Tag Archive | "laptop"

Netbooks at CES 2012 – They Should Have Been Better


P1020041I honestly expected to see more, and better netbooks at CES. The Cedar Trail platform is a solid one and there’s absolutely no reason why netbooks need to fade away because with a bit of a re-design (thinner, SSD, better connectivity, hi-res screens) they could still control a good segment of the market.

Asus were showing their ‘flare’ netbook in three variants (1025CE, 1025C, 1225B) and the X101CH. The X101CH provides some interesting mobility for the cost but as with the Flare netbooks, there is little attempt to push any other boundaries. It’s the same story with the Toshiba NB510. Lenovo announced the S200 and S206 which come with Cedar Trail or AMD C60.  The S200 can be specified with a 32GB SSD but there’s a small battery inside which means you’re looking at 4hr runtime. I suspect this will be a lightweight device although it has an 11.6 inch screen. (I am a big fan of the S205, the AMD E350 powered version from 2011)

Gigabyte has upgraded the netvertible with the T1006M but again, the design remains thick although credit to Gigabyte for offering easy upgrade ports for memory and hard disk, a high-res screen, pre-wired 3G antenna and a capacitive touchscreen.

The only small laptop-style device I did see that was pushing the boundaries was the Novero Solana.

An SSD, convertible touchscreen and 3G are on offer here but there’s no indication of battery life or price yet. Availability is said to be Feb 2012.

My feeling is that by reducing focus on netbooks, some manufacturers will be missing an opportunity to offer very lightweight, low cost sub-ultrabooks with SSD, high-capacity sealed batteries and other features that the ultra-mobile user could benefit from. Right now though, it looks like laptop manufacturers have dropped everything for Ultrabooks.

Check out the videos below though for a look at the latest netbooks and don’t forget there’s the Lenovo S110 (10 inch) HP Mini 210 (10.1 inch) and MSI Wind U180 (10 inch) that are going to be available with Cedar Trail too. We’ll get all these in the database.

Cedar Trail Netbook Delays. Are You Waiting?

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Despite all the fuss about Ultrabooks and Tablets there’s still a significant market for netbooks out there as small, low-cost ‘just enough’ laptops. Developing countries, students, secondary laptops, travel laptops or simply the lowest cost laptop possible, the Netbooks are a valid choice. With the next generation, using Cedar Trail as the CPU cplatform, it gets even better with significant improvements to 3D graphics that should smooth-out quite a few Windows 7 and application experiences. There are improvements in efficiency too that could enable some lighter 10″ tablet formats and thinner netbook designs. Expect Ultrabook-style devices too with SSD’s, sealed designs and of-course, a much lower price than the current Ultrabooks.

But Cedar Trail is delayed. . .again, apparently because the graphics driver certification hasn’t been completed. In the meantime AMD  Fusion netbooks push further into the market.

With Oaktrail-based devices not quite hitting the mark where consumer experience is concerned, [where are those 1.8Hz Oaktrail options?] it’s important that Cedar Trail reaches the market as soon as possible.

Anyone waiting to buy a new Netbook? Would you like to see more Netbook coverage here? We will be at CES in Jan so we’ll get some details of new models, performance and availability then. In the meantime, check the related links below for some more Cedar Trail background.


Posted from the Galaxy Tab at Droidcon NL.

Screen Size Analysis (Sub 12″) August 2011

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This is the seventh report on sizing trends in PCs below 12 inch screen size (and above 5 inch) appearing in the German market through the popular price comparison engine, Geizhals.at (*1) The last one was done in Feb 2011. Once again we’ve seen a big jump in overall numbers. The 7″ segment and 10″ segment have grown while the 11″ segment has shrunk. The 10″ market dominates more in this report than it did in the report of Feb 2011 although there is a clear trend occurring in the 7″ space where growth in products has occurred in all of the last 4 reports.

Number of SKUs in the market

The number of choices in the mobile screen space (above smartphones) has grown over 2x from approx 240 SKUs to over 630 SKUs.


