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Netbooks take CES by Storm

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 11 comments

For the last year and a half, netbooks have been just as big a part of the personal computing scene as laptops. CES 2008 was just a few months after Asus kicked everything off with the original Eee PC and since then, we’ve seen netbooks from every company under the sun. Rather than the fuss dying down, CES 2009 was a chance for the other companies to show off what they had spent the last year striving toward, and while it’s all very impressive, we’re starting to get a little tired of ultra portable laptops.

MSI announced the Hybrid a couple of weeks back and it was a big part of the company’s booth. We wanted to hear all about the MS-9A08, a quad core box that you mount onto the back or side of a panel, which lets you leave behind the mess of a desktop computer without compromising on stuff like storage, speed or keyboard size--but the first two booth people we talked to didn’t have a clue what we were talking about. We managed to hunt it out for ourselves and eventually someone wandered over that could tell us more about it (check it out here) but there was no shortage of people to tell us about the Hyrbid and in all honesty, there wasn't all that much new to tell.

Sony launched one of the most talked about products at CES this year in the form of the Vaio P Series Lifestyle PC. Weighing in at just 1.4 lbs with an 8-inch 1600 x 768 ultra wide display, Sony didn’t pitch this as a netbook. In fact when we were at the booth, the word wasn’t used once. That said, an 8-inch notebook is netbook territory and this one is appealing to the same audience, even if it’s a little pricier--as most Sony products are.

We also saw Dell’s Mini 10 at the show. The 10 is smaller than the 12 (duh) but a lot sleeker than the 9 when it comes to design. It comes packed with integrated GPS, integrated mobile broadband, an Intel Atom Z530 processor and 802.11b/g/n. Impressive for a netbook but at the same time, we felt there was a sort of “meh” air to it. That night we were asked what we’d seen that day that we liked and we only mentioned the Mini 10 in passing.

Netbooks were never pegged to be a passing trend but we think it’s high time people accept the part they play in personal computing (and they’ve proved vital to the market) and start looking for the next big thing.

Would you get a netbook over a standard notebook? How useful do you think these ultra portables, netbooks, and the like are? Worth the money?

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  • 0 Hide
    trevorvdw , January 13, 2009 5:03 PM
    I'll wait 6 months for the Nvidia Ion based ones.
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    cadder , January 13, 2009 6:11 PM
    I like the netbooks. I think they are useful and will serve a purpose for a lot of people. Netbooks now are as powerful as our desktops were just a few years ago, so they will handle email, web browsing, small documents and spreadsheets just fine. What else do most people do these days? The keyboard is smaller but OK for writing an email. The screen is smaller, but reasonable for most people that won't stare at it all day.

    The netbook is not intended to replace desktops or larger laptops. It may be all that some people need, but other people will buy one to use in addition to their other computer(s).

    I remember in the old days when laptops were pretty big, but gradually they got smaller and smaller. Most people using them in those days were business people, so the goal seemed to be a laptop that was physically the same size as a piece of copy paper- 8.5" x 11", then it would easily fit in a briefcase along with other papers. That's still a small machine even by today's standards. Then a few companies brought out low powered machines that were smaller than 8.5x11. I wanted one of those, but before they got popular enough to become low priced they went away. Fast forward 10+ years and we are back to that with the netbooks.

    Netbooks will have to evolve to be compatible with future OS's. They can't stay with XP forever, meaning they will need more ram and maybe more CPU horsepower to run Vista or Win7. By the time Microsoft forces a transition from XP to W7, I think netbooks will be ready for it.
  • 0 Hide
    azgard , January 13, 2009 6:51 PM
    cadderI like the netbooks. I think they are useful and will serve a purpose for a lot of people. Netbooks now are as powerful as our desktops were just a few years ago, so they will handle email, web browsing, small documents and spreadsheets just fine. What else do most people do these days? The keyboard is smaller but OK for writing an email. The screen is smaller, but reasonable for most people that won't stare at it all day.The netbook is not intended to replace desktops or larger laptops. It may be all that some people need, but other people will buy one to use in addition to their other computer(s).I remember in the old days when laptops were pretty big, but gradually they got smaller and smaller. Most people using them in those days were business people, so the goal seemed to be a laptop that was physically the same size as a piece of copy paper- 8.5" x 11", then it would easily fit in a briefcase along with other papers. That's still a small machine even by today's standards. Then a few companies brought out low powered machines that were smaller than 8.5x11. I wanted one of those, but before they got popular enough to become low priced they went away. Fast forward 10+ years and we are back to that with the netbooks.Netbooks will have to evolve to be compatible with future OS's. They can't stay with XP forever, meaning they will need more ram and maybe more CPU horsepower to run Vista or Win7. By the time Microsoft forces a transition from XP to W7, I think netbooks will be ready for it.


