Thursday, July 30, 2009

Android Netbooks from Acer coming this year

Despite reports to the contrary, the latest from Acer is that their long-promised Android Netbook is still on its way for Q3 2009, not 2010. This also seems to blow a significant hole in the "no new Netbooks" report given by Digitimes. Then again, maybe not: Acer claims they'll put Android into a 10-inch Aspire One with an Atom processor. Will it be a machine already on sale?

Regardless, if we can try to glean a bit of truth behind this game of PR chess, it's still this: Netbooks haven't been upgrading their basic specs in months, and that's not going to change until Intel's new generation of Atom processors hits the market. Until that happens, Android or not, the guts of any Netbook will be pretty much the guts you see in any Netbook right now.

Would Google's Android OS (or any other OS) be enough to get you to buy a new Netbook?

Hack Turns Netbook Battery into USB Charger

Czech hacker Josef Průša took a look at his useless three-cell MSI Wind battery and wondered why it didn’t have a USB socket in the side. Surely it could power smaller, less thirsty devices than a netbook? After popping the case with a knife, he discovered that there was actually plenty of room left inside. Enough room, in fact, for a USB port and a voltage regulator.

It turns out that there is enough power in the 12 volt battery charge an iPhone twice, although of course you can use it with any USB-powered device. It also turns out that the power conversion, stepping down from 12 volts to 5 volts, generates a lot of heat, so Josef upgraded his passive-cooling device (a heatsink) to a bigger one, bringing the temperature down from a toasty 120ºC to a more manageable 70ºC, and punched through the stickers covering some existing holes in battery case for better air flow.

It looks like a simple hack, and damn useful too. As my wonderful and generous editor Dylan Tweney mentioned, it would be better if it worked with the battery still in the laptop, but still, I’m going to give it a try with my own spare Wind battery.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Samsung NP-N110 Netbook

Review of HP Mini 1035NR Netbook

Netook vs Notebook comparison

Here you can see one pretty cool comparison between notebooks and netbooks.

The comparison is Acer Aspire netbook vs Toshiba notebook


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gateway LT2000: A New Netbook Appears

New 10.1-inch Gateway netbooks hit a low price point.

Not to be outdone by competing companies in the current netbook craze, Gateway has announced a new addition to its compact notebook line: the LT2000 series. With a 10.1-inch screen, 1GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, three USB 2.0 ports, a built-in Webcam, and the ability to connect to the Internet, the LT2000 sounds

Seriously, we're at the point now where we need more differentiation between these miniature laptops, not more bargain-box confusion. But since the specs and a handful of images are all we have to go on, let's get to it.

To judge from the photos, I'd say that the LT2000 looks similar to other budget netbooks.It lacks awesome design flourishes, it isn't pink, it doesn't look as though it might transform into an awesome robot. Though I have yet to lay a hand on a review model, this offering is definitely not the Optimus Prime (or the Gobots, for that matter) of netbooks. It does seem on a par with other budget netbooks on most key specs, though: a 1.6GHz N270 Atom CPU, 1GB RAM, and a 160GB hard drive. Less impressive is the LT2000's three-cell battery, which (if you're lucky) will last 3 hours according to Gateway reps. We're talking about a $300 machine here, but rival netbooks (like the Toshiba NB205-310) that don't cost much more can last over three times as long.

On the software side, the LT2000 netbooks come equipped with Windows XP and preinstalled software--some free stuff (such as Adobe Reader), and some trial bloatware (such as Microsoft Works with Office Home and Student 2007).

One somewhat unusual element of the LT2000 is its multigesture touchpad, which allows users to swirl and flick their way through Web pages, music, and media.But even this feature appears on other models such as the Acer Aspire AS5536.

The LT2000 series netbooks are available now, in your choice of Cherry Red or NightSky Black. Stay tuned for a full review once test units arrive at our PC World Test Center.

Review of the MSI Wind netbook

Just how capable are the new breed of netbooks? Are they able to stand-in for laptops, notebooks and, in some cases, desktops? Depending on the application, the answer is yes, pretty much.

As I mentioned in a recent column, I purchased an MSI Wind U123 netbook earlier this week. I have now had an opportunity to work with the MSI Wind regularly (sometimes into the wee hours of the morning) for a better part of the week. That’s not forever, but it’s long enough for me to gain a reasonable an understanding of the device.

To give the Wind U123 the best possible exposure to my work style, I set aside my MacBook Pro keeping it turned off. Every business task that I did from home, from e-mail to web surfing to business spreadsheets to word processing, was done on the MSI Wind U123.

Out of this I have created a list that represents what I feel are the strong points and weak points for business use of the Wind U123. Many of these items also can also be applied to the Wind U100 and U120. (Although I have had no direct experience with these versions of the Wind, from what I’ve seen, they share enough in common with the U123 to make these observations relevant to them as well.) So here we go:

MSI Wind strong points:

  • Very nice keyboard
  • Good battery life (with six-cell battery exceeding five hours life)
  • Pretty decent 10-inch screen
  • Boots into Windows XP Home quickly
  • Fits nicely on the lap
  • Packs plenty of performance for business use
  • Easily switch to battery saving mode (even easier than the MacBook Pro--if you can believe that!)
  • Quiet, quiet, quiet (Only the fan can be heard and only in a quiet room. Even the keyboard is low noise)
  • Capable, well-built, and appears to be reliable
  • There are times when I forget that I am using a netbook (that's a good thing because it means that the device isn't getting in the way of what I'm doing.)

MSI Wind weak points:

  • Wireless LAN is turned off out of the box (this one really got me!)
  • Instruction manual is poorly written, not printed and lacks information
  • Disagreement between documentation, web information and the product itself as to what features are optional (Bluetooth, carry case, etc.) and what are included
  • Bloatware takes up hard drive space
  • Microsoft Office 2007 trial is extremely difficult to remove
  • Unit tends to tilt backwards with six-cell and nine-cell battery when screen is far back
  • Internal speakers sound is tiny and puny (The specs say that the Wind U123 has two speakers. I'm not sure it even has one. You will need to buy or use a pair of ear buds—it’s the only way you’ll ever hear anything!)
  • Windows XP Home is the only OS offered with the netbook (today)
  • Increasing memory from 1 GB to 2 GB may void warranty (Some users report that MSI says that this isn't the case, but the white label placed in the bottom over one of the screws says otherwise.)
  • Trackpad is small size offering only limited scrolling capability and no gesturing
  • MSI switched from the more capable Synaptics trackpad to the less capable Sentelic trackpad
  • No built-in optical drive (I purchased a LG GP08 from my local Best Buy to use as an external CD/DVD drive. It works just fine with the Wind.)

