Tag Archive | "low cost"

Budget Windows 8 + SSD laptops must keep-up with Chromebooks

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We’ve got some great Windows 8 tablets out there with relatively fast SSDs that are costing less than Chromebooks. If you look at the Acer Switch 10 and ASUS Transformer Book T100 you’ve even got a 2-in-1 with touch and SSD at well under $400 but what about a basic Windows laptop, with an SSD? Nope, you won’t find one. Chromebooks dominate with this specification, offer great performance per dollar and they’re selling well. Windows laptops need to do the same.

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$99 Windows tablet specs and the mid-range refresh.

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The immediate worry about the $99-$129 entry-level Windows tablets is around the issue of quality. Low-cost Chinese ODM tablets won’t be the best tablets around but at least the performance won’t go down. You’ll still get Windows 8 on a Baytrail-T processor and because of that, the mid-range tablets at $200-$350 will have to get better. In this article we look at what could happen and the likely specifications.

The good news for everyone is that the Microsoft license cost for Windows has gone which means the $25-$50 charge (that we often get quoted by Windows tablet ODMs) falls away for all tablets in the 7-8-inch range. (10-inch tablets don’t get the advantage.) Intel is also enabling cost savings through improvements made in the new Baytrail-CR processors that save space (shown in this video) and board component count. That board-size reduction means you might see $100 tablets with a 7-inch screen so lets look in detail at the specifications you might get for $100.

  • Windows 8.1 Update (Not RT on Intel, yet.)
  • Minimum 1GB RAM, 16Gb eMMC storage (1-16 build enabled by the 60% reduction in image size for Windows 8.1 update.)
  • 7-inch screen allows cheaper components to be sourced from existing tablet markets and saves energy.
  • 1280×800 resolution likely based on last-gen 7-inch Android tablet screen availability.
  • Cost Reduced Baytrail-T. CPU-World reports on the new Baytrail-T parts. The Atom Z3735E is the budget offering running at current 1.33Ghz-1.8Ghz speeds but only supporting 1GB RAM and a 32-bit memory bus. CPU-World reports that this is only for Android so the next model up is the Atom Z3735D which looks perfect for the job. A single-channel memory controller supports up to 2GB of RAM and there’s a slightly lower processor burst speed. The non-D version supports dual-channel memory up to 4GB but there’s no need for that in the low-cost tablets.
  • Although 1GB RAM is the minimum required we might see a few manufacturers trying to differentiate with 2GB RAM.
  • In terms of ports expect only the minimum. 1 USB 2.0 port for charging and data along with a headphone jack.
  • MicroSD slots are a must-have when offering only 16GB of on-board storage but you might even see that missing on the cheapest tablets.
  • Rear cameras are going to be unlikely but a front-facing cam is probably going to be a (Microsoft+Skype) requirement.
  • In order to reduce costs in creating and testing images, a 64-bit CPU and image is likely.
  • Lower cost plastics are going to be obvious.
  • Finally, due to energy savings of having a 7-inch screen and a smaller board build it’s likely that battery size will drop. 13-16Wh (we currently have 16-20Wh) is likely.

In summary you’ll get a less rugged tablet with less battery life than some of the current models but it’s possible we’ll get smaller 7-inch tablets too which could be attractive to some. You’ll still be able to do this too…

 

Mid-Range differentiation

A $99 or even a $150 tablet creates a problem for the mid-range. Prices for current models will not be sustainable so two things will happen. We’ll see a price drop on devices that have todays specifications and because there needs to be a technical advantage over the low-end, the specs will be boosted. Intel has already told us that we can expect a 15% performance increase on CPU and GPU operations and taking a look at that CPU-World article again you can see the interesting Atom Z3775 with a 14.6-2.38 clock, boosted GPU and 4GB RAM capability sitting below the high-end Z3795 that we’ve already seen on the Elitepad 1000 G2, the first 64-bit Baytrail tablet to hit the market. The ‘Cost Reduction’ changes seen on the lower-end products are also likely to be there as a space-saving advantage which means either lower-cost or, more likely, more flexibility in size, ports and battery . USB3.0 might be used to differentiate the mid-range products if there’s no cost difference or port space issues.

Screenshot (54)_edited

Naturally all the devices will be 64-bit to help OEMs and ODMs reduce the costs of creating and testing images and in some cases, but not all, we’ll probably see 4GB RAM which aligns the product with expectations on a ‘real’ PC.

