Cheaper ultraportables meet more powerful netbooks

There are two ways to address the limitations of netbooks: 1.) offer less-costly notebooks, or 2.

There are two ways to address the limitations of netbooks: 1.) offer less-costly notebooks, or 2.) give netbooks a little more muscle. Both are now happening.

The ultra-thin laptops based on Intel's ULV processors or AMD's Athlon Neo are an obvious alternative to netbooks, and they've already received lots of coverage. Dell took a different approach with the Vostro 1220, which it announced earlier this week. The Vostro 1220 is also based on a 12.1-inch display, but it uses standard Intel mobile processors. At 0.9-1.5 inches thick, it's not as thin as the HP Pavilion dv2, for example, but it is still highly portable weighing 3.4 pounds (with the 4-cell battery). Interestingly, Dell claims the 6-cell is good for 9 hours of battery life despite the fact that the Vostro 1220 does not use the ultra low-voltage chips.

The Vostro 1220 starts at $729 with a 2.2GHz Intel Celeron 900, 2GB of memory, Intel GMA 4500M HD integrated graphics, 160GB hard drive and Vista Home Basic. The 6-cell battery adds $60. That's more expensive than a 12-inch netbook--the Dell Mini 12 starts at $500 with Windows XP--but you also get more, including an internal DVD drive. There aren't many standard 12-inch business ultraportables in this price range, so Dell deserves some credit for trying this out. I haven't seen any full reviews yet, but it will be interesting to see how the Vostro 1220 stacks up.

Meanwhile plans to boost the performance of netbooks are in full force. Lenovo had already announced plans to offer a version of its IdeaPad S12 12-inch netbook with Nvidia's Ion chipset. Now Samsung has confirmed that it will release an 11.6-inch netbook, the N510, with Ion later this year. Nvidia's chipset promises to improve the performance of Atom-based PCs by replacing the integrated graphics with the GeForce 9400M GPU, but to date it has largely been confined to nettops such as the Acer AspireRevo, not netbooks. Samsung already sells a 12.1-inch netbook, the NC20, through for $510 with a 1.3GHz VIA Nano U2250, 1GB of memory, 150GB hard drive and Windows XP Home. I've also tested the Samsung N10 and N20 10-inch netbooks, which have received positive reviews.


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