While I’ve listed quite a number of drawbacks, most are minor quibbles or can be worked around in one manner or other. None are deal breakers and none are strong enough to make me dislike the device.

My conclusion is that this is a pretty decent device. It is extremely portable and capable. It performs well and is easy to use. Sure, it has some gotchas, some limitations and issues. All products do. But by-enlarge, especially considering its sub $400 price, this is a very nice product. It proves two things: One, that netbooks can be used for many business applications in place of laptops and even desktops. And, two, that MSI knows what most users want and need in a netbook and have incorporated those features into the Wind series.

On the whole, I am impressed with the MSI Wind 123. Perhaps my expectations were set low based on my previous experiences with sub-sized mini-notebooks that were mostly underpowered with pathetic screens and terrible keyboards. (For more on my views on this, click here.) Obviously, size no longer matters as much as it once did, especially when it comes to features and capabilities. Today you can get most of what you need in a package that is about the size of a hardcover book and without having to break your budget—and that’s pretty neat.

Microsoft Not Worried About Netbooks

The once-healthy Windows cash cow is starting to exhibit signs of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT)'s Client division stumbled to its first-ever annual revenue decline in fiscal 2009 and saw fourth-quarter revenue fall more than $1 billion. And some of that weakness is the result of the growing popularity of netbooks.

Microsoft's overall OEM revenue fell 24 percent during the quarter, which Microsoft attributed to PC market weakness and the shift toward lower-priced netbook offerings like Windows XP Home. OEM premium mix, which pertains to sales of higher-priced versions of Windows vs. lower-priced ones, fell 13 percent during the quarter and now stands at 59 percent.

Yet, in spite of the evidence that netbooks are deleterious to Microsoft's revenue, Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's OEM division, said Microsoft doesn't see netbooks as a threat.

"I don't think we think about [netbooks] as hurting the business or not. I think we think about [them] as another aspect of the laptop market," Guggenheimer said in an interview earlier this month at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference.

Microsoft has long been working to get Windows running on small devices and was an early participant in the One Laptop Per Child program, and this enabled the company to react quickly to the opportunity netbooks represent to get Windows onto more devices, according to Guggenheimer.

"When the netbook came out, there wasn't a version of Windows for it. So, we adapted and came up with a version of XP, and that's what helped the market go forward," Guggenheimer said. "If you look at the percentage of netbooks running Linux today, I think Windows has actually helped make that market more successful."

Nonetheless, some Microsoft partners disagree with Guggenheimer's assertion that netbooks aren't a threat.

"I think Microsoft is very afraid of netbooks -- how could they not be?" said Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder.

Kretzer believes it'll be difficult for Microsoft to start charging more for Windows 7 on netbooks. "As prices on PCs continue to plummet, the 'Microsoft tax' on each machine begins to stick out like a sore thumb. When the OS is a third to half the price of a unit, people start to investigate other options," Kretzer said.

Microsoft is believed to charge OEMs between $20 and $25 per copy of XP Home on netbooks and it'll definitely have to charge more than that for Windows 7 on netbooks. Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, expects Microsoft to charge $20 or $30 more per unit for Windows 7 on netbooks compared to XP Home.

However, if Microsoft charges too much it risks driving more buyers to Linux netbooks. Tim Ulmen, principal at Midwest IT Solutions Group, Wichita, Kan., says OEMs have already slashed netbook prices to the bone and won't be able to take on the potential added costs of Windows 7.

"Whether it's XP Home or some entry-level version of Windows 7, overall price point is a key element to the success of the netbook, and I don't think the hardware vendors can squeeze any more out of their costs," Ulmen said.

Google (NSDQ:GOOG)'s Chrome OS represents another looming threat for Microsoft. Although little more than vapor at this point, Google has said Chrome OS is designed specifically for netbooks, and some analysts believe that Google could add legitimacy to the idea of Linux on the desktop and lend it valuable name-brand recognition.

"Linux is still a potential platform for netbooks, but I think Google has the biggest chance of being disruptive," said Ken Winell, CEO of ExpertCollab, a SharePoint-focused solution provider in Florham Park, N.J.

Despite these threats, Microsoft expects Windows 7's arrival this fall to clarify the role of the netbook in the PC market. The notion of netbooks as a new class of device arose from the fact that they were unable to run Vista, but Guggenheimer predicts that when Windows 7 arrives, that will cease to be the case.

"Vista didn't fit well on [netbooks], which allowed for the perception of a discontinuity," Guggenheimer said. "But as soon as you have Windows 7 out there, and it works cleanly and you have all versions for it, then it'll just become part of the laptop family. I think we see that as good, [because it'll mean] more machines, hopefully, that are shipping now."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gateway joins the $299 Netbook club

The $299 Netbook club is getting a little bit bigger with the announcement of Gateway's 10.1-inch LT2000. Gateway calls it "a sleek and compact," system that will, "let mobile customers maximize their time on the go to stay connected and productive." We call it a Gateway-branded version of corporate-cousin Acer's popular Aspire One (also available for $299).

Like the Acer models, the Gateway LT2000 supports some basic multi-touch gestures on its touchpad, and it will be available in red and black (sorry, that's actually "NightSky Black and Cherry Red").

Look for it to be available to order starting today. Click through for more pics and specs.

Gateway LT2001u

  • Intel Atom Processor N270 (1.60GHz, 533MHz FSB, 512KB L2 Cache)
  • Genuine Microsoft Windows XP Home (Service Pack 3)
  • 10.1-inch WSVGA 16:9 ratio TFT LCD (1,024x600 resolution)
  • Mobile Intel 945GSE Express Chipset
  • 1024MB DDR2 533 MHz SDRAM
  • 160GB SATA 5,400RPM Hard Drive
  • Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
  • Multi-in-1 Digital Media Card Reader
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
  • Web Camera
  • Two Built-in Stereo Speakers
  • Dolby Headphone Technology
  • Three USB 2.0 Ports
  • 3-cell Li-ion Battery
  • One-Year Standard Warranty
  • 2.62 lbs.
  • 10.17 (w) x 7.24 (D) x 1.03 inches (H)
  • Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: $299.99

Friday, July 17, 2009

Review: $500 Samsung netbook sports new processor

NEW YORK (AP) — Intel Corp. has had a near lock on supplying processors for netbooks — the cheap, tiny laptops that are the biggest hit in the computer market these days. Now there's an alternative from a Taiwanese competitor, Via Technologies Inc. It might be time to leave your Intel-powered comfort zone.

