Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It is time to ditch the 10-inch screen on netbooks

Are netbooks dead? After having bought two netbooks in succeeding years, a Lenovo S-10 in 2008 and a Asus Eee PC 1005HA in 2009, and going for a ultraportable in 2010 I seem to be proof of that. Ultraportable have become cheaper and Intel Core i3/i5/i7 solution provide much longer battery life than the Core Duo's and Core2 Duo's. These have negated the principal advantage of the netbook: low cost and long battery life.

The netbook has always been a compromise solution. Lower priced laptops, and now tablets will eat into the netbook market. Netbooks fell behind the price-performance curve in 2010. Your typical Intel Atom netbook cannot play HD content which your mobile phone and tablet can. Higher end netbooks with Intel Optimus graphics get pretty close to the price of a Intel Core i3 ultraportable with Intel HD graphics.

AMD Fusion platform places netbooks at a good position for 2010. More processing power and better performance and at a price point substantially lower than a Intel Core i3 ultraportable. But in order for netbooks to be successful in 2011 that will not be enough.

It is time to ditch the 10-inch screen. AMD Fusion platform will give netbooks the ability to play 720p HD content. To maximize this you would need a screen resolution of at least 1280 x 720, and this is going to start making web elements really small on a 10-inch screen. The 10-inch form factor also results in cramped keyboards and small touch pads all making for a less than comfortable experience. Netbooks with 11.6-inch screens would address these issues to some degree. From a cost standpoint, a little more plastic is not going to cost all that much, and manufacturers should simply offer 11.6-inch netbooks at 10-inch prices.  

It is really best to leave 10-inch LCD's to the tablets. I suspect comfort is one of the things driving tablet sales.  The touchscreen interface allows for a great navigation experience even with smaller screens. Swype makes the absence of a physical keyboard less of an issue especially if used with 7-10 inch tablet screens. Netbooks still have room to breath but they have to be less of a compromise solution.

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