A few weeks ago Intel posted 2 videos featuring Chromebooks and they appear to be part of a bigger campaign to push ARM out of the market. Clearly Intel thinks that there’s something big worth fighting for here. The videos lead to a set of 15 Intel-commissioned reports from Principled Technologies that are all available to the public and listed below.
Let’s take a look at what you can do with 8 to 10-inches of hardware and what’s going to give you the most satisfaction. Whether you use it in bed, on the table or in public is important and of course there’s the big question of mixing business with pleasure. I’m talking about small-screen Windows tablets, ultramobile laptops, ultrabooks and the 2-in-1 devices, of course! What’s best for you?
I’ll start by saying that it’s very unlikely that you’ll find one solution that covers all your needs perfectly but if you value mobility, some trade-offs are worth it. Because prices are dropping, the chances you can buy two, or even three devices within budget are improving too. Because of my job I’ve always had the advantage of choice and being able to choose a device based on the days activities is the best option. Sometimes I just take a smartphone. At other times a 10-inch Atom-based 2-in-1 works perfectly. At other times I need 13.3-inches and a Core i7 CPU with all-day battery life. There was a time during the life of this blog when you could buy handheld clamshell PCs with 4.8-inch screens. They were expensive and very niche but at a time when on-screen keyboards were laughable, they had unique productivity advantages. Apart from a few Asia-market product and some specialist business devices those days are gone. For while, everything under 10-inches was gone but thanks to a great new mobile-focused mode in Windows, and huge progress in mobile X86 platforms such as Clovertrail, Baytrail and Haswell, a new product range is opening up with 8-inch Windows tablets. At the 10-inch range you can now find full Core-i5 based tablets weighing under 1KG which come with detachable keyboards for under $1000. You can also find a 10-inch tablet with included keyboard dock for $349. Both run Windows 8.
8-inch touch PCs
Starting with the new category of Windows devices the Windows Small Screen tablets are made possible through Intel Atom processors. Baytrail, the newest, offers what you could call ‘enough’ power for a smooth experience through every part of Windows Modern and Desktop. Intel and Microsoft are promoting these under a new Small Screen Tablets Program which allows prices to go below $300. Expect $250 8-inch tablets by Christmas! Here’s a list of PC solutions with 8-inch screens. In terms of sizing you have some stark trade-offs. The Modern UI, at 800×1280 resolution, should look great. The desktop, with a few tweaks, should also be readable although you might want a digitizer or external mouse and a good pair of eyes to get productive with Office. The desktop mode on these devices isn’t going to be used much by consumers although professionals will obviously have a different take on that. Being able to run a batch of photos through some filters, for example, could help to reduce the preview time for a customer. You can, if you want (and I really like this idea) also think of these 8-inch tablets as 8-inch mini PCs. They’ve got a screen, but you can add screen, keyboard and mouse for the perfect temporary desktop, Powerpoint player or holiday PC. We haven’t seen any with dedicated docking ports yet but with WiDi (wireless screen, remote USB and audio) and Bluetooth (wireless keyboard and mouse.) you may be able to work completely without cables. 8-inch SSTs are flexible but they’re about Windows Modern first and Desktop second. They’ll be perfect for magazine and book reading, social networking (it’s always nice to have a full browser ready for those desktop URLs that appear on your timeline!) and Modern gaming. Let’s not forget that all Windows 8 PC come with multi-user capabilities so buying one for the family as a Christmas present isn’t a bad idea. With cloud synchronization on Windows services becoming more and more embedded, having a $299 Windows 8 tablet ready to go out of the door with you isn’t a bad addition to your range of computing options. It’s not going to replace a main PC, but it complements it extremely well.
