Though some netbooks are similar in size and weight to traditional ultraportable laptops, they deliver mobile computing at a fraction of the price to an increasingly mobile and always-connected audience. Research firm Gartner expects 21 million netbooks will ship this year, nearly double last year’s total.
The new Intel Atom Z550 — one of two new Atom CPUs launched a year after the first-gen Atom hit — is a 2GHz CPU that incorporates Intel’s Hyperthreading technology for improved multitasking and graphics performance. Although no new products were announced, the new chips are already available to manufacturers; and we expect to see products later this year.
The AspireRevo pairs Intel’s 1.6-GHz Atom N230 CPU with Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M GPU and CUDA graphics technology. Acer says the system measures about the size of a “typical” hardcover book, and can handle high-definition 1080p video and DirectX 10 graphics. The unit is expected to ship later this year, likely in time for the late summer back-to-school rush.
AMD Athlon Neo in the Mix
Meanwhile, AMD is positioning its Athlon Neo platform as a more powerful step-up from Intel’s first-generation Atom chip. The HP Pavilion dv2 ultraportable laptop (the first system to use 1.6-GHz Athlon Neo MV-40 CPUs), illustrates that it’s possible to deliver more computing potential than ever before in a small package.
The Pavilion dv2 weighs just 3.8 pounds and packs in 4GB of RAM, a 12.1-inch display, a 320GB hard drive, and discrete ATI Radeon HD 3410 graphics with 512MB of video memory. The slim unit costs just $749—more than the least expensive netbooks, but not significantly more than the excellent HP Mini 2140; and less than the smaller-still, but less versatile Sony VAIO P.
Coming Soon: Via Nano
As if the three-way battle that’s shaping up isn’t enough, Via — which claims to have 10 to 15 percent of the netbook market — is in the hunt for a piece of this new ultraportable pie, too. Via’s 1.3-GHz Nano CPU will surface in the soon-to-ship Samsung NC20; this unit features a 12.1-inch display and weights just 3.3 pounds.