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Intel Portables Hardware

Blurring Lines — Dual Core Atom To Lift Netbooks 204

CWmike writes "'The next innovation coming to Atom is on dual-core,' Intel CEO Paul Otellini said recently of the company's low-end chips, which delivered the modern netbook but also found their way into embedded devices, and in the future, into mobile devices like smartphones. His statement comes after close to two years of accelerated growth, and with the initial euphoria around netbooks now subsiding. HP has already advertised a new netbook, the Hewlett-Packard Mini 210, running Intel's upcoming N455 chip, one of the Atom-series processors, on The N455 supports DDR3 memory, an upgrade over the DDR2 memory in most netbooks today. The DDR3-capable processors should allow data to be exchanged faster between the memory and CPU, translating to better overall netbook performance. Prices of laptops have been falling and the days of netbooks being a novelty have disappeared, said Jay Chou, research analyst at IDC. Laptops are bridging the pricing gap with netbooks, while offering better performance. 'You're getting something really attractive in the $600 range for better-performing notebooks,' Chou said. 'The original intended message of letting people expect netbooks to behave differently or less effectively is not really ringing.'"
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Blurring Lines — Dual Core Atom To Lift Netbooks

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  • Replacments (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:20PM (#32057730)
    I think we are looking at netbooks mostly occupying the place of notebooks and notebooks just about completely replacing desktops. I haven't bought a desktop since Feb 2004 but I have bought three notebooks since then (most recently a Dell Studio 17 this past September).
  • Not a Netbook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:28PM (#32057790)

    First netbooks had small screens and awesome battery life. Then they made bigger screens, which used more battery. Then they put in larger and larger spinning hard drives, faster processors, and now dual-core?

    So we go from a tiny, long-lived netbook to a large (and heavy) powerful and short-lived netbook. Also known as a laptop.

    What's next - a high end graphics card so people can play games?

    I have one of the early EeePCs - I think it's the 900A - with a 4GB SSD and a 9 inch screen. It runs for at least 5 hours, and depending on the pants I wear it can fit into a cargo pocket. *That's* a netbook.

  • Netbook =/ Laptop (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Oceanplexian ( 807998 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:38PM (#32057892) Homepage
    The whole point of a netbook was to use inexpensive and low power commodity hardware.

    The dual-core Atom is nice, but I hope they don't lose focus on building low-power, high efficiency processors. It looks like ARM is leading the way in that respect.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:08PM (#32058130) Journal

    Computers years ago already passed the good-enough mark for normal usage. The only thing that still drives processors are transcoding and games really.

    Don't underestimate the ability of the average computer user to take a nice collection of hardware and crap it up with endless shiny programs. Factor in OS bloat and I think we'll be upgrading for a while yet.

  • by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:11PM (#32058160) Homepage

    How much more performance do we need before we all say: "enough."?

    Never. For many people, it happened years ago. My smartphone is plenty fast for checking email, and it has all sorts of un-necessary eye-candy transition effects in the UI. Dialog boxes blur out the background, etc. For something meant to be purely functional, half the performance of my phone would be perfectly adequate for many tasks. Even the lowest end current mainstream Atom is a much faster processor than what's in my phone. So for my dad running apps he is used to, enough already is "enough." Yay, that probably happened over a decade ago.

    But, there will always be some of us for whom fast is never fast enough. We'll always find uses for more power. Look at how brilliantly Adobe manages to make even the fastest systems seem wildly inadequate for light web browsing (thanks to flash) and document viewing (their PDF reader). There will always be applications that make us want faster computers. Some of just poor implementations, like flash. Some are inherently hard problems, like detailed fluid simulation. Some are just for the entertainment value, like the latest game engine.

    For me, film res compositing, and 3D rendering are the applications that primarily drive my interest in high performance systems. In my end of the world, we can always throw more performance at the problem. More RAM, more/faster storage, more CPU. We'll take whatever we can get. We always will.

  • by mindbrane ( 1548037 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:12PM (#32058162) Journal

    I'm currently trying to arrive at a rational, fairly large computer investment in terms of what an individual might pay out. My thinking runs along some blurred lines only because the issues seem to be essentially unclear. Overall, is an individual as a heavy, personal computer user better off making a major long term investment in general computing power in terms of 32 bit architecture and, more or less, disposable units like the dual core, system on a chip, intel Pineview units; or, better off staying with the curve and building 64 bit multi core towers and waiting on the software to catch up to the 64 bit platforms? Say the prospective purchaser is thinking of what a "Beowulf cluster of these" could do. :) I've made an earnest effort to understand PCs as a "power user" since the mid 80's and I think I understand the issues. In terms of software if, today, you were to make a decision to buy either system on a chip 32 bit stuff (or 64 bit SOC stuff running 32 bit software) then 32 bit stuff should be the way to go because of reams of time tested software. I run R and Octave, but like most geeks want to be able to start out with an electronic sketch of an idea and work it, hopefully, up to more abstract but rigorous and formal levels of thought.

    More than 5 years ago I frequently said the tower was destined for the basement to share space with water heaters, freezers and furnaces. I still think that's the case. I think every home will have a server, maintained mostly by outside technicians and the house residents will use personal laptop/netbook units.

  • Re:Replacments (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:23PM (#32058238)

    The ability to easily swap hardware in a full desktop rig will trump laptops any time.

    Yeah, for the enthusiast market. For the general population, swapping computer hardware is on the same level as tweaking the dishwasher for more hot-water spraying action.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:39PM (#32058360)

    How much more performance do we need before we all say: "enough."?

    We already did, that's how netbooks gained such a following in the first place.

    This drive towards bigger drives and more processing power is driven not by consumer demands, but simply due to a marketing need: after all, given the same price most people would opt for a dual-core over a single-core computer, even if they need only one.

