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As we were preparing our review of sub-notebooks and were scanning price lists in an attempt to cover as many models as possible, we made note of the fact that today’s notebooks cover a very wide price range and the most affordable model could be bought for a mere $600. That was a curious fact indeed but we let it rest for a while to return to this topic later for a more detailed investigation.

And now, after we’ve delved deeper into the matter and fingered some of the models available, we can state that the $600 bar is not so very real. Yes, you can buy a new notebook for that money, but you will get either a VIA or a Transmeta processor, neither of which can be considered an appealing option at all. We have no doubt such notebooks will also find their user who is utterly limited in his/her IT budget, but it goes without saying that they are far inferior to systems on the Intel Celeron: notebooks based on VIA’s and Transmeta’s processors are three and two times slower, respectively, than those based on mobile Celerons. A Transmeta-based notebook would be about $100 cheaper than a Celeron-based one of the same configuration, but this cannot justify the difference in performance, of course.

Another serious problem with $600 notebooks is their generally low quality of manufacture – they are usually assembled by local integrators or obscure firms that don’t hesitate to use obsolete parts like CD-ROMs instead of DVD-burners or combo drives. So these are the reasons for our deciding not to include such notebooks into this review.

We eventually picked up a few brand-name notebooks which at least didn’t have any problems with the quality of manufacture and we discovered that the user could pay a mere $800 to get a new well-equipped notebook capable of doing almost any office work. As for multimedia applications, we’ll talk about them later, after we’ve performed our tests. There are not as many models included as in our review of sub-notebooks just because the low-end notebook class is only emerging. It was impossible even to think of buying an $800 notebook as recently as the last spring.

But this is just the beginning. If this market sector develops further, it will be much simpler for people who need an inexpensive home or office PC without any high performance in 3D, to buy a notebook rather than a desktop computer. So far, low-end notebooks do not threaten their desktop mates because $800 is still too high a price if compared with that of an average desktop system with a CRT monitor that costs something like $500-600 – you can’t get a new notebook for that money yet. But again, this is only the beginning, and we are going to give you a report of the current state of this new and growing market sector right now.

 
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