this machine just looks sleek and proffesional. Samsung loves to add curves to their machines and the qx410 is no exception. Youll notice there are small curves on machine, which just adds a nice look to it. Its a nice aluminum feel that just makes the machine feel tough and reliable.

 

That is all I have to say about this machine for now. Please Stay tuned for the full review!

What Is An APU?: AMDs Fusion E-350 Vs Intels Atom D525

Nvidia Ion Chart

Have hope AMD faithfuls. AMD is looking to bring serious competition to Intels Atom & Ion platform with their latest Fusion Technology. Many people dont want to admit it but the netbook market is expanding. They are not dying despite what some people think. While Intel dominated the first generation of netbooks with their single core Atom processors, now AMD is fighting back. Finaally, you will really have a choice on whether you want to buy into Intels Atom line or AMDs Fusion line. Most of us are already familiar with Intel Atom processors with Ion graphics but only a handful know about AMDs Fusion Technology. AMD calls it the worlds first APU. What exactly is an APU? How is it different from a traditional CPU? Is this just marketing hype or do they really have something innovative here? AMDs E-350 is going to directly compete with Intels Atom D525. This platform, called Zacate, is looking to stop Intel from milking the netbook market. Finally, netbooks are getting some power. Lets take a look at how it holds up.

 

 

 

Were no strangers to Intels Atom processors. The first generation of netbooks were crowded by single core Atom netbooks. Some manufacturers offered Intel Atom netbooks with Nvidia Ion graphics. Nvidia Ion is a disrete graphics chip(GeForce 9400M) that helps out the wimpy single-core Atoms when things get rough. This allowed first generation netbooks to play HD videos and maybe do some light gaming. Where was AMD when this was going on? Apparently, AMD decided to pass on the netbook market and focus on the ultra-portable market. Many people have speculated that AMD simply did not have the resources to compete with Intel so they skipped the first generation and let Intel define the market. Whether or not this is true, Intel did just that. They dominated the netbook market. Without competition from AMD, Intel was free to set the bar[low] with their single-core N2XX and N4XX Atoms. When you hold a monopoly in a market, you can afford NOT to innovate. This generation, things are starting to pick up. Intels dual-core processors are replacing the old ones and Nvidia upgraded their Ion to Ion 2 graphics. On Intels side, if you want the best netbook, you are going to find a netbook with the D525 Atom and Nvidia Ion 2. This combination is found in the Asus Eee PC 1215N.

 

 

Whats An APU? AMD Plays Catch-Up

AMD's APUNow that a generation has passed, what can AMD bring to the table? They are already behind. How good can Fusion be? It turn out Fusion may take a huge chunk of market share from Intel. AMD calls their Zacate(E-350) chipset, an APU. APU stands for Accelerated Processing Unit. Traditionally, to get good overall performance, portable devices need a dedicated GPU to handle the heavy graphics and the CPU to handle everything else. These units are seperate including the Atom/Ion 2 combination. By putting the CPU and GPU on the same die, AMD has created the APU which eliminates the bottleneck between the CPU and GPU. Having the CPU and GPU on the same die also frees up space. This may not seem like a big deal but space is at a premium especially on mobile devices like netbooks. The E350 APU isВ found on the HP Pavilion dm1z.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

How Does The D525 Compare To The E-350?

On paper, the Intel Atom D525 is a bit faster than the AMD Fusion E-350. The D525 clocks in at 1.8 GHz while the E-350 is rated at 1.6 GHz. I say on paper because overall performance isnt always measured in GHz. Many benchmarks rate the E-350 above the D525. In fact, the E-350 scored 736 on the Passmark CPU Mark while the D525 scores 713. The difference may seem minimal but many other people have performed real-world tests and the E-350 consistently edges ahead of the D525.

E-350 Passmark D525 Passmark

 

 

What Does This Mean For Us?

I am not a big fanboy but I am happy to see AMD putting serious heat behind their Fusion technology. Competition is great for us, the consumers. If AMD didnt enter the market, we probably wouldve been stuck with single core Atom N4XX netbooks for another year or so. This is not only bad for consumers, but also for the netbook market. Netbooks are still slow. This bad reputation that Intel built may soon die.В I still wouldnt recommend doing any serious gaming on them but they are getting better. I give credit to AMDs В and their APU Fusion technology. Netbooks are getting more powerfulВ albeitВ slowly. The APU and AMDs Fusion technology is a serious contender. Cant AMD win this round? Well have to wait and see.

 

 

Buyers Guide: 5 Things To Keep In Mind When Purchasing A Netbook

Netbook HP Dm1z

Buying a netbook as a secondary machine can be extremely beneficial to your everyday task. With technology improving and becoming moreВ affordable, netbooks are starting to feel like a must have. If youve been following the articles Ive written, then you must know by now that Im searching for a netbook to help with my basic needs. Not too long ago IВ found one but, due to heat issues I ended up returning the Lenovo x100e that I picked up. В While Ive been waiting my refund, Ive done some extensive research and deep thinking on what I should be considering when purchasing a netbook. To save everyones time, Ive decided to create a five point article that, in my opinion, explains what to look for in a netbook.В At first glance, these points may seem basic, but if you really consider what a netbook is and what it is intended to do, then this list will make complete sense. Keep these points in mind when buying a netbook and buyers remorse will be at its all time lowest! Now,В lets get down to it!