I took the Samsung NC20, the first netbook on the U.S. market with the Via Nano processor, for a spin. I found it to be a capable unit, comparable to the netbooks that use Intel's Atom chip, though there are some notable differences. If you're in the market for a netbook, perhaps for the fall semester, it's definitely worth considering.

First of all, the NC20 has a 12-inch screen. Netbooks have so far topped out at 10 inches, so the NC20 gives us a lot more space to work with. Intel has discouraged manufacturers from using Atoms with larger screens, saying the processor isn't powerful enough. (A few manufacturers, like Dell, have just started making 12-inch Atom-powered netbooks anyway.)

The size of the screen brings the NC20 closer to a full-size laptop, but the price and weight are still netbook-ish: $500 and 3.5 pounds. Like other netbooks, Samsung's lacks a DVD drive and runs the Windows XP operating system, rather than the more recent Vista. The keyboard is smaller than full size, but by no means cramped.

When it comes to performance, the NC20 is also clearly a netbook rather than a full-powered laptop. It's fine for Web browsing and e-mail, but not for the latest games or for video editing. The processor can't keep up with high-action scenes from shows like "Prison Break" on, resulting in stuttering video.

However, it did better at video playback than an Asus EeePC 1000HE, a good Atom-powered unit, indicating that the Nano has a bit more oomph. The NC20 can even play a modest 3-D game like "World of Warcraft" if you can put up with some sluggishness.

The Nano's extra muscle seems to come at the price of shorter battery life. The NC20 lasted just beyond three hours when set to play a video while accessing the Internet intermittently over Wi-Fi. That is decent but not great for this category. In normal use, it would probably last six hours. The 1000HE lasts more than 50 percent longer, despite a smaller battery. The Asus model's smaller screen accounts for some of the difference, but it's likely the processor plays a part in sapping the NC20's battery.

Microsoft Corp.'s new operating system, Windows 7, will be out in October. The previews are positive so far, so anyone buying a computer now should be thinking about upgrading this fall. Yet the NC20 isn't quite ready for Windows 7. Because the graphics chip eats up part of the NC20's 1 gigabyte of memory, it would need a memory upgrade first, according to Microsoft's Upgrade Advisor software.

That's a minor issue. The NC20 is a light and cheap machine with a generous screen that proves that the Nano can hold its own. Laptops in this size range are also starting to show up with chips from another Intel competitor, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., giving us even more choices. Netbooks have all been pretty much cast in the same mold, but that's about to change.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dell down but netbook sales save PC day

There is light at the end of the PC funnel, according to figures released by IDC for the worldwide market. But PC giant Dell is suffering because the commercial sector just isn't buying.

IDC had expected that sales in the second quarter of 2009 would have declined by 6.3 percent but the decline was only 3.1 percent - largely due to people buying portable PCs. IDC said that all regions show growth in the sales of portable PCs, although the commercial segment continues to be shy of splashing its cash.

Even falling prices haven't tempted corporate buyers to bite, but that isn't the case for the consumer market, said IDC. Lack of commercial sales "remains a drag on growth".

Different markets showed different rates of decline. The US market declined by three percent quarter on quarter, year on year. Dell was top in this sector but its growth is closely tied to commercial sales. In the European sector, the portable market performed better than expected, largely due to sales of netbooks and telecomm deals. Again, the commercial market just isn't buying.

Japan had year on year growth and again the netbook market showed growth while the commercial market was slow. In the Asia Pacific region, China did well and India was about what was to be expected. Shipments were positive.

And now for the winners and losers in the PC desperation derby. As the following table shows, HP held the top spot while Dell showed a steep decline. Unit shipments are in thousands and X86 server sales are excluded from these figures.

Rank Vendor
1 HP
2 Dell
3 Acer
4 Lenovo
5 Toshiba



Netbooks Still Booming, 32.7M Shipped So Far This Year

Netbooks are selling like hotcakes as notebooks falter

The popularity of netbooks is continuing to have a profound effect on the fortunes of many computer makers. One company that is taking full advantage of the popularity of netbooks is Acer. Acer is set to overtake Dell as the second largest shipper of computers behind HP thanks to the popularity of Acer netbooks globally.

Research firm DisplaySearch announced this week that computer makers are expected to ship 32.7 million netbooks this year, an increase of 99.1% compared to last year. Shipments of notebook computers will reach 129.5 million units, a scant tenth of a percent under the 129.6 million units shipped last year.

When netbooks are taken into account, overall shipments of notebooks will rise by 11.1% compared to 2008. Netbooks are particularly popular in emerging markets like Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The EMEA region will count for 40% of all netbook shipments this year. The adoption and shipment of netbooks is the lowest in developed areas like the United States.

DisplaySearch says that netbooks will continue to be a significant portion of the notebook markets shipments through this year and beyond. The growth of netbooks is also being fueled by the glut of larger screen netbooks hitting the market with sizes from 10.1-inches up to 12.1-inches.

DisplaySearch's John F. Jacobs said in a statement, "It is clear that buyers want a lightweight device, but that they also want a bigger display. While these devices have certainly created a new market, our research indicates that they are predominantly used as secondary PCs by consumers, and are not replacing notebooks."

Hands On with the eeePC T91 Touch Netbook

It seemed like ages ago, but earlier this year at CES 2009, Asus had a touch-enabled netbook prototype on display. Rumors swirled as onlookers debated whether this little convertible supported multi-touch functions.

On Wednesday, Asus officially unveiled the eeePC T91 tablet, and though it doesn't have a multi-touch panel, it is the first touch-enabled netbook to hit the U.S. market. While most of the single-touch gestures were fluid and responsive, the T91 basically took the first generation eeePC 4G and slapped a rotating touch screen on it. That, and the fact that it's expensive ($500), is likely a deal breaker for those who were looking forward to this netbook tablet.

I spent the majority of the time playing with the T91's touch functions. Surprisingly, it's not using Windows XP's Tablet Edition, as that''s usually the go-to operating system for tablets. Instead, Asus developed a layer that works on top of Windows XP's Home Edition, called Touch Gate. There are a couple of ways to enter the Touch Gate interface – via a desktop icon, a physical button next to the display or through Asus's virtual dock – and, once inside, you are presented with four customizable touch icons.

