HOME Technology Nov 2009
Nifty netbooks take lead
Personalising the portable

‘Netbooks went mainstream last year and made up around 17 percent of worldwide laptop sales to October 2009 with no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.’

IThe laptop is entering a new era beyond function and features, where form, fashion and efficiency make portable computing more personal.

Statistics suggest shoppers looking for a computer are twice as likely to buy a machine that fits their mobile lifestyle than a desktop, although performance, affordability and looks remain high on the agenda. We’re no longer stuck with beige or black, there’s a rainbow of colours plus aluminium and laser etched designer cases, and on the laptop catwalk, ‘thinner, lighter and shapely’ still catch the eye.

Internally the focus is on chipsets that improve battery life, with power saving features, the integration of functions and multi-core capability that liberates different processes to run separately.

Hewlett-Packard dominates the local market with Toshiba, Acer, Apple and Dell following behind. While the notebook segment took a dip into the red recently, it’s expected to grow by about 15 percent over the next year, largely through innovation and the current fascination for the netbook.

Power and memory savings

Windows 7, which supersedes the memory hogging Vista operating system, should also make life easier for computer purchasers. "Windows 7 is a lot snappier, there are less clicks to get things done, and although it builds on Vista, it makes a much better job of it," says David Proctor, Hewlett-Packard’s consumer product marketing manager.

Hard disk space is becoming less of an issue as most machines come standard with between 250- 500Gb, although affordable external drives with up to a terabyte of storage will solve outstanding capacity issues. Base memory remains at 2Gb RAM unless you plan to get intense about graphics or sound and video editing, in which case you could double that.

Reduced power consumption is aided by technology that shuts down everything but the essentials while in sleep mode, then bouncing back in seconds when you hit the keyboard. A shift to LED (light emitting diode) screen technology also helps with efficiency.

Entry level machines with everything needed for school or basic home use can still be had for under $1000 but more serious configurations with fashion and function in mind can take the price up to $4000. The 14inch standard seems to have been displaced by 13.3" ultra thin or 15.6" for under $2000.

Touchscreens are making an impact this year with HP revisiting its pioneering technology with the tx2 model featuring TouchSmart 3.0 software suite customised for the tablet. Among Toshiba’s 21 newly released notebooks is the Satellite U500 Touch with Intel Core2 Duo 13.3", a 500Gb drive and 4GB RAM.

Toshiba takes full advantage of the Windows 7 touch-screen capabilities with additional Its LifeSpace applications give fast access to daily activities and projects while visual history tools help find files based on when they were last opened

Netbook still shining

The smaller, lighter more affordable netbook, designed specifically for simpler tasks including web browsing and email, continues its winning way with HP, Asus, Toshiba, Acer, Dell and Sony offering next generation models and even Nokia entering the fray.

Netbooks went mainstream last year and made up around 17 percent of worldwide laptop sales to October 2009 with no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.

Typically netbooks have 8"-12" screens no CD/DVD writer, lots of disk space, trimmed down operating systems, and are geared for broadband, wifi and cellular connectivity. Prices average $600-$900, although the lighter portables with full operating system and features range up to $2000.

Meanwhile new quadcore chips for laptops are appearing at the high end, and chipmaker Intel is pushing the boundaries again with a new generation of smaller, faster chipsets for laptops, netbooks and even smartphones and mobile devices, which it’ll launch next year.

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