10-inch touch PCs
This is the old netbook category size; A size where keyboards were a pretty poor and cramped experience. As a screen size for a laptop it may only work optimally for kids but, naturally, those with a mobile computing requirement will have an interest. When you think about tablet or 2-in-1 scenarios, it gets even more interesting, especially when you consider the power that can be packed into the size wth the new X86 processing platforms. Here’s a list of all the PC solutions with 10-inch screens. Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is the perfect example of how much you can fit into a 10-inch tablet. Fast SSD, Core-i5 (ultrabook-style) processor and fast memory with FullHD touchscreen and some impressive battery life, all in a light-weight package that attaches to keyboard cases and other mobile accessories. There’s a dock that will allow you to use the Surface Pro 2 as your only PC. There are a few trade-offs though. Weight is relatively high for casual usage scenarios however, so you can’t use it to read a book for an hour in bed for example. It has a fan too. When you get to working on the desk, a FullHD screen may not be comfortable at this size. Working with the Surface Pro 2 on your lap (some people do it!) isn’t going to be confidence-inspiring either. 10-inch tablets can work in casual scenarios, but only when they weigh much less than the Surface Pro 2. When they weigh less, they usually have a smaller battery however. The 10-inch category was always the ‘tweener’ category that was hidden by low cost netbook sales but now those have gone it’s exposed a screen size that, although it can do everything, comes with serious trade-offs. It’s no substitute for a grab-and go 8-incher either. It’s important to note that as weights go down in this category, reading and casual usage becomes better. A 10-inch screen can be a really nice reading experience when we reach sub 600 grams / 1.2lb. The problem is that a keyboard will always need to be bigger than one that matches a 10-inch screen. If you’re tablet-focused, watch the 10-inch sector. If you’re keyboard focused, watch the 11.6-inch sector.
11-inch Touch PCs
As we move up to 11-inch screen we reach a size where the matching keyboards become much more user friendly and where desktop apps on high-density screens are more useful. 11.6-inches is the smallest screen size I would recommend anyone to have as their only PC screen and even then, only if you need to be extremely mobile or, as could happen in the future, want a very nice lightweight newspaper-style to your tablet. Weights are too high now, but are coming down quickly. Here’s a list of PCs with 11-inch screens. A laptop in the 11.6-inch range, at around 1KG / 2.2 pounds brings together not only a comfortable screen and keyboard but, in a well-designed device, can offer processor power, battery life and quiet operation. Look at the Sony Vaio Pro 11 which is an Ultrabook-style device but also check out some of the netbook+ devices. The Acer Aspire V5-122P has great graphics power for the price and it comes with a touchscreen for a third of the price of a Sony Vaio Pro 11. The most interesting style of device in this size category is undoubtedly the 2-in-1. In early 2013 the 2-in-1’s were a bit underpowered and tablet-heavy but that is changing now. Look at the Dell Venue 11 Pro which runs a Baytrail CPU and weighs 726 grams / 1.6 pounds. That’s 20% lighter than the Surface Pro 2 with its 10-inch screen. The Sony Vaio Tap 11 brings an Intel Core CPU in an 11.6-inch screen in 780 grams. As these tablet weights get towards 600 grams you’ve got an enjoyable tablet experience, a screen that’s good enough for desktop work and the possibility to match a ‘real’ keyboard. In 2014 you won’t see anything that light with a Core CPU inside but you will see Baytrail tablets approaching that. For some people, this could be all the PC you ever need.
8-inches. For travellers, adventurers, sofa surfers, hotel hoppers and those that love modular flexibility. These are also the ‘gadgets’ of the Windows 8 PC world and as such, quite exciting for many. At $299-$399 it’s a perfect second PC that will integrate and sync with your main PC more and more as time goes on. Example: Dell Venue 8 Pro 10-inches. Very interesting possibilities as a 2-in-1 for the more tablet-focused user and a perfect replacement for a netbook. As a laptop it will interest hot-deskers if you choose one with enough processing power. As weights get less the tablets get more interesting but the keyboards will remain cramped. Example: Microsoft Surface Pro 2 11-inches. The entry-level for productive laptops or tablets with keyboards. Currently the tablet sections of most 2-in-1s are too heavy for a comfortable sofa, bed, coffee shop experience but that problem will go away over time. A few products are getting close though. Example: Sony Vaio Tap 11.
What am I using?
Please, let us know what you’re using in the comments below. As I mentioned earlier in the article, I have a number of devices I use regularly. The tablet section of the Acer W510 gets a lot of use as it’s a good size and weight for living-room use. I’m using it to edit this post now as I sit in the back of a presentation room. For productivity, however, I use a 13.3-inch Ultrabook. For the future I’m considering a Sony Vaio Tap 11 and one of the 8-inch tablets as a replacement though. I haven’t used a 7-inch Android tablet (my previous favorite form factor) since I was given a Nokia Lumia 925 to test. (7 weeks ago!)
