QuietOC

The Evolution of the Microsoft/Intel Netbook: Three generations of mini Windows laptops

Posted in Uncategorized by QuietOC on February 12, 2010

The Eee PC 1000 and Gateway EC18 form factors

A couple of years ago I was shopping for something simple to take notes on during class and for writing in general. I remembered seeing people use small keyboards with PDAs to take class notes. So I first thought of getting a PDA and a keyboard. A few PDAs were still available, but they weren’t all that cheap, and I also discovered that keyboards for PDAs were actually pretty expensive. However, I found out about another type of device that Microsoft had developed called the Handheld PC. Handheld PCs (HPCs) were basically PDA electronics in a mini notebook form factor. I soon purchased one of the last HPCs, a used NEC Mobile Pro 900C.

NEC Mobile Pro 900C running Cmonex v2

NEC Mobile Pro 900C running Cmonex v2

A few months later ASUS released the original Eee PC on the unsuspecting world market. I wasn’t too envious of ASUS’s new device, but there is something to be said for x86 compatibility. What I really wanted though was x86 Windows compatibility–the first Eee PCs shipped with Linux. I did find my old NEC useful mainly due to its active user community and upgradeable firmware. I was soon running a user-modified OS that allowed most newer Window Mobile apps to run alongside older software on the device.

ASUS Eee PC 4G

The original 7" LCD ASUS Eee PC 4G

Web browsing was likely an afterthought to Microsoft when Handheld PCs were designed though the 900C did come with Pocket Internet Explorer 4. The 900C also lacks any type of built-in Ethernet, but it does have an internal modem. Equipped with x86 Windows, Atom netbooks can run any modern browser and all of them are equipped with both wired and wireless Ethernet. The Atom N270 while much faster than any XScale is a rather slow processor by modern standards, and it was paired with Intel’s ancient 945GSE chipset with its pitiful GMA 950 built-in video. While this combination makes running OSX on netbooks fairly easy, it severely limits their video capabilities.

Gateway EC1803u

Gateway EC1803u 11.6" CULV laptop

So what does Intel’s Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) platform offer over last year’s Atom netbooks?  The Gateway EC18 and its paternal twins the Acer Aspire 1410 and 1810T Timeline pair a 45nm Intel Core 2 derived chip with the Intel GS45/ICH10 chipset. The latter is actually newer hardware than resides in my 24” 2.8GHz Aluminum iMac. The GMA 4500MHD is Intel’s fastest graphics accelerator capable of Bluray decoding. It might even be capable of running a 3D application at some decent frame rates.

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1 comment

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  1. Fire Basket · said, on November 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    the best and cheap netbooks are made by Asus or MSI, if you want reliability then the best is Hitachi netbooks “


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