Small is beautiful
Netbooks were created for people who think that four pounds is just too heavy for a computer. Although there's nothing particularly Windows 7-specific about netbooks, a few new models will launch with Windows 7 as their standard platform.
And size isn't everything with these units. The HP Mini 311-1000NR is based on the Ion platform, which pairs the Intel Atom N270 CPU with a GeForce 9400M graphics processor. This renders an otherwise standard-issue netbook (a ho-hum 1GB RAM and 160GB hard drive, and such) into a relatively gaming-friendly device able to output 1080p video.
For an opening price of $US399, this is a pretty good deal, especially since the keyboard is fairly large, at about 92 per cent of a standard notebook keyboard. HP reversed the crazy layout of the mouse keys on its previous touchpads: Instead of forcing thumb-crunching moves to click to the right and left of the touchpad, the keys are in the notebook-standard, under-the-pad position.
If the Mini 311's two choices of case color aren't enough to inspire design envy, the Mini line includes something considerably more stylish: the limited-edition Mini 110, with a casing by Danish industrial designer Tord Boontje, which starts at $US399. The design itself is a floral-and-animal motif that recalls the Victorian wallpaper designer William Morris, but it is etched into the casing with a 3D imprinting system that's bang up to date -- and makes the etching look as deep as an architectural fresco.
Meanwhile, Sony is introducing its tiny 3G-mobile Vaio X series with Windows 7 Home Premium as its standard operating system.
Starting at $US1,299, the Vaio X comes with two batteries -- one light and able to work for 3.5 hours, the other heavier and able to work for 14 hours. It features multitouch capability for zooming. And it incorporates a GPS to guide you to points of interest with turn-by-turn directions without the need for an Internet connection.
The netbook incorporates a solid-state disk (SSD) for two obvious reasons: it makes Windows 7's rapid boot-up even faster, and it enables an 11.1-inch subcompact notebook to get ridiculously thin -- half an inch, to be exact. That's no thicker than most cell phones. And, at 1.6 pounds, it's light too. The key to that lightness is that Sony avoids metal wherever it can: Instead of a ground metal body, the company uses carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber is a lightweight, durable, and classy material that can easily be molded into some impressive lines, good if you're going for machine envy. In cars, the material's been used since the early 1980s to get one up on autos made of mere metal. That's why prestige vehicles like the Porsche 959 and McLaren F1 are built around it. What better material for a premium notebook computer, then?