TouchSuite, as Asus calls it, is just one of three panels arranged as a three-sided cube. The other two panels consist of a widget dock, which looks something stolen right out of the Apple operating system, and Windows XP's desktop environment. You can flick the screen to navigate from one pane to the other. Touch one of the icons, and it'll do a rotating dance and launch the application. You can drag and drop different icons into TouchSuite by pulling up a ribbon of icons right below the four main ones.

Most of the touch applications were developed in-house. There's a photo application that does everything that it should do from a touch perspective, including rotating, zooming in and out, panning, and flipping through album pages. Again, it's just a single-touch panel, so you won't be able to pinch and enlarge an image with two fingers – just one. A memo and a notepad application are present as well, both enabling the ability to take simple notes.

Since it isn't based on XP's Tablet OS or Wacom's pen technology, handwriting recognition is very limited. Doodling and jotting simple notes are fine and fun, and there is a virtual onscreen keyboard that you can launch (I didn't try this feature), but this is clearly not a netbook for serious tablet users.

It gets worse from here, unfortunately. Asus had the right idea by making it a convertible, exposing a keyboard with a swivel screen. The 83% keyboard, though, is as small as the one in the original eeePC 4G. Meanwhile, popular netbooks like the Toshiba NB205, the Acer Aspire One (D250-1165) and the Asus eeePC 1000HE have keyboards that range from 92% to full size.

The T91 uses an 8.9-inch widescreen, while others in the netbook category have already standardized on 10-inch ones. A 16-GB solid state drive is the only part that will fit into an eeePC 4G body. Asus attempted to soften this blow by including a 16-GB SD card and 20 GB worth of online storage. Added up, 52GB of "hybrid" storage still pales in comparison to capacities from spinning drives.

In parts, the 1.33GHz, Intel Atom Z520 is the same processor found in the Acer Aspire One A0751h, and we already know that there's some performance degradation compared to more common Atom processors such as the N270 (1.6GHz) and the N280 (1.66GHz). I think the biggest blow to this touch netbook is its $500 price. You're basically paying an obscene amount for a 2 year old netbook with fancy touch inputs.

Intel CEO keen on 'ultra-thins' as alternative to Netbooks

During Intel's earnings conference call Tuesday, CEO Paul Otellini said inexpensive "ultra-thins" will give users what they're missing in Netbooks, a theme that the chipmaker has been reiterating in various forums lately.

Intel continues to try to maneuver this new and more profitable category of laptops into territory where Netbooks continue to hold mindshare. Ultra-thins are low-cost laptops, typically with 13-inch screens, based on Intel's ultra-low-power (ULV) chips. Netbooks have screens usually no larger than 11 inches and use Intel's lower-cost, lower-performance Atom processor.

Echoing prior comments by other executives, Otellini said that ultra-thins address the Netbook's shortcomings. "When people try to do 3D games on these things (Netbooks) or try to run their office applications on them, they tend to think it's a bit slow and that isn't just the processor, it's the entire architecture," he said in response to analyst's question during the conference call, which was streamed on Intel's Web site.

"Now, if you want a thin and light notebook, you don't have to just pick a Netbook. You can pick an affordable notebook that has more functionality," Otellini said.

Well-established consumer perceptions of Netbooks and the higher prices of ultra-thins, such as the $699 Acer Aspire Timeline, makes the latter a challenge to position in the marketplace.

"When we first released our ultraportable (ultra-thin) a lot of people looked at it and said, 'oh it's Netbook,'" said Kelt Reeves, president of enthusiast PC maker Falcon Northwest. "No, it's close to a Netbook in size but it's much, much more capable," Reeves said, addressing user misconceptions.

Windows 7 may not go very far in correcting all the confusion. "Windows 7 runs well even on $199 Netbook," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at investment bank Collins Stewart. Kumar said Intel may continue to have trouble managing consumer perceptions of Netbooks and ultra-thins.

Otellini also revisited the subject of cannibalization--that is, the tendency for Netbooks to take market share from more mainstream laptops. "We're talking about a total cannibalization that's probably no more than 20 percent," Otellini said, in response to another analyst question.

The Intel CEO also said that Netbooks may become increasingly popular as a wireless 3G device sold by telecommunications companies. "I think in 2010 that's likely to be a large part of the business...There was a Best Buy, Sprint Netbook ad last week at $0.99 if you signed up for two years...And you'll start seeing more of that," he said.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Netbooks To Comprise 20% Of Notebooks Shipped

Netbooks, which are expected to reach nearly triple-digit growth this year, will account for one in five notebooks shipped globally, while shipments of traditional laptops will be flat, a market research firm said Tuesday.

Manufacturers will ship 32.7 million netbooks this year, an increase of 99.1% from last year, DisplaySearch said. Shipments of traditional notebooks will reach 129.5 million units, which is one-tenth of a percent less than the 129.6 million units shipped last year.

Because of the popularity of netbooks, notebook shipments overall will rise by 11.1% over last year, the market researcher said.

Netbooks, which are mini-notebooks that sell for less than $500, have been most popular in the emerging market of Latin America and in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The latter EMEA region is expected to account for 40% of all netbook shipments this year, which is 5% less than in 2008, but well in excess of the region's total share of the notebook market.

Netbooks will continue to be a significant proportion of the market beyond this year, DisplaySearch said. However, the screen sizes of the devices are increasing, rising from seven inches when netbooks were first introduced in 2007 to as much as 12 inches today.

"It is clear that buyers want a lightweight device, but that they also want a bigger display," John F. Jacobs, director of notebook research at DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "While these devices have certainly created a new market, our research indicates that they are predominantly used as secondary PCs by consumers, and are not replacing notebooks."

A major reason for slump in the notebook market has been weak sales among businesses, which have cut back IT spending in the economic recession. However, the release of Windows 7 by Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in late October this year, if combined with economic recovery, could lead to a "rapid recovery" in the business market in 2010, DisplaySearch said.

Meanwhile, market researcher iSuppli said Tuesday that PC shipments, including notebooks, desktops, and entry-level servers, would fall this year for the first time since the dot-com bust in 2001, when shipments fell 5.1% year-to-year.

PC shipments this year are expected to drop to 287.3 million units, down 4% from 299.2 million units in 2008, iSuppli said. The research firm had previously predicted a 0.7% increase in shipments for 2009.