Screen size distribution

The big jump in numbers is clear to see from the top graph. Total numbers jumped by 115 with most of that growth coming from the tablet form factor and the 10″ netbook/notebook sector. Big increases in the 7″ tablet sector (now the biggest number so far) and a reduction in the numbers of 11″ devices mean that  percentage distribution has changed a lot. The iPad2 introduction caused the growth in the 9″ segment.

In the 10″ netbook space which accounts for 75% of the 10″ category there are now 18 AMD C-Series SKUs and 315 Atom SKUs. 64 of the Atom-based devices (20%) use the high-end N570 version.

In interesting statistic is that 1 in 5 devices on the market in the 5-11″ segment are from ASUS.

Across all categories, ARM-based CPU designs account for  23% of all devices, almost exclusively in the tablet sector. It will be interesting to see how that changes over the next 2 years with the introduction of Windows for the ARM processor.

In terms of weight, the tablets mean that the average weight of a device has gone down.  28% of the devices weigh under 1KG.

Meego appears for the first time along with the cheapest and lightest netbook ever launched. The ASUS Eee PC X101.

Chromebooks did not enter the sub 12″ screen space yet. (Acer 700 not available in Germany)

Sandy Bridge (2nd Generation Intel Core CPUs) enters the sector with 14 SKUs from 5 devices.

Total number of tablet form-factor devices:  193 (30% of total)

Cheapest devices:

  • X86/Windows Laptop – Eee PCR101D at 199 Euros. (Was: Samsung N145 at 228 Euro)
  • Non-Windows Laptop (X86-CPU) –  Eee PC X101 (Meego) at 169 Euros
  • ARM Tablet – Debitel One Pad  (Android 1.5) at 59 Euro
  • X86/Windows Tablet – Archos 9 at 370 Euros (was 402 Euros)

In terms of netbook trends, the search and news volumes seem to be steady after their large drop in Q1 (see Google Trends.) Numbers of devices in the market have increased and obviously the introduction of Cedar Trail in Q4 will create news, products and searches in the netbook category. The trend for netbook products, news and search is going to be level-to-rising for Q4 That may, or may not, relate to sales numbers.

In terms of handheld PCs, our focus here at UMPCPortal, it’s a sad story. The online market is now almost totally clear of 5-9″ X86-based Windows devices. It will be interesting to see how the Windows 8 market affects this in 2012.

Warning: Please remember that this is a single data-source analysis of what is happenning today, in the German market. This is not a complete market analysis report. You may use the data and images but please also reference this article which includes this warning.

*1 Based on SKUs, not model families. Data taken from Geizhals  An English language (and UK market) version of Geizhals is available at Skinflint.

Buyers Guide – Mixed Mobile Usage with The Full Internet Experience

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cccJakub contacted me yesterday via the CCC email account with the first of the CCC2011 challenges. It’s a very typical one to start off with and will probably fit many peoples requirements too so lets start with the first of our tailored buyers guides for mobile computing solutions.


Via a number of emails we’ve determined that Jakub would like a device that could be kept in a bag all the time. It would be used occasionally for work and personal tasks, needs 3G and importantly, needs to be able to access the full internet experience with no need for zooming and panning. A battery that can last 2 days without charging on light usage is also important. I’m interpreting the ‘bag’ requirement as something between 7 and 10 inches, 500-1300gm.

Nice-to-have’s include car navigation, sub $500 cost, ability to handle printers and cameras and a docking station. Jakub also appears to be a photography fan and wants to use the device for photo previewing and basic editing. SD card slot, USB host and screen could be important

In the correspondence we’ve had over the last two days, one line resonated with me: “full internet experience is a must. I don’t like limitations, they always appears at worst moment, when i must do something. inch I was lying on the couch yesterday with the Viliv N5 thinking exactly the same thing as my Galaxy Tab failed to offer me full web experience. Not only is plugin support a problem but the ability to access full versions of websites, reliable rendering, javascript input fields and of-course, the unsolved problem of mouse-over on web-page menus.

Narrowing the platform choices.

