The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

Summary: Just when I was starting to wonder what happened to all those ultra-low voltage (ULV) laptops, computer makers opened the flood gates. These laptops, which are thinner, lighter and less costly than mainstream notebooks, are now available in a range of display sizes, including some models with 11.

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Just when I was starting to wonder what happened to all those ultra-low voltage (ULV) laptops, computer makers opened the flood gates. These laptops, which are thinner, lighter and less costly than mainstream notebooks, are now available in a range of display sizes, including some models with 11.6-inch displays that compete directly with netbooks.

First, a quick recap of ULV. Low-voltage processors only have one or two processing cores and they don't run at the same speeds, but they also don't generate as much heat, so system designers can squeeze them in thinner and lighter laptops. These are nothing new--Intel as been selling these sorts of chips for years, but only for pricey ultramobiles. At the beginning of this year, AMD introduced a low-cost alternative, the Athlon Neo, and later followed up with a dual-core version (the Neo X2). HP uses this processor in its 12-inch Pavilion dv2z, which starts at $550. In June, Intel released a series of low-cost LV and ULV processors--under the Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Solo and Celeron M brands--partly in response to AMD's strategy, but also to provide an alternative to netbooks. Acer and MSI were first with Intel ULV laptops, but now others are hitting the market.

Dell's moves illustrate exactly why Intel released the ULV chips. First, Dell killed off the 12-inch Inspiron Mini 12 netbook, which used a 1.6GHz Atom Z530 single-core processor. Then the company replaced it with the Inspiron 11z, a new ULV laptop with an 11.6-inch (1366x768) display that is as portable as a netbook (3.1 pounds and 11.5 by 8.4 by 0.9 - 1.0 inches). It starts at $524 with a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron 723 ULV processor, 2GB of memory, a 250GB hard drive, Vista Home Premium and a 3-cell battery (28Whr).

Acer is now selling an 11.6-inch ULV-based notebook in the U.S. as well. The Aspire 1410 (sold as the Aspire 1810T in other countries). The design is identical to the Aspire One 751h, Acer's 11.6-inch netbook, which I've previously tested. Both have the same WXGA display (1366x768), measure 11.2 by 8.0 by 0.9 - 12 inches and weigh only 3.1 pounds. And both are priced aggressively. The Aspire One 751h netbook starts around $380; the Aspire 1410 starts around $450 with a 1.40GHz Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500, 2GB of memory, 250GB HDD, and Vista Home Premium and a six-cell battery. The Aspire 1410 is not part of Acer's Timeline series, which includes ULV laptops at 13.3 inches (Aspire 3810T), 14.0 inches (4810T) and 15.6 inches (5810T).

Lenovo has just started taking orders for a 14-inch ULV laptop. The IdeaPad U450p is just as thin as smaller ULV laptops, measuring 13.3 by 9.3 by 0.9-1.1 inches, but it weighs 4.6 pounds. It starts at $789 with a 1.30GHz Intel Pentium SU2700 processor, 3GB of memory, 250GB hard drive, an internal DVD drive, Vista Home Premium and a six-cell battery. By comparison, Amazon.com is selling the 14-inch Acer Aspire Timeline 4810TZ-4696 with the same configuration, but with a larger hard drive (320GB), for $550.

MSI has finally released its X600 ULV notebook, which is based on a 15.6-inch display with the same WXGA (1366x768) resolution as smaller ULV systems, but with more powerful discrete graphics. The X600 is less than an inch thick (15.4 by 10.1 by 0.6 - 1.0 inches) and weighs 4.6 pounds. It has a 1.40GHz Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500, 4GB of memory, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics with 512MB, 320GB hard drive, DVD drive, Vista Home Premium and a six-cell battery. MSI sells the X600 for $890, but you can find it from resellers for around $800. The other models in MSI's X-Slim series include the X320, a 13-inch netbook which uses an Atom processor, and the X340, which has the same display but uses the Core 2 Solo SU3500 processor.

