Introduction and Design
When I think of inexpensive workhorse laptops, Inspiron is one of the first names that comes to mind. This may partially be because HP remains oddly committed to a strange number-based naming scheme that’s as easy to remember as my second cousin’s birthday, but it’s also because the Inspiron is as common as rice. In college, they seemed to be the most popular Windows PC by far, and they’re still sold by most brick-and-mortar electronics stores despite Dell’s significant online presence.
Part of the reason for this popularity is price, and that means Inspirons are often competent, but can also be a bit dull. There’s always exceptions to the rules, however, and Dell has decided to spice up the brand with the new Inspiron 14z. Starting at $599, this “thin and powerful” laptop could be appealing consumers who want to get on the slim-and-sexy train for cheap, but trying to cram a lot of hardware in a small chassis with an inexpensive price can sometimes result in compromises. Did Dell have to cut corners to make this possible?
Subject: Storage, Mobile | June 9, 2011 - 03:21 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Samsung, laptop, Hard Drive, 1TB
Samsung today announced a new update to their Spinpoint laptop hard drive line, the Spinpoint M8 1 TB. Joining the storage ranks of the Seagate Constellation and Western Digital Scorpio 1 TB drives, the new Samsung hard disk features two 500 GB platters in a 2.5” 9.5mm form factor along with an 8 MB buffer, and utilizes a SATA II (3Gb/s) interface. The 500 GB per platter density was achieved by using their Advanced Format Technology (AFT), which raises the data storage density per unit area, which results in a reduced number of requisite platters and read/write heads. Samsung claims that the reduction in necessary components results in a seven percent performance increase as well as an eight percent decrease in the amount of power drawn.
The new 2.5” drive carries an MSRP of $129.00 USD. Mobile gamers and road warriors in particular are likely happy to see competition in the 1 TB+ laptop arena, which should hep to bring the 1 TB mobile drives’ prices a bit closer to their 1 TB desktop brethren. You can read more about the new drive here.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 5, 2011 - 12:19 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: x101, ux01, notebook, laptop, computex, asus
ASUS had a lot of new and innovative products on display at Computex, but maybe none as interesting as these two notebooks. The UX21 was the flagship product for Intel's new "Ultrabook" category and while we have already posted about it earlier, I thought these new photos would be worth sharing.
The UX21 is an ultra-thin 1.7cm at its widest and weighs only 1.1 Kg fully loaded. It will include the ASUS "Instant On" technology, resuming the system in just 5 seconds and is claimed as the first notebooks with a SATA 6G SSD.
Sporting a new ULV Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor, this system won't skimp on performance either if it lives up to its claims.
More photos and information after the break!!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 01:52 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mobile, laptop, Chromebook
First there was the laptop. Then the notebook. The netbook is the most recent addition to mobile devices with hardware keyboards. That is, until today. Google has officially launched a new cloud OS based mobile device dubbed the ChromeBook.
As a netbook with an operating system that amounts to little more than a web browser, the device purports to not only match the functionality of a "normal" netbook, but surpass it thanks to file storage residing in the cloud, automatic updates to the OS, virtually unlimited applications, and an eight second boot time.
Google further states that the device is capable of all the promises feats while remaining secure. Security is accomplished by several independent strategies. The OS splits up system settings and user settings, and each ChromeBook allows only one "owner" per device. The owner is able to allow other users to log in to the device as well, whether it is with their Google account or as a guest. Guest Mode does not sync or cache data, and all system settings are kept out of the session, including network configuration. Each process is sandboxed in an effort to reduce the likely hood of cross-process attacks. Further, the browser and plugin processes are not given direct kernel interface access. Toolchain hardening seeks to limit exploit reliability and success. The file system has several restrictions, including a read-only root partition, tmpfs-based /tmp, and User home directories that can not have executable files.
