HOME Technology Nov 2007
Notebooks get personal

All-in-one media managers

Notebook computers have undergone a major evolution from chunky grey or beige, utility desktop replacements to sleeker, slimmer, curvier and more colourful fashion items.


The notebook is becoming an extension of your personality with high definition screens, more storage space for multimedia files, improved sound and the ability to intuitively interface with a range of peripheral devices from MP3 players to still and video cameras. 

The sub-$1000 price point of the past two years shifted notebooks from expensive mobile extension to affordable, lightweight companion. Acceptable performance for homework, basic wordprocessing or accounting can now be had for as low as $800. A typical configuration is a 1.4-1.8GHz speed dual core chipset with 14.1 to 15.4 inch LCD, 256Mb of RAM and 80Gb hard disk plus web cam and Windows Vista Home operating system.


However the futureproofing factor has settled around the $1500 - $2000 mark for a relatively high performing widescreen machine with Core 2 Duo 1.8GHZ-2GHz performance, 1-2Gb RAM and 120-200Gb hard drive. All notebooks should now include wireless connectivity and you might even get a bag, a web camera or extra RAM thrown in if you ask nicely.


Notebook sales continue to swamp PC sales.  Hewlett Packard dominates with 37.7 percent of the market including its entry level Compaq machines. In the second quarter usual second place runner Toshiba (14.2 percent) was edged out by Acer (17.8 %) but quickly regained its composure, followed by Asus (7.4%), Apple (5.4%) and Lenovo (4%). Sony was also there but its premium pricing kept it as a niche player, says IDC.


HP kept to its classy silver and black and shapely design, concentrating more on new configurations. The thinner, lighter Presario 1200 for example, features a 12 inch screen, Core 2 Duo chipset, 160Gb hard disk, 2GB RAM and weighs in at  less than 2kg ($2199).


At the high end HP was harking back to the luggables of old with it’s fiery ‘Dragon’ which crossed over the PC boundaries with a 20 inch adjustable LCD screen,  two 250Gb hard drives, 1Gb graphics memory, ATI Mobility Radeon card and 1Gb graphics memory and remote control for $4999.  The 7kg machine features an HD-DVD drive, Vista Ultimate and is mainly aimed at gamers and for managing home entertainment.


Sony has chosen a colourful approach to its home and education focussed machines. The 1.6GHz notebooks with 1Gb memory, 120Gb drive and 14.1 inch screens come in pink, red, blue, white, gold and black with matching case and mouse at $2000. Other models range from $1500 to $4400 with appropriate increases in power, disk space and memory.

Sony’s higher end notebooks feature Blu-ray DVD players. Outstanding this year is its innovative
Vaio Panel PC notebook, designed to be a home server with 250Gb disk drive, 2Gb RAM, integrated wireless LAN, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400 graphics, 19 inch screen, TV tuner, wireless keyboard and mouse and remote control ($4000). The lower end model comes with 120Gb disk and 15.4 LCD screen ($2500).


In 2008 notebook hard disk sizes are likely to increase to 200Gb and beyond, standard DVD players will be Blu-ray or HD-DVD or hybrid, and display resolution will become slightly wider and more suited to high definition content.  For example 16 inch and 18.4 inch screens with 16:9 aspect ratio, for true high definition viewing at 1680 x 945 and 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Also expect increasing use of white LED backlighting to reduce power consumption and the new plug and play DisplayPort interface which is being touted as the one connection to rule them all, for faster, high quality connectivity to flat screens, TVs and home entertainment systems.


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