Nvidia's $200 Netbook: "Better Than Atom"

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"This is what we think a netbook should be," says Bill Henry. As the general manager of Nvidia's Mobile Internet Products (hint: driven by the Tegra chip), he's supposed to say stuff like that. So I roll my eyes a little. But after seeing a late prototype that's nearly ready for market and getting a little hands-on time with the Mobinnova N910, I'm inclined to agree.

The first claim made by Henry: By itself, the Tegra processor is more powerful than the Atom on its lonesome. No arguments there. Web-based mapping sites ran and rotated images where a base-line Atom machine would slowly chug. Streaming HD video from Hulu and YouTube ran pretty much stutter free on the 8.9-inch screen. Heck, even the Zune HD can output 720p video to a monitor. So, as you can gather, it gives you a pretty solid experience. Just don't expect to play hardcore games with this device as opposed to the Nvidia big brother, the HP 311, which runs on the Ion platform. Though, it will play your garden variety Web flash games. Equally impressive: Henry says that device can get up to 10 hours of run time.

Not too shabby considering how amazing small the machine is (1.84 pounds, 9.1 by 7.3 by 0.8 inches). I also found the design pretty intriguing. All the ports (including USB and HDMI) hide behind the N910 in the hinged battery. You can opt to have the battery jut down to tilt up the machine (and expose the ports) or slide it in for when you need to stow in a tight space. It'll support WiFi and 3G capabilities.

The Keyboard, while small, is nice (probably a 75% full keyboard) - and the touchpad is a little tricky (the left and right clicks are underneath the pad, so you depress on the strike zone), but over all I'm starting to get the early stages of netbook gadget lust.

So I had to ask Henry point blank: "What's the price and when's it coming out?" He confirms that it is in a late prototype stage and that he'd expect the machine to come out for $200...but he isn't ruling out the possibility that the Mobinnova people might try and ask for more. I hope not because the HP Mini 311 is offering a good deal of power for only $400. Make this a cheap machine and it will sell out. Fast.

Either way, I'm on the case and plan to keep you posted. In the meantime, check out a couple snaps I took during the demo.

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