Find out more.
There’s a huge amount of fun to be had looking around the market and imagining usage scenarios. Be honest with yourself though and think about your main usage and consider two devices rather than compromising when buying a 2-in-1. A solutions that does ‘95% of what I need’ is a device that is useless for 5% of what you want to do. Your solution should be able to do over 100% of what you need to achieve. Have fun in the product database where you can select form-factors and sort by processors and screen sizes, weights and more. The UMPCPortall Product Database is here, for you.
At HiBlue, the focus is on the next generation of smart cameras – cameras that are fully converged with a mobile operating system and communication options that we see on smartphones. The devices haven’t hit the market yet but they’re coming. For some they’ll be an exciting and creative enhancement to photography but to others, they may not be the best solution.
The case against Smart Cameras say they are too converged and that a modular solution of dedicated camera and separate smartphone or tablet-based app/communication hub is better. Eye-Fi have been promoting this type of solution for a while now and separating the camera and ‘smart’ device’ is also the core of the Samsung Smart Camera strategy for the time being. So what’s the real deal? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the next generation of smart cameras?
One in ten of you reading this article are from Germany, a country that leads the world in Ultrabook availability. How do we know this? We know this because we regularly scan retailers in USA, Germany, UK, Canada, France, Italy and Australia for information on pricing and availability for our database and Germany is always out front.
Those of you that think the English-language countries are the place to look for Ultrabook trends, reports, sales numbers need to think again because not only is there a huge availability of Ultrabooks, the cheapest Ultrabook is close to the $600 mark (pre-tax.) 599 Euros buys you the Lenovo U310 today – inclusive of 19% sales tax which most EU businesses will claim back.
Here’s a list of interesting Ultrabooks, including my comments, that you might want to look at if you’re a QWERTZ person. Pass it on to your German friends!
I’ve been following a disturbing trend over the last few years as the Android platform (and now WP7 as well) matures. Smartphone screen sizes just keep growing and growing, and they don’t seem to want to stop. I have a number of issues with smartphones that have overly-large screens. It pains me to see that, while Android is known for giving users many choices, it’s nearly impossible to get a reasonably-sized flagship phone. For me, for a smartphone to be a ‘smartphone’ at all, and not a tablet, it has to be easily usable with one hand. Of course then the definition of smartphone/tablet will change from person to person, because our hands are not all the same size, however, there is certainly a finite limit for everyone where a phone will become too big to be comfortably used with one hand.
I’m currently testing the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. So far it’s been a rather wonderful phone, and I recently wrote this on Google Plus:
I’ve been using the iPhone for 3 generations. Right now I’m testing a Galaxy Nexus. If they made the same exact phone in a size that’s actually comfortable for one-hand use, I might call myself an Android convert. Curse you 4″+ screens and the awful fad that you are!
For me, the 4.65″ screen on the Galaxy Nexus is just too big. I constantly have to shuffle the phone around in my hand because Android places the two most frequently used aspects of the interface (the menu buttons and the notification drawer) at opposite ends of the phone. The size of the phone and the required shuffling means that I’ve got a poor grip on it, and I’ve been rather worried about dropping it during use. Again, those with larger hands will not have the same issue at 4.65″, but at some point they will run into the same problem.
Android Handset Screen Size Over Time
To show the trends of Android smartphone screen sizes over time, I compiled screen size and release date data from 155 smartphones from five major manufacturers (Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG). I’d like to thank PDADB.net for their comprehensive release date info. (click to enlarge graphs)
As you can see, since the introduction of the 3.2″ HTC Dream / G1, screen sizes have consistently increased. Today we’re seeing 4″, 4.5″, 4.7″, 5″, and even 5.3″ smartphones! A simple projection (seen on the main chart) suggests that before 2013 is out, many handsets will have 5″ screens, while the flagship phones of that time may have even larger screens (if this trend continues) of 5.5″ or perhaps 6″.
With a slope of 0.0016, LG is increasing its Android smartphone screen sizes the most rapidly of these five manufactures. Despite pioneering some of the largest phones on the market at certain points in the timeline, Motorola is actually showing the slowest rate of increase in Android smartphone screen size with a slope of 0.0009, but of course this isn’t very far off from the leader!
Why is This Happening?
