The Most Noteworthy Notebooks of CES

Laptops of all shapes and sizes launched at CES this year, but a few were a bit more special than most. Here are eight machines that shift forms, implement the newest technology, and redefine their categories altogether.

Mobinnova Beam

Tablet PCs stole the show here at CES, but Tegra-powered smartbooks like the Mobbinova Beam offer Tegra's multimedia functionality in a more traditional form-factor. The Beam is built for ultra-portable entertainment: weighing just less than 2 pounds, the device sports an 8.9-inch screen, with a 1024 by 600 pixel resolution. You can also expect about eight hours of battery life.

When you're ready for more screen real estate, just connect the Beam to your television by way of the HDMI cable, and enjoy 1080p content that's surprisingly smooth for such a low-powered machine. The Beam will run Windows CE and Google's Android OS, with a widget-driven UI created by the folks at Mobbinova. It'll be available exclusively from AT&T with access to Wi-Fi and 3G networks, though pricing plans haven't been announced.

Fujitsu Lifebook MH380

Not to be outdone, Intel's recently launched next-gen Atom processor offers improved graphics performance, while cutting down on size and power consumption. The Fujitsu Lifebook MH380 is a netbook carrying the 1.6-GHz Atom N450 processor, with an estimated battery life of just over seven hours.

The MH380 weighs just less than 3 pounds, and the 10-inch screen offers a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels -- just right for 720p playback. But it was built for mobile computing: connectivity options like Bluetooth and 802.11 n Wi-Fi, coupled with all-day battery life make the Lifebook MH380 an effective part of any road warrior's arsenal.

Lenovo Skylight

Lenovo's Skylight is powered by a 1.8-GHz Snapdragon processor. It is, technically speaking, a very large smartphone. And there's a lot to like: it weighs 1.95 pounds, has a 10.1-inch screen with an HD-friendly 1280 by 720 resolution, and also offers Wi-Fi connectivity and 3G from any GSM provider -- just pop in your SIM card.

The Skylight is largely dependent on the Internet for media, though it does support SD cards and microSD cards, and includes a USB storage stick that lies flush within the chassis. The custom Lenovo UI consists of Web-centric widgets, designed to quickly link users to familiar Web portals while also helping them keep track of social networks, RSS feeds, and media.

Lenovo Idea Pad U1

The Idea Pad U1 skirts the entire tablet versus notebook debate by packing both form factors into a single device, and allowing them to be operated independently. In notebook-mode, the U1 runs on a Core 2 Duo CULV processor, with approximately 6 hours of battery life.

Once you slide a switch along the rim of the chassis, the entire screen pops off, and you'll find yourself hold a multi-touch tablet, running a custom Linux UI on a 1.8-GHz Snapdragon processor.

The process takes seconds, offering a striking level of versatility. The tablet offers 8 hours of battery life, and works seamlessly with its notebook base: while it has its own on-board storage, you'll be able to continue some tasks, like Web browsing, when switching between modes.


For mobile entertainment in a larger form factor, MSI's CX series offers budget friendly options that deliver quite a bit more power and performance than netbooks and smartbooks, albeit with the familiar tradeoffs of size and battery power.

But the CX line packs a few nifty tricks. The CX 420 is powered by Intel's new Core i3 processor. The recently unveiled "Arrandale" line has made an appearance in a number of products here at CES, cutting power consumption and size by combining the CPU and graphics processor onto a single chip.

The integrated graphics performance in the Arrandale platform still can't quite compare to a dedicated, discrete graphics card, and the CX420 offers the best of both worlds. Hit a button, and the machine will toggle between discrete and integrated graphics. Performance when you need it, a bit more battery life when you don't -- with a price that's expected to fall in the $500 range, the MSI CX420 is definitely one to watch.

Asus NX90Jq

If you're not at all interested in portability, behold the Asus NX90Jq. Flanked by a pair of Bang and Olufsen high-fidelity speakers, this ten-pound titan eschews all notion of portability to deliver a media-centric experience.

The 18.4-inch screen offers a 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution, driven by the Nividia Geforce GT335M graphics card. Inside you'll find Intel's latest Core i7 Arrandale processors, up to 1.2 TB of hard drive space, 4 GB of DDR3 1066-MHz RAM (up to an optional 12GB), a Blu-Ray player, and USB 3.0 support. It's most striking feature (well, besides a screen that's wider than its base): dual trackpads.

Price? Well, if you have to ask...

litl webbook

Media-streaming smartbooks, transforming laptop-tablet hybrids, and gargantuan desktop replacements are great, but what if you're looking for less? The litl webbook delivers just that, though this product is a bit of a strange concept.

The litl isn't really a notebook at all: billed as an internet appliance, it's built on a custom OS that emphasizes ease of use and streamlined simplicity, delivering a premium web-centric experience (at a premium price: $700).

There isn't very much going on under the hood: Its 1.8-GHz Atom Z540 is outclassed by Intel's latest and greatest, there's no on-board storage, and only a single USB port. But that's okay -- the litl isn't designed for productivity applications, but for keeping rich Internet content within an arm's reach.

Shuttle SPA Ecosystem

This noteworthy notebook isn't a machine, but an entire ecosystem. Shuttle, a specialist in small form factor PCs and all-in-ones, has decided to make its entry into the notebook sector a bit more interesting than most.

With SPA (Shuttle PCB Assembly) and microSPA, Shuttle has created a manufacturing standard for notebooks based around a standardized motherboard. The goal is to streamline the laptop manufacturing process, and to help smaller OEMs cut development time and costs.

Shuttle will be partnering with a number of design houses, mechanical vendors, and component suppliers to offer a full supply chain, while certifying all products under the Shuttle Qualified moniker, lending otherwise invisible OEMS some of the Shuttle cachet.

Shuttle profits from companies using their development process, and small manufacturers get their brands on shelves with a reputable company's seal of approval. Consumers win too: with a standardized form factor and parts, replacing major components for upgrade and repair should be easier, and cheaper.

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