Which OS would you want in a Netbook?

A report surfaced on Monday claiming that the new Acer Aspire One Netbook featuring Android will start shipping in August. The price of the Netbook is still unknown.

The computer reportedly will have the Google mobile operating system installed but will be configured as a dual-boot system, also shipping with Microsoft's Windows XP.

In June, just a few days after Acer announced that an Android-based Netbook would hit store shelves, the company told Digitimes that deploying a dual-OS strategy was in its best interest.

"(Acer Chairman) Wang pointed out that the dual-OS strategy is much safer for Acer, since consumer acceptance of the Android platform is unclear for the time being," DigiTimes reported. "Acer will be able to promote Android as a value-added feature, similar to Asustek Computer's Express Gate, to account for any price premium."

It's an interesting decision. To hedge its bets, Acer has decided that consumers wouldn't want an Android-only Netbook. So if you're looking to buy one of these computers, you'll have two operating systems from which to choose. Which OS would you pick?

Android's promise
I'm a true believer that Android has some real promise on Netbooks. I've been extremely happy with the operating system. It might not be the iPhone OS, but it's close.

Android's allure can be found in its apps. Although Windows XP enjoys compatibility with just about any desktop software package, there are great opportunities for extending the functionality of a Netbook with Android. From social-networking apps to games, the platform could provide a unique, compelling Netbook experience.

Plus, Android is designed for touch-screen devices. So if Acer ever wanted to release a Netbook that sports a touch screen, there's little doubt that Android could be the more attractive operating system over anything Microsoft offers.

Android's problems
Admittedly, Android will face some serious issues as it makes its way to Netbooks. How will it interact with hardware such as printers and accessories? Since some of the software that end users employ is designed for Mac OS X or Windows, chances are, those programs won't work with Android. It could prove to be an extremely frustrating computing experience. And it might turn some back to Windows.

Of course, Acer might be able to make Android compatible with most external hardware. But since it's based on Linux, incompatibility will be a problem, no matter what it tries.

Perhaps it does make some sense to bundle two operating systems with Acer Netbooks. Consumers can use Windows XP for those moments when they need to access software or hardware. They can use Android when they want to enjoy a basic computing experience, surf the Web, check e-mail, or play with neat applications.

Each operating system has its own unique benefit. But in a dual-boot system, only one can be used at once. So which would be your primary OS?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Google's CEO Talks About Chrome Netbooks, Apple Board Seat

Decision to produce netbooks might require Google's CEO to recuse himself from Apple's board

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is no stranger to controversy. Heading the world's most powerful internet corporation, he has taken on everyone from Bill Gates to newspaper moguls without breaking a sweat.

However, Mr. Schmidt has his hands full currently with criticism about the fact that he holds a position on Apple's board of directors. As a major Apple investor, Mr. Schmidt seems a natural fit for the board. However, Google competes with Apple in several markets already including the browser (Google's Chrome challenges Apple's Safari 4) and the smart phone market (Android OS phones like the G1 challenge Apple's iPhone). The board position would also require Mr. Schmidt to help direct Apple's business which is a possible illegal conflict of interest.

Now with Google set to challenge Apple in yet another market -- the OS business. Google is looking to challenge Microsoft's Windows and Apple's OS X by making an operating system of its own: Chrome OS. The move, announced earlier this week, made headlines as many hope that Google's user friendly applications will translate into an operating system that is more user friendly and open that Apple or Microsoft's offerings.

Under investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Mr. Schmidt revealed that for now, things seem to be OK with Apple. He told Reuters, "I'll talk to the Apple people. At the moment, there's no issue."

As to Chrome OS, he says that netbooks with the OS on it will likely be announced later this year. The OS itself will debut in units shipping in the second half of 2010. This allows it to avoid a direct competition with Windows 7 and Apple's Snow Leopard, both set to launch in the second half of this year.

While Apple has insisted that it will not make a netbook due to quality concerns, Google's OS could possibly drive customers from Apple's pricier offerings to cheaper netbooks. For Microsoft, the announcement is equally threatening as it was hoping to finally capitalize on the netbook market with a modern OS with Windows 7 being slim enough to run on many netbooks (Windows Vista was too bulky for most netbooks). Now it will face a battle for this growing chunk of market share with a company that's already beat it in the online search business.

However, Google also faces tough challenges. Even if Mr. Schmidt agrees to cut ties with Apple and resolve the legal issues surround his board seat, the company is entering a territory which Microsoft has long dominated, with as much as a 90 percent global market share.

Start saving up for Apple tablet or netbook

Start saving up for Apple tablet or netbook

The rumors about an Apple tablet or netbook have been revived thanks to a report in the China Times that says the device is on its way in October.

According to a translation in MacRumors Forum, three Taiwanese companies - Foxconn, Wintek and Dynapack - have received orders related to the device.

The story goes on to say the netbook/tablet will not compete against other major netbooks and will likely sell for $800. It's unclear to me if this is a tablet without a keyboard or a more conventional netbook. The story makes it sound like it's a 9.7-inch screen netbook with touch-screen capabilities.

Apple has said in the past that it's keeping an eye out but downplayed any moves into the market because it hasn't figured out a way to make something with those price limitations that's not a piece of junk.

Perhaps Apple has figured it all out. If it's a real netbook, will it be running OS X? Or will it be a souped-up iPod Touch running iPhone OS 3.0? If they can do a $999 Macbook, it's certainly possible to get to $800. But will Apple just strip down a computer or do something really interesting?

How some of the latest netbook releases compare

Asus Eee PC 1005HA

Cnet rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The good: Sleek, attractive design; lower price; amazing battery.

The bad: Thicker and heavier than the previous model; still near the upper end of the netbook price range.

The price: $390

The bottom line: Asus hits nearly all the marks in the 1005HA, the latest version of its iconic Eee PC, highlighted by a 6-hour-plus battery.

Read the full review

Toshiba Mini NB205

Cnet rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (very good)

The good: Distinctive design; large touch pad; great battery life.

The bad: Bulky battery sticks out awkwardly; big screen bezel dwarfs display; wimpy audio.

The price: $400

The bottom line: Toshiba finally enters the netbook market with the Mini NB205. It's got an upscale, distinctive look and a good keyboard/touch pad combo, but also has weak audio and a big, bulky battery.