A good question to ask is what’s prompting the growth in screen size. It seems natural for manufacturers to have experimented with screen sizes as the platform grew legs. Different screen sizes are a point of differentiation for an Android phone manufacturer — a way to stand out in a sea of similar options. Bigger screens were also an easy way for companies to try to beat out the iPhone on features, even if the ‘bigger is better’ argument doesn’t hold much water in this case. Now it seems to have turned into a snowball effect whereby manufacturers are trying to one-up each other to have the biggest screen in town (all the while, Apple has stuck with 3.5″ since the introduction of their handsets). You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard the phrase “biggest and baddest” when marketers are referring to a new Android phone. They use this phrase as though bigger is always better, but I must say — when it comes to comfortable one-handed smartphone use — it is not.
Where Does It Stop?
My question is this: where do we draw the line? As I mentioned, despite variations in hand sizes, everyone reaches a limit of comfortable one-hand usability at some point. I don’t have the raw data to back it up, but I believe that Android smartphone screen sizes are rapidly surpassing the maximum size for comfortable one-handed use by the average Android customer. None of this is to say there aren’t advantages to having a larger screen (particularly when it comes to media viewing), but given that people much more frequently use their smartphones for apps rather than media viewing, the argument for surpassing a users one-handed comfort zone to provide a better media experience is a poor one.
It’s not so much that screen-sizes are increasing (the chart clearly shows that other sizes are still available), but the bothersome fact is that it’s near-impossible to get a flagship phone unless you’re willing to buy one of the massive phones on the market. If you want a phone that comes in a size that’s comfortable for one-handed use, you have to be willing to settle as a second-class Android citizen — the only options available to you will likely have slower processors, less RAM (and may be based on an older platform) than the newest and biggest flagship phone currently on the market.
It’s crunch time. I’ve been without a decent notebook for months and with CES fast approaching, I need to make a decision. I have a short-list of Ultrabooks and because there’s no-one in this room to discuss it with, I’m going to talk to myself.
I’ve tested three devices on the ultra-low voltage 2nd-gen Core platform so far and I really like what I see. The dynamic range of processing is just what I need; Quick Sync Video is the solution for my on-the-go video crunching and upload tasks, 1080p video playback is going to be great for home use and at around the 1KG mark, it meets my portability requirements spot-on. 5hrs is the battery life target for average use although anything more than that makes a day on the road less stressful! The Ultrabook platform delivers the perfect balance that I need right now.
In this article I put a case forward for the Ultrabook. It follows a similar article in which I put forward an argument against the Ultrabook. You can’t say we’re not assessing all angles on Utrabooknews!
The Ultrabook project, a three-stage plan by Intel to change they way that laptops are designed and manufactured, is now producing its first products and already we’re seeing combinations of weight, price and power that have never been seen in the industry before; Truly ground-breaking notebooks. Early reviews have been very good and despite the expensive changes in design and manufacturing, the price points are competitive.
I’ll talk more about todays Ultrabook products further on in this article but first lets talk about why the Ultrabook project, over 3 years, is advantageous for everyone.
More important than the initial products is the massive change that is being asked of the laptop industry to move to ultra-efficient electronic designs [the battery companies are going to hate this part of the equation. Environmentalists will love it.], sealed unit and single board production by choosing and tightly integrating components and processes. As the change in the laptop continues the result will be advantages for all parts of the industry – a move towards solid state storage, smaller batteries, lower part counts and lower shipping weights. Windows 8 will combine to bring a scenario where the laptop covers a wider range of usage scenarios than ever before. Style included – Dont forget that very important style element for the mature markets.
Buying an Ultrabook isn’t going to be simple. Not only do the products all look similar but the internals are similar too. How do you make a choice between an Lenovo Core i5 Ultrabook that looks the same as a Toshiba Core i5 Ultrabook that costs the same? The devil, unfortunately for the consumer, is in the details so to make the process a little easier I’ve listed some hints and tips here that you might want to think about before buying. I’ll update it as often as I can and will add in important tips from anyone that comments below.
Many of us have downloaded the Windows 8 Developer Preview to give it a test run and I think it’s fair to say that the most exciting feature to test is the Windows 8 Metro UI. Focused on touch, app-snacking, consumption and entertainment it has been an interesting product to think about in terms of mobile computing; real mobile computing. Getting the balance of UI right for both on-the-go and bum-on-seat activities hasn’t been achieved by anyone yet. Windows 8 is the big hope for that in the future.