We’ve got a problem on hour hands here. Its the common trade-off between full internet experience which is still only available on the X86 platforms using desktop browsers, and long standby life. However, we’ve got a loophole to get through because Jakub is likely to be happy with quick return from standby as opposed to always-on. Immediately I’m thinking of the latest Samsung netbooks with their quick start and long standby support. With a full SD card slot it helps for photography and they have great screens.  If the Toshiba AC100 with 3G had been fitted with a quality software build that might also be a solution although it’s available for under 200 Euros with 3G so might be worth a test.

Based on the web requirement though, I’m going to rule out the rest of the Android tablets and smartphones. That’s unfortunate because the Galaxy Tab would have been high on the list. The iPad too. The original 3G+16GB version is available for under 500 Euros and at Argos in the UK right now, it’s only 418 Euros. My feeling is that you’ll still hit issues with websites but that’s a great price for a great mobile computing device and you’ll certainly have fun with it.

The docking station requirement is a good one. There isn’t another accessory that improves the range of usage of a tablet more than a dock and since my first ultra mobile PC in 2006 I’ve been a fan. The MSI Windpad 110W might be a device to check out. It’s a tablet but it’s got an important feature – mouse pad. That improves Windows/Tablet usability a lot. Pre-order prices for the 3G versions are heading towards 600 Euro, slightly above the price range but with the included GPS (according to my specifications) it would be possible to add something like Mapfactor Navigator 11 or even their free product. The dock is going to add to the price though but might be something for a later date. The Acer Iconia Tab W500 is another one to consider in that vein but as far as i’m aware, it doesn’t have that important mouse pointer/pad. If you want a high-end Atom tablet at under 900gm, look at the Gigabyte S1080 with N570, 2GB RAM, USB 3.0, 3G and keyboard case. It’s expensive though!

Isn’t it a shame that the HTC Shift didn’t get an update. For people that just want the occasional-use PC along with portability and an always-on operating system, you’ve got the best of both worlds. Alas, HTC, along with many others are busy serving the competitive smartphone, superphone and tablet PC space. An updated Nokia Booklet 3G could have been interesting too. If you see an original for sale for under 400 Euro, do check it out though as it’s a unique netbook. (GPS, weight, battery life.)

On the netbook choices though, there’s a bargain to be had in the Samsung N150 Eom 3G. It doesn’t have the ‘Fast Start’ option unfortunately but it’s a solid, well priced 3G netbook at well under 400 Euros and in some cases, under 350 Euros. Weight 1.25KG

Finally, I’m going to call out the Viewsonic Viewpad Pro. It’s coming soon and it’s going to be one of the first Oaktrail devices in Europe with 3G for under 700 Euros. 650 Euros is the street price right now but with SSD, 3G, 2GB of RAM, 870gm weight and the Intel Oaktrail platform, it could return some excellent battery life, even in always-on mode.

Top 5 Choices

Click on images for more information.

Your reliable, good value choice is going to be the Samsung N150 Eom 3G (Eom is the name in Germany, it could vary in other EU countries.) At 350 Euros for a 3G netbook, it will cover all your angles apart from navigation.

If you fancy waiting a bit for a modular solution, do so for the MSI Windpad 110W. With 3G, GPS, the mouse pointer and the dock, it could be one of the most flexible, general use tablet PCs around. Don’t forget it has Windows Home Premium, 2GB of RAM and a nice 1080p capability. 2 years ago, something like this would have cost 1200 Euro! No full SD card slot. No full reviews yet. Above budget.

A low-cost choice and Android experience would be the Toshiba AC100 with 3G which can be picked up dirt cheap. It’s not business quality but there are marketplace hacks out there that could be fun to test out. The web experience won’t be as good as on the Windows-based devices here. No GPS. Test well before buying!

Another one to check out in the next few months would be the Viewsonic Viewpad 10 Pro. It should have better battery life than the Windpad 110W but doesn’t provide as much processing power. For occasional use it might be fine. No full reviews available yet. Above budget.