At this point, there are enough ULV laptops on the market--at a range of display sizes--to make this category a legitimate option. All of these models are thin and lightweight, and the battery life has generally been very good (though MSI's X600 may suffer a bit because of its more powerful discrete graphics). The performance will be better than a netbook, but nowhere near as good as a premium ultraportable, which uses a dual-core processor that runs at much higher frequencies and has a larger data cache. Overall these ULV laptops are a nice alternative, especially if portability is a priority, but they come at a tricky time since Intel is on the verge of releasing new netbook and notebook platforms, and Windows 7 is just around the corner. More: Windows 7 at the finish line

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Laptops, Mobility, Processors

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14 comments
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  • bring on the ARM

    I cannot wait for the ARM-processor laptops; enough with the Intel battery drain, I can run my full Linux desktop on an ARM processor for days (if market claims are to be believed).

    For the "oh I need Windows to surf the web and MSWord to write a shopping list" people, you'll be left in the cold on this one. Those who are flexible enough to use Linux will have some great hardware coming out soon.
    lefty.crupps
    • bring on the ARM

      You say: "... I can run Linux ... if market claims
      are to be believed" What is it now can you run it
      for days or not?
      Great hardware for Linux? If it can run Ubuntu or
      other user friendly Linux Distros it can run
      Windows XP or Win 7 just as well. So why are
      Windows people left in the cold?
      When are all of you fan-boys be it Windows, Linux,
      or Apple grow up?
      Juergen Hartl
      • haha

        Windows is not written for the ARM architecture, unless you want to do all your computing on WindowsCE. Next time, if you are going to be snide, try and be knowledgeable about the subject.
        hal68k
  • RE: The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

    Love to know the processing power vs the Atom processor in many netbooks. Is there an advantage?
    Can these lower power chips run 64bit operating systems?
    howardgr
  • Power, Voltage?

    Lol, i thought this article might tell us something of the voltage and power drain and how long a battery charge lasts. Sighs ;)
    Tom6
  • Opensolaris

    Yes ARM sounds as though it will run a heavy weight enterprise system like Opensolaris for the business market...things are now motoring!! Tosiba is a great laptop make but a choice is welcomed.
    The Management consultant
  • Don't need DVD

    Great to see more choices. I want thin, light weight, more processing power than netbooks, and don't want the extra weight of the DVD - which I will rarely use. An external DVD by USB interface is preferable for the rare times when I need the DVD, and then I don't have the extra weight in the ultra-portable.
    ben@...
  • RE: The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

    Good work. Here are for you more choices.. Dest prices was never before.... 193$..
    http://www.justcompareit.com/s~q-ulv-laptops~sp-price_asc.aspx?ag=3
    Steve.bucknor
  • RE: The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

    WINDOWS 7!!! I LOVE IT! My boyfriend downloaded the trial period for Windows 7 and I just love it. Not much of a tech person myself but I am thinking about purchasing a thin notebook for traveling. I'm just reading reviews and such. And out of all the options available I think the MSI X600's got my attention because there's a free Windows 7 upgrade if I buy the laptop from MSI. And I believe the upgrade is as soon as the laptop is purchased. Plus I really like the sleek design of the laptop.
    nelle12345
  • RE: The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

    Any idea on the power voltage the MSI x-series uses? looks like a great ULV laptop especially with the fact that it has an optical drive built in and more usb ports than the macbook air.
    fuberwil
  • RE: The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

    I love how everyone is competing in this field of thin laptops. Gives us consumers more variety to choose from. Ditto about MSI X600. I know if you buy the X600 from the company website you can get a free Windows 7 upgrade BEFORE it comes out in oct. This thin laptop crazy. I wonder what is next. Thin netbooks?? :J
    nelle12345
  • RE: The choices for thin, low-cost ULV laptops expand

    Yes that product low cost...I like and I try it
    http://www.austria-radio.co.tv/
    http://www.austria-radio.co.tv/
    http://www.austria-radio.co.tv/
    Matt Gabriel
  • Acer 0751 11.6" netbook $279 at Costco

    Warning : 3-cell battery lasting less than 4 hours

    Costco have dropped the price of this netbook from $349 down to $329 and now $279 (is it that they could not sell them, or just Acer dropping the price ???)--it's almost irresistible (except for gamers)

    If you need 6-cell battery, CompUSA have them for $349.
    jkyy9
  • Correction : 6-cell Acer 751 netbook for $290

    Amazon have the 6-cell battery (7+hours) Acer 751 11.6" netbook for $290 with free shipping (black--red cost $5 more) --much better than CompUSA. This will put the squeeze on the more expensive 11.6" netbooks, as well as the ULV laptops.
    jkyy9