Dual Core Netbook - One Step Closer

Asus introduces an Atom 330 dual core nettop – is the netbook next?

 

Asus announced the EeeBox PC B208 – a nettop with the dual core Atom 330. If you look at its specs below…

 

OS
Genuine Windows® Vista Home Basic
Genuine Windows® Vista Business
CPU
Intel Atom 330
Memory
DDR2 SO-DIMM 1 GB
Storage
160G/250G/320GB HDD SATA II
10GB Eee Storage
Graphics
ATI Radeon HD 4350 series w/ 256MB DDRII
LAN
10/100/1000 Mbps
Wireless
802.11b/g/n
Card Reader
SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/MMC
Audio chip
Realtek ALC662 Azalia CODEC
Rear I/O
Giga LAN x 1, USB 2.0 x 4
Video out: HDMI port x1 / DVI-D (through adapter)
Audio ports x 1 (with S/PDIF out)
Power Supply
12Vdc, 3A, 36W power adaptor
Bluetooth
Yes
Dimension
222 × 178 × 26.9 mm
Weight
1kg
Accessories
Remote control, stylish stand and 36 W adapter
Others
Built-in battery that performs a U.P.S. function

Table courtesy Asus

 

…first thing you see is that it runs on Windows Vista – XP under Microsoft’s licensing terms for netbooks limited it to single core CPUs. I have no way of telling how well this works, but it is worth noting that the EeeBox PC B206 nettop uses the Atom N270 and comes with XP.

It also features decent graphics and all this with a 36 watt power supply.

I look at all this and it sure looks as if this package would make a nifty netbook. According to  this Digitimes article:

“Demand for notebook PCBs has been gaining momentum, especially for netbooks PCBs, thanks to rush orders and inventory buildup from customers. Taiwan’s leading notebook PCB makers Gold Circuit Electronics (GCE) and HannStar Broad both saw sales and utilization rates increase in February. GCE has reported consolidated sales of NT$1.12 billion (US$32.19 million), up 47% on month while HannStar Broad estimates a 25% sequential sales growth in February.”

Netbooks continue to be the one bright spot in the PC business, and manufacturers have to be scrambling to gain some competitive advantage in an increasingly crowded market. It can’t be a stretch to figure that as netbooks creep up in functionality and power, Intel’s dual core Atom is the next logical step up. Considering the nettop runs on a 36 watt power supply, a dual core netbook is not outside the current design envelope.

In addition, Intel plans to introduce a low power version of the Atom 330 around mid-year which is supposed to feature about the same performance as the current version – if I were a netbook manufacturer, I’m designing for this now.

With netbooks very price sensitive, offering a dual core netbook with a full Windows OS would impose a “Windows Tax” that might be too high to pay, leaving a cripple-ware version of Windows 7 as the Microsoft OS of choice (upgrades to higher versions?). However, don’t discount a Linux variant as an option. Contrary to some articles indicating high return rates for Linux netbooks, One Third of Dell Inspiron Mini 9s Sold Run Linux – while not taking over the world, that’s still a hefty dent. Return rates between the Ubuntu and XP netbooks were comparable.

In addition there are a number of companies working on specific netbook-friendly Linux OSs. When you think about it, a 10″ screen size may not be the most friendly environment for Windows “one size fits all” design. You all know Windows – here’s one example for a small screen Linux OS:

 

 

Netbooks continue to surge and its impact may be indicative of “The New Reality” – with the depressingly bad economic scene, many users are shifting to a “what I need to get the job done” mentality. This precludes high power notebooks and desktops that could easily run something like AutoCad – you don’t need this level of power for emailing and facebooking. Couple this with the emergence of cloud computing and it’s not hard to see a general downshifting to “just what I need computing.”

 

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