Ubuntu adds sparkle to Nufront laptops

A Chinese company’s 10 and 14-inch machines are powered by a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.

Despite Linux's growing popularity, trade shows like CES tend to be dominated by Microsoft and other vendors of closed-source products.

That's why it was so exciting to come across several instances of Ubuntu at this year's show.

Sure enough, a series of ARM-powered laptops debuted by Chinese firm Nufront reportedly feature none other than Canonical's popular free and open source operating system.

10 or 14 Inches

Two Nufront laptops were actually unveiled at the show, according to reports: one 10-inch and another 14-inch version. Both are powered by a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 running at 2GHz, and both are displayed running Ubuntu. Either 1 or 2GB of RAM is expected.

A reference design of the 10-inch model, for instance, features HDMI output, full-size VGA, two USB hosts, and an SD card. It is reportedly "very light" and offers lengthy battery capability, but no further details were available.

The 14-inch model, on the other hand, includes three USB ports, built-in Ethernet, HDMI, VGA out, and a high-resolution screen.

Both machines are reportedly expected to hit the market within six months. A YouTube video (embedded below) demonstrates them in action.

New System-on-a-Chip

Back in September, Nufront and ARM announced the availability of the NuSmart 2816, a 40nm system-on-a-chip including a dual-core Cortex-A9 MPCore implementation at 2GHz. With the new system-on-a-chip, Nufront is targeting the ultra-thin laptop and all-in-one desktop markets, it said, as well as netbook and tablet markets.

Though not stated explicitly -- and I couldn't reach Nufront to confirm -- it seems likely that the new laptops displayed at CES are using this new system-on-a-chip technology.

Also featured in the NuSmart 2816 are a multi-core 2D/3D graphics processor, 64-bit DDR2/3-1066 memory controller, 1080p multi-format video engine, SATA2 controller, USB2 and general I/O controllers. It's also built to be highly energy-efficient, consuming less than two watts when running at 1.6GHz.

The Open Advantage

"The closed computing market is entering a new era after 30 years of unidirectional evolution, driven by SoC technology and the virtual IDM industry model, which have been well-developed in the open mobile market resulting in high power efficiency and versatile user experience," said Vince Zhou, general manager of Nufront's System Chip Division, in a press release.

"The NuSmart 2816 Computer System Chip is the first in the world to combine the high performance capability of the traditional PC market and the high power efficiency of the mobile market at a competitive price," Zhou added. "We believe this solution will bring a totally different user experience to customers and will reshape the mainstream computing market."

Nufront plans to work not just with Ubuntu but also with Android and Microsoft, it says; in fact, it reportedly has several Android innovations on hand at CES as well.

So, in addition to news of Tenq's Ubuntu-powered tablet, I'll be keeping a close eye on Nufront's Ubuntu innovations.

Check out our complete coverage of CES 2011.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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