Read the full review

HP Mini 110

Cnet rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (very good)

The good: Budget-friendly version of one of our favorite netbooks.

The bad: Thicker and heavier than previous versions; included file-syncing software didn't impress us.

The price: $330

The bottom line: While the new, less expensive HP Mini 110 doesn't stray far from the Mini 1000 mold, there are some subtle changes - not always for the best.

Read the full review

Fujitsu M2010

Cnet rating: 3 stars out of 5 (good)

The good: Bright, crisp screen; loud volume for a netbook.

The bad: Bulky; smaller keyboard; expensive compared with similar netbooks.

The price: $369 to $449

The bottom line: With a thick chassis and features that don't rise above the pack, the Fujitsu M2010 will have a hard time breaking through the clutter of less-expensive systems.

Read the full review

3G netbook market growing at rapid pace, iSuppli says

Market researchers continue to believe that the netbook category will be posting significant shipment growth. iSuppli said that 3G netbooks shipments alone will top 17 million this year. Good news for Google and its Chrome OS, cloud applications and its investment in WiMax company Clearwire?

Most netbooks aren’t quite real netbooks yet. Our impression of a netbook today is a compact mobile computer with very limited hardware horsepower that is enough to browse the Internet and various content types. However, overall wireless connectivity is still limited and somehow stuck in the early 2000s. That may change soon as “always-on” Internet connections in netbooks will be more and more common over the next few years.

iSuppli said that 3G netbook shipments, netbooks with integrated wireless broadband access, will hit 17.8 million units this year, up from 10.3 million in 2008 and up from 443,000 in 2007. By 2012, the number is estimated to top 36.2 million. Windows dominates this space with its XP operating system at this time and is expected to capture the majority of the market with Windows 7. But there is also Google, which aims its Linux-based Chrome OS at the netbook market as well and even if no Linux version has been able to make a visible impact on the netbook market, it seems that the netbook market volume is enough for Google to take a shot at it.

iSuppli believes that it will be critical for Google, to promote and position its brand so that non-tech-savvy consumers will be comfortable buying a netbook running its operating system rather than one from Microsoft.

“The small penetration of Linux in netbooks is not due to any technical shortcomings,” iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins said. “Rather, the OS has suffered from the fact that there is not one Linux brand name that is capable of taking on the strength of the Microsoft trademark in the PC market. Because the vast majority of people who buy netbooks are consumers, who do not have a high degree of knowledge of the key players in the OS market, they are going with the names that they know. And in PCs, that name is Microsoft.”

To succeed, “Google must counter the high visibility of the Microsoft brand name on countless products in retail outlets, ranging from software, to PCs, to peripherals,” iSuppli said. It will also have to establish OEM deals that place its Chrome OS name on the netbooks as they ship from OEMs’ factories.

“If this does not happen with sufficient critical mass, then the OS will be left at the mercy of digital distribution, requiring that users download and install some client software on their own,” Wilkins said. “This is a procedure at considerable odds with the basic PC knowledge of the typical netbook user.”

But clearly, Google has a major interest in 3G netbooks to become a successful product category in order to support its own web applications. And we should not forget that Google has purchased a substantial stake in WiMax company Clearwire and it will be interesting to see how Google will push this technology in the coming months and years.

Netbook Shipments to Double This Year, Research Says

Agam Shah, IDG News Service

Netbook shipments will double this year, while mainstream laptop shipments will remain flat, research firm DisplaySearch said on Monday.

Netbook shipments this year could reach around 32.7 million units, propelled by competitive pricing and improved hardware capabilities. Shipments will be close to double that of 16.4 million netbooks that shipped last year, said John Jacobs, director of laptop research at DisplaySearch.

The latest estimate represents a hike on the company's previous forecast of 27.5 million netbook shipments for the year.

Netbooks will also take a larger chunk of worldwide laptop shipments as mainstream laptop shipments flatten, Jacobs said. Worldwide mainstream laptop shipments will total 129.5 million, flat compared to last year.

Buyers are drawn to netbooks because of competitive pricing between US$300 to $500, Jacobs said. PC makers have also improved netbook hardware with larger screens and keyboards, which could further boost demand. The improvements were necessary as the cramped keyboards and small screens were resulting in many netbooks being returned, Jacobs said.

Some PC makers are also offering netbooks with better graphics capabilities, Jacobs said. For example, Lenovo recently introduced the IdeaPad S12 netbook, which has a 12-inch screen that can play full high-resolution movies with the optional Ion platform from Nvidia. The platform couples Nvidia's GeForce 9400 graphics core with Intel's Atom chip.

Companies like Apple previously dismissed netbooks, saying the small laptops had junky hardware and limited software capabilities.

Hardware improvements could blur the lines between netbooks and mainstream laptops in the future, Jacobs said. That could affect the shipment of laptops priced at around $800, he said. Lines could blur further when new ultrathin laptops priced between $500 and $800 make an impact, Jacobs said. PC makers recently started offering lightweight ultrathin laptops, which are more powerful than netbooks, but offer less performance than mainstream laptops.

Netbook shipments are getting a boost in developing countries, where buyers are adopting them as primary laptops. In developed countries, however, netbooks are viewed as secondary devices to mainstream laptops, Jacobs said.

Frozen IT budgets have also slowed down mainstream laptop shipments, though that may change in 2010 when customers look to upgrade their PCs to Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 OS. There is a lot of momentum behind Windows 7, but unlike mainstream laptops, users won't buy netbooks specifically for the OS, Jacobs said. Microsoft has said it would offer a version of Windows 7 for netbooks.

DisplaySearch said that of the 32.7 million netbooks estimated to ship this year, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) will account for 13.1 million units. North America shipments will total 8.8 million, with Greater China totaling 3.9 million units. Shipments in Asia will touch 3.0 million, while Japan and Latin America will account for 1.9 million units each.

Netbook shipments for the second quarter of 2009 totaled 7.07 million, just shy of 100 percent year-over-year growth, Jacobs said.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rumor redux: Apple Netbook coming in October?

Concept art for an Apple touch-screen Netbook.

(Credit: Gizmodo)

We get a lot of e-mails from folks asking us when to expect a Netbook from Apple. Let's make something absolutely clear: despite all the previous rumors, we have no idea if, or when, such a product will exist. But we will let report to you when a new (or recycled) rumor pops in the blogsphere.

The latest: the Mandarin-language publication Chinese Times is reporting that Apple will release a Netbook in October. We tend to put a question mark on our rumor headlines, but there doesn't seem to be any question mark in the reporting here--at least according to a translation of the article that appeared within's forum.