HMDI ports will continue to appear on some models as manufacturers mix and match their options.

Finally, we’re hoping that we’ll see a 1080p 7-inch Windows tablet on a mid-range offering but it could be that the engineering and component requirements push this into the $300-plus ‘high-end’ space.

High-end

Screenshot (39)_editedPlently of options exist for high-end manufacturers that want to try and knock the Thinkpad 8 off its perch and Intel has already teased ‘New Experiences’ relating to security and immersive gaming. Given the fact that a dual-camera tablet was presented on video at IDF and that there’s going to be space available if the processor mainboard becomes smaller, it’s highly likely that security and immersive gaming are related to Realsense camera technology. See this article for demonstrations that Intel have already made with the Realsense technology.

Apart from Realsense, this is what OEMs have to play with…

  • High-end CPU (although thermal limits might prevent that in this generation of 8-inch tablets.)
  • Digitizer layer.
  • 1080p screens.
  • 4GB RAM.
  • Larger battery.
  • Best engineering and materials.
  • 3G
  • Business-focused accessories (although given the short lifetime of these products, accessories could be limited and/or expensive.)
  • Biometric security (possibly related to Realsense.)
  • USB3.1 and USB Power Delivery. (2015)

Given the costs of developing new hardware for this fast-moving market we don’t expect a huge number of products appearing in 2014. Waiting for 2015 and CherryTrail might be a better bet for high-end products. See you at CES 2015 for those but do keep an eye out in 2014 for a Lenovo Thinkpad 8 refresh. 4GB RAM, faster CPU and, if possible, a digitizer layer. We live in hope!

 

Clovertrail Bargains. When to ‘Strike’

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ideatab lynxBaytrail-based tablets and 2-in-1s are our focus here for the time being. Baytrail-T products will be available next week and following that we’ll see Baytrail-M products but while that’s happening, Clovertrail-based devices are available at ever-improving prices. Baytrail doesn’t mean that these ‘old’ products suddenly become useless and as prices drop, you can find some really nice bargains out there. Windows 8.1 will improve them, Windows Store will make them more useful over time.

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ASUS X102– Small Screen Touch Windows 8 for 289 Euro

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Setting a new low-price benchmark for Windows 8 touchscreen laptops is the ASUS X102BA. It was announced a number of weeks ago and although it hinted at low price, an RRP of 289 Euro is lower than expected.

ASUS X102BE

ASUS X102BE

 

Built around an AMD A4-1200 dual-core CPU at 1.0Ghz and including a 1366×768 10-inch screen it looks like a netbook and in a way, it is as it falls under Microsoft’s Small Screen Touch program. Low license fee is clearly one of the advantages but the user also gets Office Home and Student for free.

2GB of RAM and 320GB of HDD will get you through a carefully managed office session but the touchscreen will open up some nice possibilities in the Modern UI.

More specs: 802.11N WiFi, BT4.0, 720p webcam, SD card, 33Wh battery and a weight of 1.1KG. Ports: Ethernet, 2xUSB 2.0, 1x USB3.0, SD card reader, VGA, HDMI

A 4GB, 500Gb version has been spotted in the UK for 299 pounds.

Performance is unlikely to be much more than previous netbooks or Clovertrail-based solutions so let that be a word of warning for anyone looking for smooth productivity but with the Modern apps, you get a whole new level of experience over that which you had with a netbook. A good port selection and Windows Desktop means you’ll never get caught out if you need flexibility.

Personally I’d like to see something like this built around Baytrail-M for a bit more battery life, some connected standby / InstantGo action and a bit more ooomph. When it comes, and it will, the ASUS X102 may have to look at that 250 Euro price level to compete!

ASUS X102

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Via: Notebook Italia

Press release

Toshiba Satellite U940 First Impressions, Tests, Video. Great News So Far for this Value Ultrabook

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I thought we’d be getting a Toshiba U920T Slider Touchscreen Windows 8 Ultrabook through the post this week but I was wrong. It wasn’t until the video unboxing that I found out it was actually the ‘budget’ Toshiba Satellite U940 (U945 in the USA.) I’ve left the out-take in the overview video below. What we’ve ended up with is more than just a surprise, it’s a surprise pleasure because after only half a day of testing it’s clear that this is a well balanced Ultrabook with a few almost unique and very usable features.