Further, ChromeBooks utilize a secure automatic update system and Verified Boot that seeks to eliminate attacks tampering with the underlying code. All updates are downloaded over SSL, and are required to pass various integrity checks. The version number of updates is not allowed to regress, meaning that only updates with a version number higher than those already installed on the system are allowed to install. Further, on the next boot-up, the updates undergo a further integrity check in the form of what Google calls "Verified Boot."
According to Google, Verified Boot "provides a means of getting cryptographic assurances that the Linux kernel, non-volatile system memory, and the partition table are untampered with when the system starts up." The process depends on a "chain of trust" which is created using custom read-only firmware rather than a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) device. The read-only firmware checks the integrity of the writable firmware, and if it passes then the writable firmware is used to check the integrity of the next component in the boot up process. While Verified Boot does not protect against dedicated attackers, it does allow a safe recovery option when re-installing as well as detecting changes made by a successful run-time attack and files or write-able firmware changes made by an attacker with a bootable USB drive.
In future iterations of the OS, Google is pursuing driver sandboxing as well as implementing a secure method for auto-logins. Further, Google states that they are interested in pursuing biometric security if they are able to ensure their authentication software is secure when using low cost hardware. Also on the agenda is implementing a "single signon" system that would allow users to log into third party sites using credentials generated by their Google account.
Hardware running Chrome OS is not new, however. Google's CR-48 notebook has been in the wild for months, allowing thousands of users the chance to try out the new operating system and its accompanying hardware. Both Acer (11.6", $349) and Samsung (12.1", $429 wifi only) have stepped up to the plate and are offering ChromeBooks at launch. What is new; however, is the way in which users are able to purchase the hardware. While consumers will still be able to purchase a ChromeBook from retailers, Google has announced a new subscription option for school and business users. The new subscription service would allow students to receive a ChromeBook for $20 a month, while business users would pay $28 a month. In order to get the subscription price schools and businesses must enter into a three year contract. The subscription price includes the "hardware, operating system, updates and cloud-based management" along with online, email, and telephone support directly from Google. The monthly subscription further includes regular hardware refreshes.
It is apparent that Google sees its largest market for ChromeBooks as being large businesses and schools, which can then manage a fleet of ChromeBooks for their users for a much lower cost versus maintaining hundreds of traditional computers. While large IT departments are likely to see the cost benefits, It remains to be seen how consumers will react to this subscription based model. Subscriptions have become more prevalent, with the majority of the US using cell phones with monthly contracts. On the other hand, users --students especially-- are used to buying a computer outright. Will the lure of low cost subscription ChromeBooks be enough to break consumers' traditional thoughts on purchasing computers? Will students accept remotely administrated computers in exchange for a low cost subscription?
Subject: Mobile | May 3, 2011 - 02:09 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Road Warrior, laptop, gigabyte
Gigabyte recently announced in a press release a new ultra light notebook aimed at business users. More specifically, they unveiled the Gigabyte GS-AH6G3N, which is a laptop that purports to support the latest technology. According to the press release, the ultra light laptop brings to the table support for both Sandy Bridge processors and up to 8GB DDR3 RAM. A fingerprint reader and TPM module are also available for the security conscious. The 14" and less than 4.5 pound (2 kilogram) notebook is very sleek looking with sharp and clean lines detailing a dark black or silver body.
As a business notebook, it uses the Intel Mobile HM65 Express chip set, which means that you are looking at using the integrated processor graphics contained in the Core i 2xxx chips. To the road warriors' comfort, the integrated graphics should provide longer battery life while still running Windows 7’s Aero desktop smoothly. Another touted feature is the inclusion of USB 3.0 ports which will help in keeping large amounts of data backed up. An included HDMI port should help to sway business users who need to connect to projectors and large displays for their work in its favor (a VGA port is provided as well, for older projectors.)