Naturally, this all comes from a "reliable source." Here's the key quote in the article (again, we are going by the translation that appeared on MacRumors):

    Taiwan's high-tech supply chain companies said Apple will debut its first Netbook in October; Apple will pose itself to tackle the Christmas shopping season. Three (Taiwanese) corporations--Foxconn, Wintek, Dynapack--have received direct orders from Apple. (Wintek will be producing touch screens and providing relevant technologies for Apple.) In addition, some supply chain companies have privately confirmed deals related to Netbooks."

The report also goes on to add that "Apple will not follow the current market trend (by producing Netbooks with screens about 10.2 or 10.1 inches in diagonal length). Instead, Apple will produce (touch) screens with about 9.7 inches in diagonal length." As to cost, word is that it will come in around $800, which is about what we'd expect an Apple Netbook to cost (if the company decides to make one).

There are also some interesting updates tacked on to the MacRumors post as additional stories have come out. One update says there are "unconfirmed rumors" that British reporters pried Apple Netbook info out of several Foxconn Electronics employees and that although Foxconn refused to publicly comment on the rumors, the reporters may have gotten some sort of private confirmation on the rumors' validity from the company itself.

Again, these are all rumors, and with Apple, you never know what kind of bizarre smoke screen it might put out there. But in the past, the company has had some issues with leaks coming out of its suppliers in Taiwan, so we're thinking there might be some truth to this one--especially since the same rumor hit back in March. Either way, we do expect Apple to release new iPods this fall (as it has the last few years). Whether one of them will be a giant iPod Touch remains to be seen.

Comments? Do you think Apple really will do a Netbook this year?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

ASUS Eee PC 1005HA Seashell Netbook


Manufacturer: ASUS
Product: Eee PC 1005HA-PU1X SeashellNetbook

Introduction, Specs and Bundle

With today's economy, everyone is becoming more and more budget-conscious, and the computer manufacturers have been responding to this economic hardship with the creation of budget-oriented (sub-$400), lightweight, portable netbooks. ASUS just sent us one of their newer models, the 1005HA netbook from their Seashell line, and we decided to give you a little preview of it before putting it through the paces in a near-future review.

A long battery life in a netbook is very crucial. When buying a netbook, consumers want to know that it is going to get the job done without shutting off mid-surf. According to ASUS's website, the ASUS EeePC 1005HA (Seashell) has a long-lasting battery of 10.5 hours!! I don't know about you, but staring at a computer screen for that long would certainly make my eyes go buggy. It certainly sounds like ASUS is responding to consumer demands, and we'll find out for sure how they did when we compare the Eee PC 1005HA to other ASUS and MSI netbooks including the N10Jc, Eee PC 1000HE and MSI U100 netbooks in our follow-up review.


Processor Intel Atom N280 Processor @ 1.66 GHz
Operating System Windows XP Home
Memory 1 GB DDR2 SO-DIMM
Display 10.1" LED Backlight WSVGA Screen (1024x600)
Video Card
Hybrid Storage


10GB Eee Storage (complimentary at first, then must register to extend)

Card Reader MMC/ SD(SDHC)
Webcam 1.3M Pixel.0.3M Pixel
  • 2 x Audio Jack (Headphone / Mic In)
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x VGA Port (D-Sub 15-Pin for external monitor)
  • 1 x LAN RJ-45
  • WLAN 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 GHz
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • High Definition Audio CODEC
  • Stereo Speaker
  • Digital Array Mic
  • 10.5 hrs, 6-cell 63Wh Li-ion Battery
  • 8.5 hrs, 6-cell 48Wh Li-ion Battery
  • 4 hrs, 3-cell 23Wh Li-ion Battery
  • 1.27kg (2.7lbs) (with 6-cell battery)
  • 1.1kg (2.4lbs) (with 3-cell battery)

262mm(W) x 178mm(D) x 25.9mm~ 36.5mm(H)

10.3"(W) x 7"(D) x 1"~ 1.4"(H)

Warranty 1 Year Limited Warranty


The box that the EeePC 1005HA-PU1X (Seashell) comes in has a picture of the netbook lying in sand next to a seashell, which goes along with the theme. When I first looked at the box, I thought the seashell was a wireless mouse, which would have been unique to have a seashell-shaped mouse to go along with the Seashell netbook...

As we opened the box, we saw the black netbook sleeve wrapped and packaged right on top, with everything else securely packed underneath.

The ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-PU1X (Seashell) comes with the AC power adapter, a protective sleeve, user's manual, warranty card and a support DVD. The DVD contains the drivers, software applications and utilities.


When closed, ASUS EeePC 1005HA (Seashell) has the trademark stylish "Eee" written on the shiny black top.

When viewed from the side, you can see that the netbook is shaped like a bivalve. You can get a better idea of this in the next image:

When compared to the ASUS EeePC 1000HE, the 1005HA Seashell has a sleeker design with a narrower front that earns it the name "Seashell."

On the left side of the 1005HA, we have the power input, display monitor output, USB 2.0 port, Kensington Lock port, and air vents. I must say that as a righty, I enjoy having the power cord on the left side of the netbook. I often use a mouse instead of the track pad, and when I need my netbook plugged in, the power cord can easily get in the way of my mouse when it is placed on the right. The Kensington Lock port allows you to secure your computer to the desk, often with a metal cable and lock. This comes in handy if you don't trust your roommates or if you need to leave your netbook in a hotel room.

On the right side of the netbook, from left to right you have your memory card slot, headphone output jack, microphone jack, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and the LAN port.

Here is a picture of the keyboard layout. In the upper right corner is the power switch, the touchpad on/off key is in the upper left, the touchpad and buttons are centered at the bottom, and the indicator lights are at the bottom right under the LR watermark.

In our review of the ASUS N10Jc-A1 Netbook, I stated,

"One feature that is lacking on this and many other laptops is an "off switch" for the touchpad for people with clumsy thumbs like me. Several times while writing this review I've found myself accidentally clicking in another part of the page and typing in the wrong spot."

I'd like to say that ASUS added the touchpad on/off key just for me, but that would probably be a falsehood. Nonetheless, kudos to ASUS for adding this feature!!

