Blog posts of '2009' 'October'

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Netbook Halo effect - 06 October 2009

Windows 7 to usher in crush of cheap laptops

Call it the Netbook halo effect: small and cheap is infectious. A quick peek at the lineups of new laptops slated for the Windows 7 (October 22) roll-out make it clear that the prices of mainstream and higher-end laptops are diving, even as the technology gets better.

"There's a new reality in laptop pricing," said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at market-researcher IDC. "It's getting harder and harder to sell anything over $800." O'Donnell cited a data point that showed the average selling price of notebooks falling below desktops briefly in retail. "That may have been an anomaly, but the fact that's it's even close is indicative of this phenomenon."

That said, let's start with HP, the world's largest PC supplier. Svelte, well-built business laptops have historically been priced at a premium--starting at more than $1,000. Not anymore. On October 22, HP will begin selling the 13-inch ProBook 5310m that is about 0.9 inches thin, less than four pounds, and clad in an aluminum display enclosure and a magnesium alloy bottom case for $699.

HP ProBook 5310m starts at $699: this class of business laptop used to start at more than $1,000.

HP ProBook 5310m starts at $699: this class of business laptop used to start at well over $1,000

(Credit: Hewlett-Packard

That's about $800 less than the HP EliteBook 2530p business notebook series introduced in August of last year (that started at about $1,500). The 5310m is priced at $699 with an Intel Celeron dual-core processor and $899 with Intel Core 2 Duo chip. Both come with the Windows 7 operating system.

That's what I call a sea change in pricing.

But it gets better. Then there's the 4-pound HP Pavilion dm3 notebook that starts at $549 (no, it's not a Netbook) and will likely range up to about $700 in price for a reasonable memory and hard drive configuration. The 13-inch laptop comes with power-efficient Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Neo dual-core processors and a standard 6-cell battery that delivers--so HP claims--up to 10 hours of battery life.

I was able to play with a dm3 at a function sponsored by Advanced Micro Devices recently in San Francisco. My immediate impression was that this was a light but solid design.

The Apple $999 MacBook is suddenly starting to look pretty pricey and a little on the thick and heavy side. (Though, according to reports, this may be about to change.)

Let's move on to Toshiba (speaking of sea changes). Toshiba has been known (along with Sony) for offering impressive but stratospherically priced ultraportable laptops. One of the most egregious examples is the 12-inch Portege R600, which starts at $2,099 and jumps quickly (by adding a solid-state drive) to more than $3,000.

That price almost seems laughable these days. Yes, the R600 comes with an integrated optical drive, powerful Core 2 Duo processors, and some other bells and whistles, but that will be an increasingly tough sell against Toshiba's new Satellite T100 Series that is also small, light, and relatively powerful but lops about $1,500 off the price of the cheapest R600.

Toshiba Portege R600--$2,000-plus executive laptops: an endangered species?

Toshiba Portege R600--$2,000-plus executive laptops: an endangered species?

(Credit: Toshiba

To wit: the 11.6-inch Satellite T115 starts at $449, packs a dual-core Pentium SU4100 processor, claims up to nine hours of battery life, and weighs only 3.5 pounds. That makes the R600 and other "executive jewelry"--as Intel's CEO Paul Otellini likes to call these laptops--history. And the T115 may even give Toshiba Netbooks a run for their money. (Why settle for a single-core Netbook when you can get a dual-core laptop for $100 more.)

Dell, oddly, is going in both price directions. First, let's look at the Dell we know: a purveyor of inexpensive laptops such as the $449 Inspiron 14 replete with a 14-inch screen, dual-core Pentium, optical drive, 2GB of memory, and a 160GB hard disk drive.

And Dell has plenty of other inexpensive configurations, lending its considerable weight to the downward price pressure on laptops.

Then there's the Dell few people know. The reborn merchandiser of pricey executive laptops like the impressively sleek $2,299 Adamo or the equally stunning Latitude Z starting at $1,800. And then there's the ultra, ultra-thin Adamo concept. This certainly will not be cheap either (if it, in fact, appears).

Time will only tell how well this Beverly Hills boutique strategy holds up in the face of an onslaught of thin, attractive, and cheap laptops. Of course, there will always be room for a few Cadillac XLR-V roadsters and Ferraris at the top if the designs are compelling enough. (To be honest, I'm anxious to see how groundbreaking the new Adamo design is.)

Meanwhile, the future of laptops lies somewhere below $800. I can live with that.

By Brook Crothers

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New HP Netbooks and Ultra thin Laptops - 06 October 2009

HP Netbooks,and new HP thin with laptops

Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday announced its first Netbook with an 11.6-inch screen and Nvidia's Ion chipset as well as two inexpensive "ultrathin" laptops.

HP Mini 311 Netbook uses an 11.6-inch screen and Nvidia Ion chipset

HP Mini 311 Netbook uses an 11.6-inch screen and Nvidia Ion chipset

(Credit: Hewlett-Packard

The Mini 311 is the first HP Netbook to use a large screen--11.6 inches exceeds the upper limit of 10 inches on standard Netbooks--and is the first to get high-octane Nvidia Ion graphics--the same graphics used in laptops such as the Apple MacBook Air.

The 11.6-inch diagonal LED display is available in high-definition 1366x768-pixel resolution. It includes HDMI and VGA video connectors.

Nvidia's Ion chipset is a graphics processing unit (GPU) that works together with the low-power Intel Atom processor to generate standard-laptop-like graphics performance.

"By processing data-intensive applications in parallel with the CPU, ION-based Netbooks offer many of the same capabilities of full-sized notebooks including support for all versions of Microsoft Windows," Nvidia said in a statement.

HP ultra-thin ProBook 5310m

HP 'ultrathin' ProBook 5310m

(Credit: Hewlett-Packard

Analysts believe that getting mainstream-laptop level of performance in a Netbook is important. "Our research shows that most people who buy a netbook expect it to behave like a full-sized notebook," according to a statement that Nvidia provided from Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies. "With Ion-based Netbooks like this one from HP, consumers can expect a well-rounded experience and the ability to handle nearly all of their everyday computing needs," he said.

The Mini 311 will start at $399 in the U.S.

HP also introduced a couple of relatively inexpensive "ultrathins," the ProBook 5310m and Pavilion dm3. The ProBook 5310m is 0.9-inches thick, weighs in at 3.7 pounds, and sports a 13.3-inch diagonal LED high-definition display. It is offered with a Intel Core 2 Duo SP9300 (low-power) processor and combines durable, black anodized aluminum with a magnesium frame.

The HP Pavilion dm3--also classified as an ultrathin--comes in an all metal design, with up to 10 hours of battery life via the standard six-cell battery. The dm3 uses a 13.3-inch diagonal LED screen and offers AMD or Intel processors and a discrete graphics chip.

HP Envy 13 laptop is a higher-priced, higher-performance thin laptop

HP Envy 13 laptop is a higher-priced, higher-performance thin laptop

(Credit: Hewlett-Packard

The HP ProBook 5310m starts at $699 with an Intel Celeron dual core and $899 with Intel Core 2 Duo. The notebook is expected to be available in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region on Oct. 22 with the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system.

The HP Pavilion dm3 starts at $549 with an AMD processor and $649 with an Intel processor and is expected to be available starting Oct. 22 with the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system.

The higher-priced and higher-performance sub-one-inch-thick "Envy 13" laptop bears some of the hallmarks of the MacBook Air, such as an aluminum body and a robust graphics chip. The Envy 13 will come with an Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, ATI Radeon HD 4330 graphics, and a 1,366x768 display. It starts at $1,699.

by Brooke Crothers

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