Not only does Windows 8 introduce this interesting Metro UI and apps layer, it also approaches quick-startup and efficiency. In testing it over the last few weeks on four mobile devices, I’m not as positive as a was a month ago about the Metro UI although it’s way better than anything I’ve experienced as an overlay on Windows before and ultimately, I’m enjoying its responsiveness, sharing sub-system, full-screen Explore browser and dynamic nature. There are some serious issues to talk about though.
The first is that while Metro works on low-resolution devices, the apps won’t because they require a minimum of 768 pixels vertically. For the side-by-side snap feature, you need 1366 pixels minimum width. There are also major issues when working in portrait mode â€“ something that isn’t really supported at all. The resolution restriction seems crazy when you consider the cost and size of 1366×768 screens. I don’t see anyone producing that at 7″ and as it’s not compatible with 1024×600, 100 million netbooks users are going to be left out.
You might argue that we just need much higher resolution screens. I’ve tried Windows 8 on a 1280×800 screen at 5.8″ and yes, Metro apps work. Text might need a little enlargement here and there but it works. Some issues remain though. Touchscreens can’t be recessed otherwise it’s not easy to find the magic swipe that expose the hidden menus on the right and bottom left corner. Forget resistive screens. That’s not such a big deal considering the level of capacitive and digitiser deployment and it’s also not much of an issue for the classic Windows UI either as that’s the one you’ll be using who you’re docked at your desk. The other issue comes with cost and battery drain. High resolution screens are expensive to produce, especially if you want one that’s readable outdoors. There’s also the power cost in terms of the display electronics and the graphics power needed to control it. Given that most people are more than happy with 200ppi, a higher density in a 7″ frame is counter-productive, at least for large-font Metro. People with perfect eyesight may disagree with 200ppi but I regard it as a good trade-off point for screen design.
Windows 8 Metro UI in Portrait Mode
It’s unfortunate that the developer preview is indicating that portrait mode isn’t encouraged. All the apps in the preview fail to work efficiently in portrait mode despite that fact that in portrait mode you get the best split-screen keyboard experience and preservation of screen real estate.
I agree with those that say portrait is useless on a top-heavy device of 2lb or more but what about 2013, 2014 when 10â€ Windows 8 tablets could be under 1lb and when even the 7â€ form factor could be possible with a hi-res screen?
To demonstrate what I mean here, I’ve made a video showing the Windows 8 developer preview on an ExoPC in portrait and landcsape modes.
Apart from the Apple MacBook Air which is built like an Ultrabook but sold like an Apple product, there are other interesting options that hover just outside the weight and features list of a true Ultrabook. You’ve got options with Core i3 or AMD E450 at way below the Ultrabook price level, options without SSD and even high-end options. If you can handle just 500 gm / 1lb more weight and are flexible on specs you can save hundreds. In this report I list your options for Sept-Oct 2011.
Before you take a look at the Ultrabook alternatives, have a look at these two reference articles to find out exactly what an Ultrabook is.
You go to the Intel Developer Forum to learn. You learn about Intel’s heading, new technology and knowledge from other attendees. Unlike trade-shows where you’ll be talking to marketing teams and show-floor assistance, you get to hear from expert engineers, product managers and technologists. Thanks to Intels support at IDF I was able to sit down for a one-to-one with Adam King, senior manager responsible for the Ultrabook sector and get some outstanding questions answered.
This is the seventh report on sizing trends in PCs below 12â€ screen size (and above 5â€) 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 trendÂ occurringÂ in the 7″ space where growth in products hasÂ occurredÂ 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 Â 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 Â 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 ofÂ weight, the tablets mean that the average weight of a device has gone down. Â 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: Â 193 (30% of total)
X86/Windows Laptop â€“ Eee PCR101D at 199 Euros. (Was: Samsung N145 at 228 Euro)
Non-Windows Laptop (X86-CPU) – Â Eee PC X101 (Meego) at 169 Euros
ARM Tablet â€“ Debitel One Pad Â (Android 1.5) at 59 Euro
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 fromÂ Geizhals Â An English language (and UK market) version of Geizhals is available at Skinflint.