Another thing to note on the keyboard is about the arrow buttons. Notice that the up and down arrows are half the height of the other buttons. At first I did not think this was going to be very convenient, but it did not take long to get the muscle memory to use these effectively. I feel this was a very efficient way to conserve space on the keyboard, and it allows the other keys to be large enough to type without trouble.

Here is a touchpad unique enough that it deserved its own picture. Instead of being just a simple rectangle stuck at the bottom of the keyboard, ASUS decided to get stylish. Notice in the keyboard picture above that you cannot really see the touchpad. That is because it is made up of rows of tiny raised dots! Is this a good thing? Well, I think it looks very smart. As for usefulness, out of the 5 people I had try it, 2 liked it better, 2 disliked it, and one person was indifferent, citing that he hates all track pads. It is definitely a personal preference, but I think it is something that anyone can get used to. The buttons at the bottom appear as one long bar, and it is wide enough to tap without very much concentration. Oh, and did we mention that it is multi-touch? Like the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE, you can use two fingers to stretch or shrink your photos or scroll on your favorite website.

Like many of ASUS' previous netbooks, the 1005HA does have a removable battery unlike its slightly older brother, the 1008HA. Another thing to take note of, though, is that ASUS has continued to restrict access to the hard drive on the 1005HA.

Here is a picture of the 6-cell, 5600 mAh, 11.25V, 63Wh li-ion battery. This battery is rated to last about 10.5 hours, whereas the 8700mAH, 7.2V, 62Wh battery in the ASUS Eee PC1000HE is rated to last about 9.5 hours.

Here you can see the memory underneath the memory compartment cover. With just removing a single screw, you can easily upgrade the memory to 2GB if you wish.

The 1005HA comes equipped with 1GB DDR2 memory that is removable just like any other SO-DIMM.

We wanted to show the power adapter here because of how frail it looks. The part that plugs into your netbook is very thin compared to other netbooks we have looked at, and it appears to be easy to break. We will be very careful with this...

Now you have seen the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-Pu1x (Seashell)! With an Intel Atom N280 Processor, a 160GB HDD and an advertised 10.5 hour battery life, we are hoping that this netbook pulls ahead of the others we have reviewed while on our test bench. At just $389.99 shipped at Newegg at the time of this article, this Seashell certainly has the potential to be a great netbook for anyone in the market for a budget computer.

$100 PC Era Brought by Asus EEE PC, Not OLPC, After All: $129, 9" LCD (also Alpha 400

by Clayton iN Cleveland Saturday, Jul. 11, 2009 at 2:50 PM

One of the things that capitalists fear the most, believe it or not, is the concept of a $100 PC. That's why ever since the Asus EEE came out in October 2008 there has been constant pressure to up the performance -- and of course the price -- from every kind of news and PR source and of course from Microsoft, who have practically been willing to give away their once-discarded XP OS to get it on so-called "netbooks" (as their partner in crime, Intel, promptly dubbed them).

The $100 PC originally was promised by the nonprofit OLPC (One Laptop Per Child project), and they failed to deliver, even switched from Linux to that "vast capitalist conspiracy," Windows. Even Asus failed to attain $100 exactly and switched to Windows also.

But can we finally agree that the day of "the computer you need is always $5000" -- gross exploitation of computer consumers by corporate capitalism -- is over and the day of $100 PCs (laptops, notebooks, MIDs, smartphone computers, etc.) is finally here? I mean, if can sell a 9-inch version for $129.95, that's close enough for me to declare victory. Even if it is only for July 2009. And even if the unit is a refurb (3-month warranty, which American Express should extend to 1-year if you use them). (Buyer Beware: When you order on a special deal online, don't forget to apply the "secret savings code," 900M here, at checkout to get the near $100 price . Write the code down as soon as you see it.) If you insist on brand new, and if a 7-inch screen will suffice, the same outfit offers our beloved ALPHA-400, always, day in and day out, for $149.99 (sometimes near $130) .

As I said in October, the Asus EEE PC will be remembered as the Model T of computers -- the computer for the masses that put the world on the Web (and not just the core developed nations). In a sense, there is a chance to get your piece of history.


On a recent trip to the Microcenter store out in Mayfield Heights, I was shocked to find not one Linux notebook. And this was one of the first retailers to carry the Asus EEE PC in bricks-and-mortar stores. More recently, news reports say that Microsoft XP has about a 99-percent share in mini-laptops (netbooks) being sold now.

Do you feel baited and switched? It's a technique as old as retailing, mercantilism, and probably trade itself; and it works best under capitalism: "Underpowered." "Unfamiliar." "For kids." "Not for intensive gaming, video editing [or whatever]." "Needs a larger screen for real work" [as large as that mural-sized LCD on your wall, or is a 2" cellphone screen enough sometimes?]. Or as Bill Gates famously said, "Geez, get yourself a decent computer."


Friday, July 10, 2009

Hands-On with the Lenovo IdeaPad S12


If our hands-on with the Lenovo’s IdeaPad S12 told us anything it is that 12 inches is the new 10 inches. Lenovo’s newest IdeaPad may sport some netbook parts, but its larger screen and chassis makes it more like an ultraportable notebook than anything else. Check out our impressions, gallery and video of the Lenovo IdeaPad S12 below.

The IdeaPad S12 wears the same improved design as Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10-2. The glossy black lid (also available in white) has an imprinted pattern that looks similar to Target’s Bulls eye. The overall build of the notebook is solid and at 1.4-inches thick, we were reminded of Lenovo’s business aimed X200 and its thin and compact stature.

Surrounding the S12 are more ports than your typical netbook. It has 3 USB, an Express Card 34 slot , 4-in-1 card reader, VGA, mic and headphone. (The Ion version of the S12 will have an HDMI port.)

Under the lid is a 12.1-inch glossy display which, with its 1280×800 resolution, makes it much easier on the eyes than a 10-inch netbook. And thanks to the extra screen real estate, the S12 has a full-size keyboard; the matte black keys were comfortable and similar to those on the other IdeaPads. Underneath the keyboard is large trackpad with a single mouse button.

The unit we had some hands-on time with packed a Via Nano processor which will not be available in the U.S. However, Lenovo will offer the S12 in the U.S. with an Intel Atom processor and Intel Atom joined with Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M graphics (known as Ion). All SKUs will run Windows XP and pack a 160GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM.

With all models of the S12 being priced below $500 (the Atom will be $449), the S12 has the potential to seriously shake up the market. Beyond its thin and attractive design, the S12’s larger screen and more powerful performance make it more than a companion netbook.