The full specifications that Gigabyte list are as follows:
|CPU||LGA 1155 socket, Intel® Core™ i7 / Core™ i5 / Core™ i3 processor|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 7|
|Display||14" LED Backlit at 1366x768 pixels|
|RAM||DDR3 (2 slots) up to 8GB|
|Chipset||Intel Mobile HM65 Express|
|Graphics||Intel HD 3000|
|Hard Drive||Sata 2.5", 9.5mm drivers. Up to 750GB|
|Optical Disk Drive||(Optional) 9.5mm Super Multi DVD-RW|
|I/O||2xUSB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, RJ45, Mic-in, headphone-out, DC-in, docking connector, and 3-in-1 card reader (SD,MMC,Memory Stick)|
|Audio||2x 1.5watt stereo speakers|
|Communications||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WIFI, Bluetooth v3.0 + EDR (Wifi/BT Combo)|
|Webcam||1.3 megapixel camera + microphone|
|Security||Kensington lock, Fingerprint reader, and optional G-sensor and TPM|
|Battery||6-cell Li-Ion 2600mAh 60WHr (claimed 7 hours of battery life)|
|Dimensions||338 (W) x 235 (D) x 26.0 (H) mm|
|Weight||~2kg (with DVD drive and 6 cell battery), ~4.49 lbs|
|Color||Silver / Black|
Unfortunately for business users in the United States, Gigabyte branded notebooks can be a bit difficult to purchase as they are generally sold overseas. Once this laptop has been on the market for a few months, they do start to trickle over into the US markets. For overseas readers of PC Per; however, the Gigabyte notebook may be something to consider as in the end it shapes up to be a powerful but small notebook that should work well for those that need to travel light and fast for their business.
Introduction and Design
The last three years have been great for ultraportables and netbooks. Laptops with displays below fourteen inches in size have exploded in popularity thanks not only to Intel's Atom, but also a wide selection of Intel ultra-low voltage products. Many of the laptops that we've reviewed over the past year, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad U260 and the Alienware M11x, would have been impossible prior to the release of those processors.
Mainstream laptops have enjoyed less progress, however. The 15.6" laptop remains the most popular category with consumers, but while it has enjoyed a boost in performance with the release of the original Core i series processors, issues like battery life and graphics performance remained largely unaddressed. These mainstream laptops have continued to represent a major compromise, as they've been unable to provide great battery life but also (unless supplimented with a discrete GPU) lack the chops to play any but the most basic 3D games.
According to Intel, these flaws could soon be addressed. Intel's Sandy Bridge mobile processors are nothing short of the savior of mainstream laptops. These processors not only offer the typical improvements in speed but also drastically improved integrated graphics and provide much better battery life.
Or, at least, that's what Intel says. They've said such things in the past, however - Intel's IGPs have often promised more than they can deliver. But every piece of hardware deserves a fair shake, and now it's time for Intel's Sandy Bridge to step up to the plate, appearing today in the form of the ASUS K53E. Let's see what is under the hood.
Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2011 - 12:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: laptop, dual lcd, acer
The Acer Iconia 6120 is a little like a Nintendo DS, in that where you would expect input buttons you have another LCD. Powered by an Intel Core i5 480M, an HM55 with IntelHD graphics powering the two 14" 1366 x 768 displays. Benchmark Reviews demonstrates using it as both a dual display laptop and as a laptop screen and a touchscreen keyboard. Check it out.