Long-shot choice. I haven’t mentioned this yet because there’s no indication that it’s coming to the market but keep a close eye (and Google search for the VX70S-001. What is it? It’s the product code for the new Viliv X70 Slate with Oaktrail. Price is highly likely to be above 500 Euros but with SSD, GPS, long standby and the full internet experience, it’s just what you and many others are looking for. No 3G. No reviews. No idea when and for how much it’s coming.

Also look at the original iPad with 3G, the Gigabyte S1080 (high-end Atom-based spec) and Acer Iconia Tab W500 and keep an eye out for cheap and sales of the Nokia Booklet 3G. There’s promise in a few 7″ Intel Oaktrail tablet prototypes (e.g. the X70 Slate, ECS 7″ Tablet) we’ve seen at shows buy as yet, none have reached the market. They could be worth waiting for though.

And finally, look in the comments below. One of the great things about this website, even if I do say so myself, is the quality of the commenters.

Keep those requests coming via the CCC2011 email address.

Laptop Silicon in the Handheld Space

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The more I test Intel Sandy-Bridge based systems the more I am becoming convinced that laptop silicon will eventually extend as a high-dynamic-range platform into to ultra-mobile PCs and tablets. The reason is that the new laptop platforms are using advanced processes and techniques and are extremely efficient at getting things done. ‘Hurry Up Get Idle’ is a simple concept that means if you can get the same job done quickly, you can turn off or idle a pc and thus reduce the power used. The area under the power curve is smaller.

In practice, its difficult to make HUGI work because a lot of the tasks we do are either very short, can only work as fast as a human can input or rely on data coming from other sources. PC’s aren’t very good at idling either but from my recent video editing tests, I can see that there’s at least one scenario where it works very well.

The problem with getting laptop silicon into a handheld product is the thermals. Intel leads the way in this market and their products provide plenty of thermal monitoring and control but it will take a little bit more than what is currently on offer to be able to easily design and produce a 7″, tablet running a laptop-style processor. It’s been done before though. Samsung, experts in electrical engineering, produced a 7″ Tablet running a 1.3Ghz Core Solo but that was at a time when there was no competition from ARM-based devices, $1200 tablets were common and there wasn’t an Atom processor around. The latest tablet example would be the Eee Slate EP121 and for a 1.06KG laptop, the Samsung 900X1A gets close but that’s a little larger and heavier than a handheld device should be.

As silicon processes get better though and thermal control, dedicated silicon and single-chip solutions become more common, you can expect both Intel and AMD to try to offer the ultimate processing power in the handheld space. You can expect these products to have premium prices and to be targeted at niche markets but with Windows 8 as a catalyst and competition increasing from the latest ARM designs, offering these niche product is one way that the X86 chip makers can retain an advantage and one way manufacturers can differentiate their products.

HDR-Computing on the Slick Samsung 900X3A

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Thanks to Samsung Germany I am now using a rather swish and expensive Series 9 (Model 900X3A) 13″ laptop running the new Sandy Bridge ULV platform. This isn’t a ultra mobile PC of-course but it’s not here for ultra-mobile testing, it’s here for two other things. Firstly I want to use it for the next part of my Ultra Mobile Video Editing series and you’ll see that happen here are UMPCPortal. Secondly I want to start tracking the Ultrabook category very closely as I believe it is not only an important low-power platform for laptops but could, in a few generations, drive sub 1KG Windows devices that will range from sub 1W always-on, to 15W power-houses, exactly what I call High Dynamic Range Computing. They will challenge netbooks for size and power utilisation and include premium features like Wireless-Display, Light-Peek and security subsystems that can be used to stream and store high-value content. There will be a price premium of course but that should reduce to hit the top-end of the netbook range meaning Atom has a positioning job to do. You can follow my work with Ultrabooks over at Ultrabooknews.com


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User Report – Chrome OS on a Netbook

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chromebookYou don’t have to buy a Chromebook to get Chrome OS. Using the Hexxeh open source Chrome OS builds, Lars F. Jørgensen built a Chromebook out of an early netbook, the Aspire One A110. With netbooks in Europe dipping under 200 Euros occasionally now (here’s an offer for a current Acer D255 at Amazon, Germany – my Affiliate link) it doesn’t have to be old or expensive either.

