A lot of people have been predicting the demise of the Netbook as a fad of the economic downturn. I’m just the opposite, I think they’re great and I love mine but they’re only great at doing the job most of us USED to use a laptop for. That it, a second, mobile computer to use when away from our main high powered computer. And now that the price point for a fully capable mobile computing device has hit the $200 mark it’s about to usher in the advent of marketable tablet PCs, (even if it’s about 6 years later than Bill Gates prediction of the tablet revolution).
However even though they’ve come along way since the initial lame Asus 7” 4GB XP driven machines, they’ve still got a little ways to go before they reach their full potential. The frustrating thing is that all the technology for creating the ultimate netbook/mobile computer is available, but for whatever reasons it’s not currently being marketed.
There are a slew of new netbooks coming out now that the pinetrail chips are finally being released but they’re not really stepping up the capabilities of netbooks, it’s just a minor power efficiency upgrade.
So here’s my wish list to create the perfect netbook, and as I alluded above, this is something that is do-able, not some half sci-fi wishlist of a computer with direct to brain interface that is the size of a pen the expands to the size of a desktop with glassy Minority report multi-touch capabilities.
First of all let’s get a starting point with a current netbook. I have an Asus 1005HA, I love it and it’s great, there are just a few things that need upgrading. However in less than 30 days it will supplanted with a new version, so as our foundation let’s use its replacement the 1005PE.
Features that we’ll keep:
1. 10” screen. 9” leads to a keyboard too small for frequent use. 11” leads to a device where its size discourages casually carrying it around; which is the main flaw to using a fullsize laptop as a second computer. If it’s so heavy and bulky you don’t use it, it’s worthless.
2. 1024×600 resolution. This doesn’t need to be upgraded, the screen is small enough that higher resolution is unneeded (but I wouldn’t complain about a small upgrade either…).
3. 802.11n wireless. I don’t have N at home but the natural upgrade from G so it’s nice to future proof my wireless capabilities. I’m sure most free wifi points will make the same upgrade in the future.
4. Bluetooth. I don’t use it frequently but it’s so cheap and small to integrate that it should be there. ESPECIALLY for a mobile unit.
4. Hard Drive storage. Solid state is cool but the benefits don’t outweigh the price, there is little or no difference in speed and battery life. Most importantly is size, when you’re mobile you don’t want to have to carry a bunch of external drives, you want all your music, movies, and programs fully on disk.
5. SD Card reader. I hardly use it but it’s nice to have just in case.
6. Camera+mic. I think these should be standard in mobile devices, thanks to Mac for making a camera above the screen common.
6. Touchpad, headphone+mic, 3 USB, etc. Pretty much standard in all mobile computers and for good reason.
Feature that need upgrading:
1. 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. Ok people it’s time to start upgrading everything to gigabit, 10/100 was tolerable for the first decade of the millennium but it won’t be for the second. Even if you don’t always use it having it there for the times you do makes up for the additional $3 manufacturing costs that it takes to install it.
2. 2GB RAM standard. Non-ultra light Linux OS’s shouldn’t be shoe-horned into 1GB. I’d require that every current netbook start shipping with 2GB as well. The added performance is worth the price.
3 VGA+ HDMI out. HDMI needs to be added with the HD playback capabilities below.
1. High def playback from NVIDA Ion chipset.
Even if the screen can’t playback high def the computer needs to be able to play high def content and down-process for the screen (I’m not reformatting all my HD content just to play it on a computer). And it needs to be able to export the HD video to an external screen through the HDMI port. This way the tiny netbook becomes a mobile player when out and about. I was hoping the new pinetrail chips from Intel would support HD video but all they do is take the low output integrated graphics and move them onboard. So a separate Nvidia Ion chip needs to be added.
!!!!This is worth the extra cost and lower battery life!!!!
Best scenario would be software that runs normal low graphics intensive programs through the PineTrail and only fires up the GPU for high intensity processing.
2. Netbook to Tablet Conversion.
This is really icing on the cake but a netbook that has a rotating screen that can become a tablet will allow it to bridge two close but separate markets. A netbook that can convert becomes a netbook+tablet+PMP+ebook all in one. That makes this another feature that would be worth the higher price for the conversion.
Regardless of the Apple rumors tablets target=blank>are coming. But most are using low complexity OS’s not full bodied computer OS’s like Windows, OSX, and Linux. A netbook can not just tap into this market but be at the top of it by the added capabilities given by a full OS, keyboard, and traditional computer. This would also involve upgrading the screen to a touch screen for more complex interaction whiule in netbook mode.
3. A fingerprint reader.
Ok this one doesn’t really need to be there, but on business laptops like the Lenovo T60 laptops it was a really cool feature for locking and unlocking a computer. For mobile devices that may be accidentally left in a public place some added security locking is a nice touch.
It pay upwards of $700 for a 1005PE with added Ion and swivel screen. But even the Ion addition should be in netbooks. The few that have it are 12” or larger, however those of us with smaller screens still want to watch our HD movies without converting all of them. Or god forbid watch a flash video without it freezing up the system.