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

Posted in Uncategorized by QuietOC on February 12, 2010


I am a little under whelmed by this incarnation of the CULV platform. Overall the 5.5 W TDP Core 2 Solo SU3500 performs similarly to a 2 GHz single core Atom. Maybe the Core 2 Solo SU3500 doesn’t really deserve the Core 2 moniker. Many of the CULV systems are now offered with the dual core 1.3 GHz Pentium SU4100 or a slower dual core Celeron. While Intel has stated that they have no plans to increase the performance of the Atom. They do sell a 2 GHz Atom Z550 which has been used in a few expensive Sony VAIO netbooks. Intel also has a 10 W Core 2 Duo SU9600 that runs at 1.6 GHz, and a larger 17 W Core 2 Duo SL9600 that runs at  2.13 GHz. The single core CULV chips could have been specified as 10 W TDP at frequencies similar to the SL9600 which would be a big performance improvement.

Of course little is preventing companies from running these chips at faster speeds. Asus provides overclocking software for their notebooks. Unfortunately Acer actually locked the clock generator in the Gateway EC series and Acer 1410 and 1810T which prevents the ability to change the front side bus speeds in software. Overclocking is only possible on the Gateway EC18 by opening it up and soldering some tiny components.

So what would the ideal ultraportable look like with today’s silicon?

It is hard  to ignore that Intel’s latest multi-core CPUs are able to achieve remarkably low idle power consumption by removing current to unused cores, but it is unlikely that any of those are going to wind up in budget machines.

So what would I recommend?

I think the Atom platform is mostly fine. Pinetrail will hopefully lower the cost and power use of Atom-based netbooks. It is too bad that Intel couldn’t build some HD decoding into the new GMA 3150. Really the non-x86 processors will remain much more efficient in the smallest form factors. The 17W to 25W TDP SL9xxx and SP9xxx Core 2 Duos offer a more reasonable amount of performance. Something more like a 15W TDP Penryn-3M at 2Ghz would be a better match for nVidia’s Geforce 9400M or even the GMA 4500MHD.

The Decent Windows Mini Laptop Doesn’t Exist

Unfortunately there aren’t any inexpensive Core 2 Duo + nVidia 9400M mini laptops. Surprisingly, Apple’s 13” MacBook even seems like a decent deal, but it is also rather large and heavy. I have thought someone could release something compelling based on AMD chips (specifically the Athlon II and the 785G). The Radeon HD 4200 certainly packs a lot of punch for very little power use, but even the lowly Radeon 2100 IGP embarrasses Intel’s GMA4500MHD as far as performance and power use. Unfortunately, AMD has so far followed Intel’s lead by mostly dumping old inventory into this market instead of their best technology.

NEC Mobile Pro 900C Verdict

If you just want something to type on, NEC’s old Mobile Pro line of Handheld PCs are excellent. Just know that they won’t run x86 software and can only barely render websites. But how many laptops require less power than their wireless cards?

ASUS Eee PC 1000HA

The original Intel Atom netbook platform is not power efficient, but it runs x86 Windows fairly well. Web browsing mostly works well, just don’t expect to play videos full screen. The excellent screen and decent keyboard make the 1000HA nice to use.

Gateway EV1803u Verdict

If not for its screen and keyboard, the Gateway would be a pretty decent deal. The screen, despite its problems, is at least legible. There is nothing so wrong with its performance that could’t be fixed with the soldering iron. Otherwise the CULV performance really isn’t worth much over last year’s Atom platform.

The future may be machines more like the Mobile Pro.

Kmart is now selling a ARM based mini laptop for $149. Check back for a review of the Delstar DS700.


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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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