Cheaper Ultra-Thin Notebooks on the Horizon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Intel announced new Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage (CULV) processors for its latest generation i-Series processor line-up. This is a significant move for Intel in that it also announced that the pricing for these consumer processors will be lower as compared to previous generations of ULV's.

ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1005PE-MU17-BK 10.1-Inch Black Netbook (Up to 11 Hours of Battery Life)The shift is seen by tech journalists to be in-line with recent trends in the market reeling from the popularity of netbooks. Though netbooks are seen as under-powered when compared to mainstream notebooks, the low price point has induced tremendous growth in adoption by consumers. It has also caused notebook manufacturers to rethink how they market ultra-thin notebooks, formerly known as ultra-portables, because of the close similarities in form factor.

Think about it. Five years ago ultra-thin notebooks were considered premium notebooks, priced well above mainstream notebooks. Just take a look at PC World or PC Magazine for reviews of ultra-portables released around 5 years ago and you'll see what I mean. With the creation of a new niche for netbooks, with screen size ranging from 7-11", ultra-thin notebooks with 12-13" LCD's were on the verge of gathering dust in store shelves and stock rooms. To a prospective buyer, they'd rather have a smaller screen if it means they can tote it around and not pay a premium for it. They would have fewer qualms about it being slower if it's a whole lot cheaper.

MSI U230-033US 12.1-Inch Netbook - 4 Hour Battery LifeBecause of that, manufacturers have of late been repositioning the ultra-thin notebooks in a performance and price niche slightly above netbooks but with less power than mainstream notebooks. Their main selling points have been maintained though - low-power consumption that extends battery life and small form factor that makes it light and very portable. Screen sizes are still 12-13", which snugly fits the niche between netbooks and mainstream laptops. To give you a sense of what your money can fetch for you, you can get an Intel CULV-powered MSI x400 for $390 now. An AMD Neo-powered MSI U210 sells for about $407. Both definitely have more powerful processors than the Atom on netbooks. Both have lithe frames, slightly better video and slightly larger LCD's than netbooks. Battery performance is better on netbooks with smaller screens, but CULV laptops still have it better than mainstream notebooks. If you've got the money, you can go a more powerful Core 2 Duo SU7300 CULV processor like the one they packed on the MSI X350. It costs $890, still in the mainstream notebook price range, but as portable as any 13" laptop you'll find. There's also the 11" Alienware m11x for those who cannot do without World of Warcraft on the road. The Alienware m11x will set you back $799 for the base model.

Intel's announcement of cheaper, more power-efficient CULV processors to beef up it latest generation will make for cheaper ultra-thin notebooks. There are also several laptops powered by the latest generation of AMD Neo processor (take for example MSI's U230) that will compete with Intel's CULV offerings. This will make for more products choices should you want to get something with a little more processing heft than a netbook. Bottom line, more choice is always better for us consumers.


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