 

 

 

1. Price.Keep It Cheap!

My first two points, price and power will go hand and hand. A netbooks cost is the first thing that should be considered. Why? The entire appeal of netbooks were that they were small andВ affordable. Yes, Affordable. While doing some bargain research on amazon, I found that some netbooks went above 500 bucks. Okay, I admit, some were considered, Ultra-portables, but with that said,they had the same exact specs as what you would find in a netbook. (Not all of course)В You can find very cheap netbooks that will do your basic task fine. But when the cost of a netbook starts to becomeВ comparableВ to what some low end laptops cost then you may want to reconsider your purchase. You might as well buy a low end laptop at that point correct? В I know the argument to be made here would be that a netbook is nice and small while some laptops, especially low end ones, arent. This connects to my next point to keep in mind while purchasing a netbook.

 

 

 

2. PowerEnough For What Its Intended To Do!

Be sure to read our article on this specific topic here. If you were going to spend x amount of money on a netbook because of power then you must consider how much power you will actually be getting. В I, PERSONALLY, В would rather spend 250 bucks for a netbook that could do task such as, word proccessing and simple web browsing then spend 500 dollars to be able to be able to watch a 1080p video on a 720p screen. (Most cases)

For the most part, a netbook will be your secondary machine, so the smarter purchase would be to buy something at an affordable price and get the performance that you intend to use it on.

Yes, some netbooks have dual core, ion2 graphics, etc. So, if you do intend to stretch your netbook to do more, it certainly can. Just keep in mind, this machine may be your secondary machine. Do you need to invest more money to get power you may not use? Or is it just a convenience thing? Either is fine by me, but just remember to keep that in mind when youre making your decision.

 

 

 

3. Battery Life.Portability That Only Last 1 Hour?!

When I bought the Thinkpad x100e , the battery was pretty much unacceptable to the majority of my friends. В However, it was fine for me. (3 or so hours) But battery life, inВ general, is something to be considered. Ive read many reviews on some netbooks/ultraportables only lasting 2-3 hours while others have gone up to 8. В To your average user the appeal of a netbook is portablity. Meaning, you will bring it around. So of course youre better off traveling with a netbook that last 8 hours then one that last 2 hours. Lugging that charger with you would take away the idea of portability.

Do read reviews on the netbooksВ battery lifeВ because the battery life listed on the tag isnt always so accurate.

 

 

4. Keyboard. Remember, Youll Be Using it A lot!

Undoubtedly, read reviews on any netbook you plan to buy and keep a keen eye out for what they have to say about its keyboard. If your buying a netbook then, again, chances are you want to do some basic web browsing and word proccessing. A few of my friend and I have talked about this subject. They all own netbooks to do essays or hubs, and I intend to get one to do the same. I often go out and write extensively long files and it is unquestionably better to have something comfortable to type on.

Do check the keyboards flex. Too much flex on the keyboard is just horrible. If you dont know, some netbooks, ultraportables, and even normal laptops have flex. When you press a button down you can feel the keyboard sinking in. It not only slows your typing down but it makes your netbook feel cheap and unreliable. If youre looking for a netbook with a nice keyboard check out the x100e, or the x120e.

 

 

 

5. DisplayBeware The Glare!

While I was looking to buy a netbook, I didnt really consider resolution. (Most of them are pretty standard) However, I do consider the option of matte or glossy an extremely important one. A lot of people buy a netook as their secondary machine and as IveВ В mentioned multiple times, they travel with it. The last thing you want is huge glare on your netbooks. While a glossy screen is better at videos, you really should consider how often you plan to watch videos, and out of those times how often you plan to take them outdoors. If you realize that youre going to be doing extensive typing in sunlight more often then you plan to watch movies indoors, then the matte or anti-glare option may be your best bet.

Even when Im at Barnes and Nobles, or Borders, I notice that the glossy display still brings along a tad bit glare. Not always a deal breaking but something to defintely consider.

However, there is nothing wrong with only using your netbook at home. If this is the case then I dont see why glossy wouldnt fit your needs. Just think deeply on your personal Usage

 

 

 

 

Closing Thoughts

I chose those five because I honestly believe, after doing some extensive research myself, that those are the main things to consider while purchasing a Netbook. I left out ports because I personally dont feel the need to have 10 USB ports when im out on the go. 2 is perfectly fine for a Netbook, especially on the go. Good Luck on your buy and remember when in doubt remember the five points Ive shared!

 

If Ive left anything out, feel free to leave a comment below and IllВ definitelyВ get back to you.