    If Microsoft is smart, and in this case I really think they will be, they are going to work more closely with vendors and try to optimize their OS to handle the type of systems were talking about, because lets face it with what your buying, you probably don't even need 1/4 of the baggage on a Vista install for what your going to do with this type of machine.
  • 0 Hide
    Tekkamanraiden , January 13, 2009 8:38 PM
    They are a great idea for people such as myself that service products in peoples homes. I'm just waiting for someone to come out with a 6 hour battery life.
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , January 13, 2009 9:25 PM
    There are netbooks with 6 hour battery life, for sure the Samsung has it but they are very hard to find in the U.S.
  • 0 Hide
    lbjack , January 13, 2009 9:34 PM
    I think the Next Big Thing should be thin client laptops, laptops as terminals. Broadband is speeding network connections, and home networks connected to thin clients would be a natural evolution.

    Lugging a desktop replacement around the house (or on the road) is a pain, but so is a tiny display and keyboard. The problem with the netbook solution is size. People have accepted the limitation because up until now, portable could only be small. With a thin client you can achieve the portability of small with light. A thin-client laptop could be as light as a netbook without the size constraint.

    Up until now, the laptop had to carry everything inside it -- OS, applications, storage -- because networks were too slow to access it from the outside. Thanks to today's fast networks this is no longer the case.

    Thin clients have been left behind as IT use has evolved from the desktop terminal to the laptop. The time has come to revisit thin clients. I think somebody could make a killing.
  • 0 Hide
    Master Exon , January 14, 2009 2:29 AM
    ATOM 330 ION! ATOM 330 ION! ATOM 330 ION! ATOM 330 ION! ATOM 330 ION!

    cadderThere are netbooks with 6 hour battery life, for sure the Samsung has it but they are very hard to find in the U.S.

    Hard to find in the US? Hardly. Retail stores only sell the 3 cell batteries, the models that come with 6 cell batteries are easily available online.
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , January 14, 2009 4:27 AM
    I read that Samsung has a deal with another company and has agreed not to sell their laptops in the U.S. Before Christmas I searched for various Samsung models and couldn't find them at any retail store or major online vendor.
    Today I hit Google just to check and I find the Samsung NC10 available at a lot of smaller online retailers, but none of the major brick and mortar stores. I remember searching about 5 weeks ago and not finding them anywhere.
  • 0 Hide
    cjl , January 14, 2009 5:41 AM
    lbjackI think the Next Big Thing should be thin client laptops, laptops as terminals. Broadband is speeding network connections, and home networks connected to thin clients would be a natural evolution. Lugging a desktop replacement around the house (or on the road) is a pain, but so is a tiny display and keyboard. The problem with the netbook solution is size. People have accepted the limitation because up until now, portable could only be small. With a thin client you can achieve the portability of small with light. A thin-client laptop could be as light as a netbook without the size constraint.Up until now, the laptop had to carry everything inside it -- OS, applications, storage -- because networks were too slow to access it from the outside. Thanks to today's fast networks this is no longer the case.Thin clients have been left behind as IT use has evolved from the desktop terminal to the laptop. The time has come to revisit thin clients. I think somebody could make a killing.

    I disagree - as much as the internet is speeding up, it is in no way reliable, fast, or low latency enough for this to be the way to go yet. It's a nice concept, and it makes for good power point presentations, but I just don't see it happening until networks are significantly better than they are now.
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    Anonymous , January 14, 2009 8:08 PM
    Netbooks are laptops that can't play graphics intensive games, that's the way it is. Who needs to do that on a laptop anyway? I have my Quad 4 PC to play graphic intesive games.

    Everything else a netbook can do, everything. Watch movies, listen to music, type essays, take notes, carry around, surf the web, e-mail, spreadsheet... you name it.

    One thing I like about the netbook is it is discrete when taking notes in class. 95% keyboard size on the Samsung NC10, 7 hours of battery life, no heat generation that plagues normal laptops, ultra lightweight, and as said great battery life. It is perfect computer that will do anything a laptop will do.
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    lbjack , January 17, 2009 2:05 AM
    cjlI disagree - as much as the internet is speeding up, it is in no way reliable, fast, or low latency enough for this to be the way to go yet. It's a nice concept, and it makes for good power point presentations, but I just don't see it happening until networks are significantly better than they are now.


    If networks can stream video content to thousands of users, then of course they can support thin clients.