Earlier today, I was reading this article from GeekwithLaptop.com, titled “Are Netbooks on their way out?”, which argues that netbooks do not have the power to do more than one thing at once (Which I agree with) and that they will pushed out of the market by “the new touch tablets coming our way as well as better SmartPhones and also eReaders which can now do a lot more than just read text will all help to push the Netbook out.”
Now, I don’t agree with that last part. You see, most of the people that I know that have a netbook, use it mainly as a second or third computer, that is very useful because it allows them to tackle light-weight workloads while they are traveling.
Besides, that articles suggests that people will drop netbooks for the new Apple tablet when it comes out. That idea is rubbish, think about it for a second: A netbook costs $300-$500. The Apple tablet will likely cost $800-$1000, not to mention the price of all the apps that Apple wants you to buy.
Why People Enjoy Their Netbook
They enjoy their netbook because it has a long battery life, because it run Windows, allowing them to use the same programs that they use on the main PC and to easily sync their documents between all their computers. Also, it has a near full-size qwerty keyboard, which is much faster to type with than any smartphone/touchscreen “keyboard” can ever hope to be.
Netbooks are not on their way out, Atom Netbooks are
So, my opinion is that netbooks are not on their way out. No, actually my belief is that netbooks equipped with the Intel Atom processors are on their way out. Why?
It’s no secret that the Intel Atom processor performance is deceiving. To give you an idea, many compare its performance with a Pentium III running at 800MHz, which was introduced in 1999. Ouch.
We do know though, that the Atom is focused on being energy efficient and that netbooks with a 6-cell battery can last many hours, up to 6-8 hours depending the brand and model. This is one of the main reasons that netbooks are popular. The other one is the very low price.
The market for a low-priced, compact, long battery life and respectable performance “netbook”
However, some people would like to buy a netbook for its small size, its low price and great battery life. In the end, they refuse to due to it mediocre performance which prevents it from running a few programs at once or playing back 1080p HD content, whether its on the web, from an hard drive or an external Blu-Ray Drive.
Intel and its partners launched what is called CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage) processors, which are basically single or dual-core Core 2 processors running at low speed, enabling them to use very little power.
Such processors started to equip ultra-thin laptops in the last year, but with prices between $600-$1000, if not even more, it’s hard to justify buying such a machine when a regular, much faster notebook can be purchased starting at $400-$500. Sure, the battery doesn’t last as long and it’s heavier/bigger, but in a recession, the price is what matters the most for a lot of people.
Intel’s Answer: New Atom CPU/Platform
Ignoring customer’s requests, only adds more battery life, same crappy performance as before.
If you follow tech news, you know that Intel just launched their newest Atom CPUs, previously code-named Pineview, along with a new platform. If you haven’t heard about it, in short it’s brings to the table improved battery life and a small speed bump, but nothing exceptional.
If you ask me, Intel is intentionally holding back the performance of Atom-equipped netbooks, in order not to hurt their sales for higher-end processors found in other notebooks. All they did for the Atom platform is integrating one chip into the CPU, reducing the total of chips required down to two compared to three before, thus reducing their production costs and increasing their margins. It’s a good business move in that sense, but we customers get nothing but improved battery life.
The solutions: What will people get instead of an Atom-equipped netbook?
1- Stick with Intel, but with a CULV Processor instead:
One that is available right now and that’s got me very interested, is the Acer Aspire AS1410-2801 (In Blue) and the Acer Aspire AS1410-2936 (In Red). Priced at $429.99, they are 11.6″ netbook sized machines, but are equipped with the much more powerful Intel Celeron SU2300 processor and Intel 4500MHD.
Now, don’t be fooled by the Celeron name, that processor is a 1.2GHz CULV dual-core processor that will trash the Atom and will allow you to multi-task without a problem. Best of all? The Intel 4500MHD will playback/decode 1080p content and what do you know, there’s an HDMI output! Oh, did it mention that it comes with Windows 7 Home Premium? Finally, the battery life is still very good (4-6 hours depending on your usage, according to customer reviews).
Seriously, right now, that is your best option as a netbook.
2- The competition will take over the market.
ARM, a processor manufacturer very well known in the mobile industry (their processors are found in the majority of smartphones, including the Iphone and the new Google Phone.) is working on the new Cortex-A9 processor and so far, its performance is nothing short of impressive.
According to this post on Geek.com, which discuss of the performance of the Cortex-A9 and the Intel Atom, Intel should be worried.
Here’s a video from ARM that was posted on Youtube, comparing the two:
That’s right, an ARM 500MHz A9-Cortex processor with no graphic accelerator is nearly keeping up with the 1,600MHz Intel Atom processor, which was equipped with a graphic accelerator. Considering that smartphones feature ARM processors running up to 1,000Mhz, this is very promising.
Customers will get fed up of Atom-equpped netbooks and move on to products that offer what THEY want.
I don’t know about you, but the new Atom platform/netbooks is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I mean, with the Acer “netbook” that I told you about earlier, why in the world would a want a netbook based on the new Atom processor?
Yes, I hear you: Mathieu, what about the battery life?
I don’t know about you, but for myself and as far as I know, the majority of people, 4-6 hours of battery life is usually enough for a day of work or most travels. Besides, if I have to wait after the slow Atom processor all the time, what’s the point of more battery life?
I rather sacrifice a bit of battery life and be actually able to multitask, watch HD content on Youtube/Hulu and output 1080p on an HDTV.
Tell us what do you think.
What do you think? Do you think that netbooks as a whole are on their way out? Or do you agree with me and think that only netbooks equipped with an Intel Atom are on their way out?
What does you ideal “netbook” machine consist of? Let us know in the comments section below.