Something extraordinary has happened in the market for portable PCs over the past year: a new category of devices, tagged variously as ultra mobile PCs (UMPCs), netbooks or mini-notes, has emerged. It was Taiwan-based Asus that launched the new sector when it brought out the first EeePC models and took many of the biggest makers of laptops by surprise in the process.FT.com/Columnists/Paul Taylor - Pint-sized laptops grow up
Unlike UMPCs such as the Samsung Q1 and the OQO Model 01, machines like Asus’s EeePCs and Acer Aspire One are designed for everyday, ordinary use that prizes convenience. Instead of tiny touch-based screens, BlackBerry-style keyboards and sky-high price tags, netbooks look and work like shrunk-down versions of full-featured, full-sized laptops, with traditional if smaller keyboards and bright 8in-10in colour LCD screens.
Most of the new netbooks are built around low-power Intel Atom microprocessors typically running at 1.6Ghz, come with 512Mb or 1Gb of Ram and either traditional hard drives or flash-memory-based SSDs (solid state drives). They usually support WiFi wireless networking (but not necessarily the fastest 802.11n standard) and come with Ethernet cable ports, and two or three USB ports for connecting peripherals including external hard drives, a mouse and 3G cellular broadband cards. Some have a standard VGA port for connecting a bigger external display or projector, slots for SD (secure digital) flash memory cards and, occasionally, an Express Card expansion slot – useful for plugging in 3G cellular data cards.
The Wall Street Journal has Walt Mossberg, but the Financial Times is doing just fine for themselves with personal technology columnist Paul Taylor. This is an an excellent primer on the new cheap netbooks, including evaluations of the more popular models.
If I hadn't already shelled out bux for a MacBook Air, I'd be a serious candidate for an MSI Wind running Ubuntu, with one of those 3G wireless modems plugged in... for what I paid for the Air, I could have a 3G broadband always-on-the-net netbook, pay for 2 years of cell data plan, and still come out ahead... 5.5 hours of battery life with the 6-cell battery... sigh. :-)
- Ubuntu (free for the asking)
- Apple MacBook Air MB003LL/A 13.3 Inch Laptop (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 2 GB RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive) (at Amazon)
- MSI Wind U100-432US 10-Inch Mini Laptop (1.6 GHz Intel Atom, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 6 Cell Battery, 802.11 b/g/n+BT, XP Home) Black (at Amazon)