I’ve posted the article over at Chromebook News as I feel there’s limited ultra-mobile capability in it but it’s interesting to think of Chromium, the browser, on something like Ubuntu or Meego that may not provide the support-free software layer but would provide all the local facilities needed and, as time goes on, some extended power-saving features too.

Many thanks @faarborgs for this guest post.

Chrome OS on Aspire One A110 – User Report

The Ultra Mobile Challenge is Harder Than Ever

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Let’s say you need a UMPC. It’s not as uncommon as some people think. It might not be the consumers cup of tea but in industry, mobility counts for a lot. Logistics, amateur pilots, health industry, blue-light industry, traveling geeks and other situations where full capability, compatibility and flexibility in the smallest package is key. The problem is, if you need a ultra mobile PC today, what the hell are you going to buy?

Lets put down a little wish-list for the sake of the argument.

Sub-1KG, Windows 7 support, 5hrs battery life 5-8.9 inch screen, easy conversion to keyboard/screen device. Price under $1000.

The shortlist I would recommend right now would be the following but they are all ‘last-gen’ UMPCs, at least a year old and going out of stock, and probably entering the end-of-life phase.

  • Fujitsu UH900
  • Sony Vaio P
  • Viliv N5
  • Viliv S7
  • Viliv X70
  • Archos 9 (with SSD, 1.2Ghz)
  • UMID Mbook SE – Thx to Gearsguy for the information on the availability and videos. I’ve included one of the videos below.

If you need a keyboard, the Mbook SE, UH900 and N5 are worth a look. The Archos 9 is good value at under 450 Euro right now and the X70 is a great performer. Isn’t it underwhelming that these devices are all over a year old though.

W100One device I took a second look at was the Toshiba Libretto W100. Originally this device was available for 1100 Euro. Today, it’s under 600 Euro in Europe making it an interesting option because of its CPU – Pentium Dual-Core U5400 with 2x 1.20GHz that comes in at about 130% the processing power of a high-end dual-core Atom part. It also includes 2048MB Ram and a 62GB SSD. This is certainly an ultra mobile workhorse but the design and battery life are going to be issues for some. 3hrs isn’t that exciting.  Interestingly this could make a super ultra-mobile video editing platform.



This dearth of options in this space is because of two things. Firstly, Menlow is out and Oaktrail isn’t yet in. There isn’t really another platform to think about right now although I’ve got my eye on AMDs Z-01 We’re going to have to wait for a set devices on Oaktrail for another few months. The other issues is the 10 inch tablet craze. It puts designs at around the 1KG mark and limits usability. The Viliv X70 is one to keep an eye out for but based on the silence from Viliv, I’m guessing it’s not close to being available yet.

Widening your choices

Netbooks, starting at about 1.2KG (2.6lb) and large-format Windows tablets (again 1.2KG when a keyboard is added) along with 5~ and 7~ Android tablets and the iPad2 all need consideration. Even the >4 inch Android phones with the latest CPUs. As Meego filters in, keep an eye on that too as it spans mobile and desktop environments. Finally, Honeycomb and WebOS are operating systems to watch. Personally I have high hopes for Honeycomb as one of the more flexible operating systems to cross-over into a productive and flexible environment and that could happen on either ARM or Intel.

Choosing a platform for 2012

Oaktrail – Intel’s Z6xx series. We’ve seen it running Windows, Android and Meego already, it will run Chrome OS and there should be forward compatibility with Windows 8 making it, in my opinion, one of the most interesting ultra-mobile platforms out there right now. Intel builds of Honeycomb and Meego should be able to squeeze more battery life out of it too. There’s a 2X graphics improvement over Menlow (GMA600 vs. GMA500) and even hardware 720p video encoding which could speed up video rendering. At 1.5Ghz, it’s not the most CPU-powerful platform but Intel have already talked about 1.8Ghz versions and I’m sure, if the platform becomes popular, we could see dual-core versions too. Why Oaktrail and not Cedar Trail? Because it’s got power management capabilities that Cedar Trail hasn’t got.