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Vivobook S200. This popular ultrathin is not an Ultrabook. But that’s good!

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S200

As I checked the list of top selling laptops at Amazon.com again this morning I noted that the ASUS Vivobook X202 touchscreen ultrathin, an Ultrabook-a-like for most consumers, was at position 10 for the second day running. Note, that we’re talking about the laptop category best-sellers list that includes two cheap Chromebooks, a couple of Apple laptops and a clutch of value laptops. Later this morning I picked up on a full review of the ASUS S200, the European version of the X202, and it gets a lot of praise. In our own ranking system, based on visitor view numbers, the X202 / S200 is #11 out of over 100 Ultrathins.  This ultrathin is on target to be the big hit this season and that’s something Intel need to take a close look at. It sounds bad. It’s not.

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ASUS VivoBook S400 Looking Popular, Now in Database

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We’ve just added the ASUS VivoBook S400 to the database (The 84th Ultrabook) and I note that it’s already quite the popular product. At around $700 for a touchscreen 14.1”-er, it’s not too surprising although for that price you’re not getting best-of-specs!

ASUS Vivobook S400CA

1366×768 resolution is almost a budget laptop specification and the hybrid hard drive won’t be as fast as an SSD. The weight is not exactly class-leading either but you do get a free RAM slot inside. We’re still trying to track down information on the battery capacity for you.

Given the current spec list and ASUS’ reputation this could be a really great entry point into some Touch Windows 8 productivity and fun.

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ASUS Vivo S200 / X202 in Unboxing – Low Cost Ultrabook-alternative

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asus_vivobook_s200_1_design

We saw some reports on the ASUS VivoBook X202 when it launched at an event last week but we’ve now got un unboxing of the European version of this low-cost Ultrabook-a-like via Notebookitalia.

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ASUS Vivobook S400 Ultrabook Offers Touch, Ivy Bridge for $699

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We picked up on the almost-Ultrabook ASUS Vivobook S200 a few days ago. The ASUS Vivobook S400 (S400CA-DH51T) has now appeared in Amazon.com for a surprisingly cheap $699. This is a full Ivy Bridge Core i5 Ultrabook with touchscreen making it the cheapest touchscreen Ultrabook to date.

S400CA 4

The specs include:

  • Windows 8
  • Core i5 3317U CPU 1.7Ghz
  • 4GB RAM
  • 500GB hybrid hard drive (24GB SSD)
  • 14.1” touchscreen 1366×768
  • 2xUSB2.0, 1xUSB3.0
  • 4.4lbs (1.995KG)

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2012 Ultrabooks Reach $599 and €599. Vizio Leads.

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Forget Intel’s prediction of $699 Ultrabooks. Forget our own prediction of $599 by the end of the year! The $599 Ivy Bridge Ultrabook is here already with the a great offer on the Vizio CT14.  In Europe, prices have dipped to below €599.

 

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It’s Vizio that have come through with the most impressive offer. The Vizio CT14-A0 1.8Ghz Ivy Bridge (Core i3) with a 128GB SSD and 1600×900 IPS screen. We can hardly believe that!  It even comes with a Windows Signature (no bloatware) build of Windows 7 Home Premium. It’s at $599 at Amazon today.

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Aspire Aspire Timeline M5. Bang-for-buck Ultrabook getting Good Reviews

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On an earnings call yesterday, Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, told journalists that Ultrabooks would reach $699 by ‘fall’ – Q4 of this year. Does he not read Ultrabooknews? Ultrabooks are already selling for under $699. Take the Acer Aspire Timeline M5 for example.

Aspire Timeline M5

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Acer Aspire V5 Ultrathin undercuts Ultrabooks price with similar specifications

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Use the European comparison engine Skinflint.co.uk today and do a search for Core i5 Ivy Bridge laptops with a screen size up to 13.9” and a weight of under 1.5KG [link] and you’ll find about 32 solutions. 5 of them are Apple MacBook Air solutions, 11 of them are Ultrabook alternatives over 1000 Euros and the rest are Ultrabooks…apart from one which sits nearly 30% cheaper than any other offering. Take the screen size limit down to 11.6” and the Acer V5-171-53314G50 is about half the price of any 11.6 Ultrabook out there; and it’s very difficult to see where the differences are.

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