"We've seen little innovation in laptop design in the last few years. Most companies seem to think that using a brushed aluminum finish or adding Intel's latest mobile CPU is all they need to do to freshen a product line. Still, Acer's not the first company to introduce a laptop with dual screens; the short-lived Toshiba Libretto W100 comes to mind, and gScreen Corporation's Spacebook has been touted since 2009, although it's still not available at the time of this writing. The Acer Iconia 6120, though, is a computer you can buy right now. Its dual screens offer new capabilities but come with some drawbacks as well. Benchmark Reviews takes a look at this unique laptop to see if it's worth your consideration."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Motorola Xoom Tablet @ Hardware Secrets
- iPad 2 Tablet @ Hardware Secrets
- iPhone App of the Week - iShopaholic @ t-break
- OtterBox and Incipio Cases For The Motorla Atrix 4G Smartphone Reviewed @ Legit Reviews
- It's unfinished, but we definitely want more: Ars reviews RIM's PlayBook
- BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet @ TechSpot
- Acer Iconia Tab A500 Review @ TechReviewSource
- HTC Thunderbolt Review: The First Verizon 4G LTE Smartphone @ AnandTech
- OtterBox Reflex Series Case for iPhone 4 @ OCIA
- Mobile CPU Comparison Guide @ Tech ARP
- Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Preview: Both Tablet and Netbook @ InsideHW
- Verizon 4G LTE: Two Datacards and a WiFi Hotspot Massively Reviewed @ AnandTech
- Toshiba Satellite M645: The Steady March of Progress @ AnandTech
- HP TouchSmart 610 Review @ TechReviewSource
Introduction and Design
Tech journalists are finicky beasts. A few years ago we were washing netbooks in praise, declaring that they promised a new era of accessibility and portability for the PC. But now the tables have turned – tablets have usurped the throne of “cool new thing” and tech news is all too eager to declare the netbook little more than a passing trend, soon to be booted out of the market by glorious touchscreen slates.
The truth, however, is not as extreme has the headlines suggest. Netbooks are another boring reality that won’t be going anywhere soon, despite declarations of death and injury. But I can understand why they’ve lost the limelight. The improvements made to netbooks over the last three years have been incremental at best. While battery life has gradually grown, performance has barely moved. Intel, lacking competition from AMD, has had little reason to improve its Atom processors.
Now AMD has finally brought an Atom competitor to the market in the form of its Fusion APUs. We already reviewed one laptop powered by Fusion, the Toshiba Satellite C655. That laptop, however, was equipped with AMD’s single-core E-240. It provided performance roughly on par with a dual-core Atom system we tested in 2010, but ultimately fell a bit shot of our expectations.
Subject: Mobile | April 19, 2011 - 01:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: optimus, msi, laptop, core i3
CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif. – April 18, 2011 – MSI Computer Corp., a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, today announced that it has begun shipping its mainstream CX640 and CR640 notebooks to online retailers in North America. These two 15.6” notebook units combine the Intel Core i3-2310M Processor with the NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M with Optimus technology (the silver CX640-071US, MSRP $679.99) or the Intel HD 3000 Graphics (the black CR640-035US, MSRP $629.99) to deliver the power and performance you need for school or for work.
To address the needs of mainstream notebook users, MSI offers 4GB system memory and 500GB hard drives in both models. Additionally, the elegantly designed PCs include a number of features, including:
- Worry free one-touch back-up and restore with MSI’s Time Stamp technology. With just a touch of the Time Stamp button, your concerns about crashes, viruses, and data loss will become a thing of the past
- Butterfingers rejoice! MSI designers integrated extra hard drive protection by changing the position of the C Series hard drive to the middle of the chassis and surrounding it in a unique housing that helps protect your data from the occasional drop or shock.
- In a hurry? The MSI CR640 and CX640 Fast Boot technology helps the unit power up approximately two times faster than standard notebooks.
- Speed up your file transfers with USB 3.0. The new C Series laptops comes equipped with two USB 3.0 ports that lets you transfer files up to ten times faster than USB 2.0
- Automatic backlight adjustment tailors screen brightness by considering the lighting in your current surroundings, which helps manage power consumption and battery life.
“We listen very carefully to our customers, and we know that anticipating and addressing their needs is critical to success in the PC industry,” noted Andy Tung, vice president of sales for MSI US. “The CX640 and CR640 models deliver the standard elements people look for in a PC– performance, price, features and design – however we also go a step further. These units incorporate features that respond to people’s real-life concerns: data backup, hard drive protection, etc. And we believe consumers will respond to this consideration.”