Waiting for Sandy Bridge.

Sandy Bridge in ultra-low-voltage guise is very interesting. I recently tested an AMD-E350 based Lenovo S205. It was good. It’s TDP (CPU+GPU) is 18W and the CPU performance is high-end Atom level. Sandy bridge, on the other had also comes in 17W TDP variants but the CPU performance on these simply blows Atom, E-Series Fusion and even first-gen Core parts out of the water. with around 5x the CPU performance of an Atom CPU along with some good GPU performance. Price is high as we’ve seen with the Samsung Series 9 but that devices comes in at 1.3KG with 6hrs of battery life and serious compute power. It’s a sign that Ultrabooks could push down in to even smaller and lighter designs.

Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook (4)

My plan. What’s yours?

Today I sold my last netbook / laptop. Over the last few months I’ve been having a clear-out and now I’m left completely without any sort of mobile productivity device. It’s a nice position to be in but it’s going to be a tough decision. Right now I’m favouring the Samsung TX100 / Gloria / PC7 Slider on Oaktrail because I’m interested in Oaktrail performance and multi-OS scenarios. I’m worried about the CPU performance though. I’m also looking carefully at that Toshiba W100/W105 show above. I think I can run PowerDirector video editing suite on that and get some usable 720p rendering speeds that should be 2x what the Oaktrail platform can produce. Finally, Samsung have another very interesting product in the Series 9 laptop on Core i5 Sandy Bridge. It’s an expensive item but a real mobile workhorse. And why am I looking at all these laptop-style devices? Because after spending 7 months with the Galaxy Tab I’ve found that there are fewer things I need to do on a laptop now and those things generally involve high-productivity working with Video, Images and multiple windows. The 7 inch tablet has filled a great position but along with my new requirement to product 720p videos, has pushed up my requirements for a laptop.

Intel’s Canoe Lake Proto Coming to Market with Cedar Trail CPU

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canoe lake

A year ago, Intel teased us with a reference design build on top of a PineTrail CPU. Canoe Lake was a stunning looking netbook but alas, only a reference design. This year though, that could change. Malata are offering it up to their customers.

malata canoe lake

As you can see though, Malata will build it with the new Cedar Trail platform using the N2600 and N2800 CPU parts. The price, weight, timescale and finer specification details are still unknown but we’ll be tracking this and bringing you the latest soon.

Expect a tracking page up in the product portal later today.

JKKMobile spotted this and has a video, embedded below.

Intel Switch to PowerVR Graphics for CedarTrail (Unconfirmed)

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There’s good and bad news to be drawn out of the news that Intel will go with a PowerVR core on Cedar Trail, the next generation of Netbook platform. VR-Zone report that Cedarview (the processing engine in the Cedar Trail platform) will include an SGX545 graphics core and not Intel graphics as had previously been suggested here.

VR-Zone – Cedarview to sport PowerVR graphics.

The good news is that it brings the netbook platform in-line with other Atom platforms used for TV, ultra-mobile, embedded and tablet products and simplifies the builds for MeeGo and Android. The bad news is that the drivers for past versions of the SGX core used in Menlow (Z5xx-series CPUs) were never that good. Linux support, in particular, was a big problem.

Intel will, of course, be aware of that and will have to take steps to improve it because if 30 million sales of netbooks have unstable or poorly implemented drivers, it could have a serious impact.

As for the theoretical performance of the SGX545, I can only offer these figures that I dig out of web searches this morning. They aren’t confirmed.

GMA500 (PowerVR SGX535 – 200Mhz) 13 million triangles per second

GMA600 (PowerVR SGX535 – 400Mhz) 26 million triangles per second (assumed)

GMAxxx – (PowerVR SGX545 – 400Mhz) 80 million triangles per second (low power version)

GMAxxx – (PowerVR SGX545 – 640Mhz) 128 million triangles per second.

