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The new faces of netbooks

By Agam Shah
June 5, 2009 09:03 PM ET

IDG News Service - After being panned for having cramped keyboards and "junky" hardware, netbooks evolved over the past month to include bigger screens, better graphics and larger keyboards. Netbooks will now be able to play full high-definition movies with Lenovo's new IdeaPad S12 netbook. Asustek Computer this month introduced the Eee PC T91, a netbook with a touch screen. Jumping outside Windows, Acer announced plans to put Google's Android on its netbooks, which should provide an Internet-savvy computing experience.

Lenovo's great graphics game

One of the knocks against netbooks was poor graphics capabilities, but Lenovo has addressed that concern with its newly announced netbook. The IdeaPad S12 netbook has a 12-inch screen that can play full high-resolution movies, thanks to a powerful chip with an Nvidia graphics processor under the hood. The processor is part of an Nvidia chip package called the Ion platform, which couples the GeForce 9400 graphics core with Intel's Atom netbook processor.

"For the first time ... users will be able to enjoy brilliant 1080p high-definition video with silky smooth playback," a Lenovo representative said. Strangely enough, Lenovo doesn't offer an optical drive, such as Blu-ray, with the netbook. But users can buy an external Blu-ray drive or download high-definition content from the Internet.

Before bringing a system with Ion graphics to market, Lenovo will first introduce an S12 netbook with Intel's integrated graphics. Those systems will become available in June, with prices starting at US$449. Models with Ion will become available a few months later, and pricing for them wasn't immediately available.

Strong graphics aside, Lenovo has added sundries such as a larger keyboard that make the netbook easier to use. Lenovo claims a six-hour battery life, though it was unclear whether this was for laptops with or without Ion graphics.

Asustek's touch-screen netbook

Only a few netbooks, such as Intel's Classmate Convertible, have touch screens. Now Asustek has joined that exclusive group. Asus finally introduced the Eee PC T91 touch-screen netbook, which was originally announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The netbook has an 8.9-inch touch-screen on which users can touch up photos or leave handwritten memos using their fingertips.

The netbook is powered by an Intel Z520 processor that runs at 1.33GHz, and it is available with as much as 1GB of memory and 82GB of storage. The T91 weighs about 0.96 kilograms (2.1 pounds) and offers five hours of battery life on a single battery charge. It comes with optional GPS and mobile broadband components. It runs Microsoft's Windows XP OS.

Acer's Android netbook dreams

Acer showed its first Aspire One netbook with the Android operating system at the Computex show in Taiwan this week. The beauty of this operating system, according to Acer, is that it offers users outstanding wireless on the go. Acer conceded that Microsoft's Windows OS will be on a majority of the laptops, but it wants to put Android for the added convenience of users.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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