    Give it another year or two and I'm sure I won't even look at the spec for what processor is in a machine I buy: of course it will be fine.

    I already am at that point. My current notebook is horribly underpowered compared even to the cheapest netbook out there, yet if it weren't for its deader-than-dead battery it'd still suit me perfectly.

    Though, given the same price, I'd still probably go for this new dual-core CPU over the older, single-core one, in spite of having ample proof of being satisfied with either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:43PM (#32058392)

    They don't need to do a damn thing about replacing sales.
    Most of those "new sales" are exactly from that, peoples computers dying.
    The people who do upgrade cycles are a minority in computer sales.
    Sounds a bit stupid, but that's the way things work.

    I haven't met any average person who is just out casually buying a new computer for kicks or SUPER COOL NEW OS MAN, it is because "my computers fucked".
    It just doesn't happen. As long as this person has a computer to access whatever crap they do on facebook or bebo, they are happy. Whether it was on an iPhone or highest spec computer you can buy today. And they'd treat both of them equally shit. (like my sister who broke her laptop by tripping on it a month back, TRIPPING ON A LAPTOP.)

    Your post is speaking as if everybody who buys a computer is remotely smart and knowledgeable about computers. Most people don't even know what files are, they'd happily open an executable called virus.exe.

    And this barrier won't be reached either. Well, it won't be reached until we have Matrix-like power.
    Gaming and multimedia development is what pushes all of these computers to evolve.
    And gaming, regardless of what some idiots say on their craptacular blogs, is not going to die on the PC.
    For the most part, it is shitty, but with things such as Steam, Windows Live Games and similar digital platforms, gaming can stay stable in those areas with just barely acceptable DRM.
    Multimedia requirements such as photo editing, movie editing, audio, 3D modelling, etc., can always use some more power to them.

  • by tjrw ( 22407 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:45PM (#32058406) Homepage

    As others have already mentioned, dual-core Atom processors have been out for 2 years, so a dual-core Atom is nothing new.

    As regards the support of DDR3 memory, it's unlikely to make any measurable performance difference over DDR2 given the relatively anaemic CPU performance of the Atom. The reason is far more prosaic. DDR3 is now cheaper than DDR2 and that trend will continue so Intel are doing the right thing in moving the chipset support over to the less expensive memory. In a budget platform anything else would be foolish.

  • by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:59PM (#32058498)

    Barely had the netbook started hitting the mainstream that they were getting bigger screens, bigger drives, more weight, less battery life, bigger price tag. Most of them very quickly became just crap laptops.

    Most of them are seem terrible value. For around 10%-15% more you can get something that at least holds itself to the standard of a low-end laptop, with a much more powerful type of "1.6ghz cpu" and other components yet after a few months the battery life is practically the same. The weight is for all intents and purposes very similar.

    Netbooks were good because they were less than two-thirds the price of a laptop, were far more portable (could be forgotten about in a basic satchel), had long batteries. While the spec looked low, general use was actually snappy because it was using SSD and a light OS. You only noticed the performance loss when doing things that actually required decent horsepower (though choppy flash video was a bit of a weakness), which wasn't something you'd want a netbook for anyway.

    The summary suggests laptops became cheaper to bridge the gap between them and netbooks. I think it was much more than netbooks turned into laptops.

  • TVs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kjart ( 941720 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:03PM (#32058536)

    TVs are a commodity too, but that doesn't mean that there aren't people that heavily research before buying one. Sure, there are people that go into a store and get whatever looks good and is on sale (the vast majority, I'd wager), but most people have been doing that for years with computers too. This is the difference between an enthusiast and a layperson, and the former is not going away anytime soon.

  • Re:Replacments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by frosty_tsm ( 933163 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:10PM (#32059018)

    I think we are looking at netbooks mostly occupying the place of notebooks and notebooks just about completely replacing desktops. I haven't bought a desktop since Feb 2004 but I have bought three notebooks since then (most recently a Dell Studio 17 this past September).

    I agree with you mostly for the average consumer. However, users who need more power than a laptop offers (gaming is an obvious one, but software developers too) want the higher power you get with a desktop. In a laptop, you (generally) don't get:

    - very high-end video cards (my new one in my desktop is almost the size of an EEE PC and requires a 500 watt PSU)
    - high IO speeds (generally slower hard drives, lower clock-rate BUS speeds and higher RAM latency; everything is underclocked to conserve energy)
    - mobile CPUs skimp on cache size, which is worse when combined with multi-core.
    - better heat dissipation (they've gotten better, but I know of some recent laptops that overheated to the point of failure).

    There will always be a need for some portion of the market having as much power at their finger tips (even if this group decreases in size over the years due to other innovations).

  • by marciot ( 598356 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:25PM (#32059102)

    The inflationary days of selling computing hardware may just be over: now we seem to be getting into a saturated sector. What will manufacturers do to replace those sales?

    Why, declare that the future is "in the cloud" and that we should be buying devices which are less powerful that our current ones, so we can pay subscription fees on our apps.

  • Re:Replacments (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:12PM (#32060618) Homepage Journal

    Depends on your usage pattern. Most people don't upgrade the coils in their toaster for a more even toast, or faster toast. I think if you asked most users, they would prefer their laptop to be hermetically sealed, so they don't have to worry about crumbs/drink spills. Gamers will almost always buy a desktop or console, but a lot of non-gamers will just pick up a $400-600 laptop and use that until either the screen breaks, or the virus infestation gets so bad after a few years that they opt to upgrade. It doesn't take much CPU to check Facebook or Email and run a chat client simultaneously - the iPhone is "good enough" for most people, but you can't write a book report on it... yet. Many "desktop" computers today are just a laptop board & hard drive inside a smaller case; the only thing they're lacking is the onboard UPS of a laptop.

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