There’s a potential 10x improvement over GMA500 there but these figures are fairly meaningless as memory bus, cpu processing power and other implementation issues (including driver software) will affect the true performance.  The diagram shown on VR_Zone though shows a target of 2x Pinetrail. While that’s probably not going to beat the 3D performance of AMDs Zacate platforms, it’s a welcome boost that will drive non-gaming devices well and, we assume, keep the power requirements down. For non-gamers, the balance of CPU, GPU, media and power drain is likely to be good.

My outstanding question:Will Intel enable ‘shutdown’ idle (sub 200mw system drain) for screen-off scenarios on Cedar Trail like it is trying to do on Oaktrail, Moorestown and Medfield? This is something they may work with Microsoft on for Windows 8

The news has not been officially confirmed by Intel but that might happen at Computex later this month. If not, wait for hands-on at IDF 2011 in September where we expect final launch and product availability to be announced.

Eee Pad Transformer Trips Up in Productivity Scenarios.

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UMPCs, we’re not shy to say, are still important. They’re becoming more important too as people realise that there is a life for devices between 4 and 10 inches. UMPCs offer something that you can rely on to give you a high quality work and web experiences with the minimum of brick walls and maximum compatibility and flexibility.

Unfortunately for pro-mobile fans, the number of true UMPCs has dropped to near-zero with only large-screen windows tablets getting any sort of attention. It’s the Android and IOS tablets that are getting the lions share of attention and development funds though and we are now in a position where we need to keep an eye on the desktop and mobile worlds for solutions that could satisfy our needs.

I’ve done extensive testing and research on the smartbook market over that last 18 months with devices like the Compaq Airlife 100 and Toshiba AC100 but I haven’t found anything that I could call pro-quality. While the industrial designs and computing hardware reach acceptable levels, the immature operating systems and applications truly limit capability and introduce inefficiencies and risk.

Honeycomb, the tablet-oriented version of the Android system is the next-in-line for major testing and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is the ideal product to test it with.

Image via Laptopmag

Although I haven’t yet been able to get hold of a Transformer as my Amazon UK order was delayed to June, I have been carefully reading between the lines of the many reviews that are out there. I’m trying to get a feel for web experience, applications, keyboard usage, connectivity and battery life along with an idea about how those ‘HD’ apps are coming on.

So far, I am not seeing an acceptable solution being presented.

While a lot of reviewers seem impressed with the price and design of the tablet, keyboard and docking feature, the battery life and general usability of Honeycomb, there seem to be issues with Web (once again, not the full desktop internet experience) performance and applications. It’s the latter that concerns me the most as it will take the longest to fix and relies on a healthy Honeycomb ecosystem to even seed. I’m also not so impressed with the price.  It may be cheaper than other tablet options but it’s still an inflated price for what you’re getting. Finally, at 1.3KG, it weighs 130gm more than the Aspire one 522 that i’m using right now that has nearly double the CPU processing power and 3D graphics that just don’t compare along with an OS developed for professional use and a huge range of professional software available.

Keyboard – Good ID

In general, the keyboard and mousepad are getting good reports. A good level of mousepad/OS integration ensures that the unit is not relying on touch input when docked. The battery in the keyboard unit is used to recharge the tablet battery (a very inefficient, but cheap, way of using an extended battery) and the USB ports are of limited use. Mass storage and external mice are supported but don’t exptect to be able to plug in a webcam, usb headset or many other common USB accessories that ‘just work’ under Windows.

Battery Life – So-So.

In total, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer returns around 9hrs in tablet mode. Some reviews are reporting down to 6hrs. Usage in docked mode is going to depend on whether you dock the device when the tablet is fully charged as the battery in the docking station will try to re-charge the battery in the tablet while also powering the system. The battery to battery re-charge process is going to cost 20-30% of energy. From results I’ve seen the maximum you can expect from the docked unit is about 16hrs which, with a 48wh battery, shows that ARM-based devices ultimately rely on screen, wifi and engineering to get the best out of them, just like X86-based devices. I haven’t seen any screen-off, wifi on figures yet (always-on mode) but am hoping for at least 4 days. If the Transformer is very well engineered, that figure should go up to the 7-10 days range. ElectricPig indicates that the Transformer loses about 10% of battery with Wifi on in a screen-off, syncing on scenario. Assuming that’s about 10hrs of idle, it indicates a reasonable always-on, Wi-Fi connected capability of about 4 days (tablet only) or about 6 days (tablet and dock.)  That beats the Toshiba AC100 my a big margin.

