Articles: Mobile

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Small and inexpensive mobile computers, which are now known as netbooks, have become extremely popular. And even though we often hear that this market is being cannibalized by tablet computers, netbooks still remain very widely spread. In the end those users who need compatibility with x86 architecture and a fully functional keyboard are not yet ready to trade in notebooks and netbooks for tablets. So, it is definitely too early to retire the compact and lightweight netbooks: they still have a promising future ahead of them. Even the upcoming arrival of ultrabooks, which should combine the advantages of tablet with those of netbooks, doesn’t seem to be too much of a threat to the growing netbooks popularity, which have once very strong card in their deck: low price.

It is pretty funny that netbooks owe their strong positions in our today’s world to only one company – Intel. It is due to the development and launch of Atom processor family, which combines extremely simple microarchitecture with low power consumption and very affordable price, netbooks managed to strengthen their positions in the market and win over numerous users. In other words, Intel was in the right place at the right time with their Atom processors that is why for many computer users today the term “netbook” has become a synonym to a mobile computer with Intel Atom processor inside.

This point of view had every right to exist until recently. Namely, in the beginning of this year AMD entered the market of netbook processors with their products. They introduced Zacate and Ontario processors built on simpler and cheaper Bobcat microarchitecture. Of course, they were late for the distribution of the primary market share, but nevertheless, they could hope to get what was left over. Therefore, the major netbook vendors didn’t want to pass on the new AMD processors and began offering netbooks built on them.

As a result, netbooks became even more diverse. They differed not only by their looks, connectivity ports and battery life, but also by their performance parameters. While previously the only choice you had was between a single- or dual-core CPU and an all-Intel or Nvidia ION platform, then now there were much more options to consider.  When we compared Intel Atom and AMD Zacate in the desktop field, we arrived at the conclusion that AMD’s platform was just as good. But would it also be the case in the netbook segment?

This question inspired us to carry out a comparative test session of different hardware configurations in the form of real netbooks. We selected four typical mobile computer models based on Atom, Zacate, and Ontario processors and compared their performance levels as well as battery lives.

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