Web Experience – Not FIE

Tabbed browsing is nice, but many reviewers are focusing on this , and the Flash 10.2 experience as a big step forward. For productivity users, these are entry-level features. While thre aren’t too many details in the reviews I’ve seen so far there are indications that the quality of the browsing experience is compromised. I’m particularly interested to hear how Google Docs works with the keyboard. AnandTech reports ”occasional issues’ that include a poorly formated Reddit front page.

Applications – Back to the Smartphone

As I mentioned above, this is the major issue for Android Smartbooks and it’s not one that manufacturers can solve. It will only resolve itself when Honeycomb gets traction, proves numbers and drives teams to develop quality software over a period of months. At the current rate of change in software, we’don’t expect Honeycomb to offer anything like a serious 3rd party productivity application range until at least late in 2011.

Other issues to consider.

  • No 3G / 4G
  • No VGA output (for projectors, monitor compatibility)
  • Video playback not smooth (as reported by a number of website reviews.)
  • Some reviews are reporting speed slow-down after a couple of hours of use.

Sidenote: The Anandtech review is an interesting read that explores the idea of continuous client and smartphone-based modular solutions.


For smartphone and tablet users, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer must appear quite exciting. It did for me too but I knew there would be issues. The issues of application availability will haunt every attempt at an Android productivity device for at least the next 6 months, probably longer, but if manufacturers fail to capitalise on battery life possibilities and if Google can’t update Honeycomb to finally support a Chrome-like internet experience, there will be limited reason to accept these attempts into the realms of profesional environments and little enthusiasm for creating rich, high quality, professional applications. The few points mentioned above are obvious failings but there are other hidden items that will rise to the surface as people truly start to try these devices out for productivity. Think about multi-user capability for example. Disk encryption, memory upgrade, VGA ports and 3G support are just a few more to consider.

I’m disappointed in the battery life reports, video playback issues, weight and web experience that I’m reading about so far. So much so that i”ve decided to skip the Eee Pad Transformer. I will try to get hold of a review sample but it won’t be something I’ll take on board into my work life. Like the Airlife, AC100, Atrix and other attempts, there’s so much missing, so many brick-walls, so few applications that I don’t expect any major progress until later in the year. The Transformer proves the point that Honeycomb can move in the right direction and as a tablet device, it may well be good value but for pro-mobile users, I’m not recommending it.

Caveat -These thoughts based on my experience with smartbooks, my own hands-on with the Transformer, feedback from contacts and information available in the public domain. Find full reviews of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer in our product page. Reader, owner feedback is encouraged below.

Cedar Trail Summary, Architecture, Features.

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Technical sessions at Intel’s IDF in Beijing have all finished now so it’s time to go through some of the presentation material, the press releases and interview information from various sources to put together a summary of what Intel are planning with Cedar Trail in the netbook market. some details are still misssing but at this stage we can put together a fairly complete picture.

Intel’s netbook strategy comprises two platforms. The first, and the one that appears on most netbooks, is the Pinetrail platform. That is due for an update later this year and the new platform will be known as Cedar Trail, the one we’re discussing here.

The second platform is a more specialist, low end [performance] platform that grew out of the Menlow ultra mobile PC platform. Oaktrail, which uses the Z6xx Lincroft cpu is shipping now and offers a lower TDP with refined graphics and enhanced power-saving features. Oaktrail is for embedded, tablet and thin, light and rugged netbook solutions. Information on Oaktrail can be found here.

atom roadmap

Netbook market predictions.

While excitement in the netbook sector has cooled off somewhat and most commentators agree that some parts of the market are seeing competition from tablets, the sales numbers remain significant.

netbook tam

Note that this is the total addressable market. AMD Fusion, ARM and VIA-based devices will be competing for this market too. For Intel to compete it needs to address the top, bottom and specialist segments of the market.

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