CES Has More Laptops Than Vegas Does Broken Dreams
While 3-D TVs and slate PCs stole most of the attention at CES, there were plenty of interesting developments afoot in the normally mundane world of laptops and netbooks. (Yes, we're lumping them together. What is a netbook but a laptop for people with nothing to do but check Facebook?) There were laptops made out of recycled plastics, new connectivity technologies, surprising Linux demos, and a little bit of next-gen screen technology for good measure. Click through to see what wonders CES 2010 bestowed upon the portable PC world.
Sony VAIO W Eco Edition
The Sony VAIO W series is pretty standard netbook fare, including Intel's new Pinetrail Atom processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, and Windows 7 Starter. Thanks to the new version of Atom and an LED-backlit screen, it is able to go for 8.5 hours on a single charge, according to Sony. But what sets the Eco Edition apart from the other members of the W series (and almost every other laptop on the market) is its heavy use of recycled materials and avoidance of traditional packing materials. A full 80-percent of the shell is made of materials recycled from objects like CDs and DVDs, the carrying case is made of recycled plastic bottles, and it comes with an electronic manual instead of a traditional paper one. The Eco Edition is available to pre-order now, starting at $480 (ouch!), and will ship in February.
Toshiba Satellite E205
One of the new technologies being hawked this year is Intel's WiDi, or Wireless Display. Now, we can already hear the groans: "Isn't there already enough incompatible wireless HDMI technologies out there?" Yes, but hear us out on this one. See, WiDi is different. For one, it's backed by Intel, which means you'll probably see it popping up in tons of laptops pretty soon. (The Core i5-packing Satellite E205 is just the first.) And since it uses Wi-Fi, it probably won't be too hard for TV and set-top box makers to integrate the technology into their devices, eliminating the need for the $100 WiDi adapter box. And don't forget that Intel is making a concerted effort to put its tech inside so-called "smart" TVs. This also has the potential to make dedicated devices like the Boxee Box unnecessary. If it takes off, WiDi could be a game changer. The E205 will be available January 17th for $999 at Best Buy, with the WiDi TV adapter included.
ASUS wants to claim that its N71Jq is the first little laptop to market with USB 3.0. Or, maybe that was the Bang & Olufsen monstrosity. We can't tell, since both manufacturers had the same "first laptop to be equipped with USB 3.0" sign next to almost every model. But seeing as as how HP and Fujitsu also debuted USB 3.0-sporting laptops this week, who knows? It was this refreshed Asus model that most impressed us, however. It had a beautiful 17-inch LED screen, high-end ATI graphics, and a Core i7 processor. Plus, the incredible soft-touch plastic platform surrounding the keyboard didn't collect grease or fingerprints as do those trendy, high-gloss plastic laptops. Of course, the real story is USB 3.0, alternately called SuperSpeed, which can carry data ten times faster than USB 2.0. That 4 gigabits (not bytes) of data a second is enough to carry uncompressed 1080p video. Oh, and unlike the competing Light Peak pushed by Intel and Apple, all your current USB gadgets will still work with it. Pricing and availability information should be coming soon.
Studio XPS 16 OLED Concept
Sadly, we didn't get our hands on the Dell XPS 16 concept laptop with the fancy OLED screen. (Our "friends" at Engadget did, though; thanks for inviting us along, guys!). But if and when this thing makes it to market, it will be a game-changer, for sure. Manufacturers have struggled to make OLED screens big enough to be used as TVs and monitors, and when they've succeeded, the contraptions been prohibitively expensive. But the OLEDS use far less power than traditional LCDs, are much brighter, provide much higher contrast, and don't suffer from the same motion-blurring issues. In fact, this is the first working and practical prototype of an OLED-packing laptop we've seen.
Samsung N127 (With Moblin)
The Samsung N127 is not the first netbook to pack Intel's much-hyped Moblin Linux interface, but it's by far the most polished (even if Samsung doesn't know if and when it's coming to market). The user interface is designed specifically for small screens and basic, Web-based tasks, and at this it excels. The design of the new 2.1 version of the OS is quite attractive, and it's far more responsive than any version of Windows running on the same hardware (namely the Atom processor). It also helped that the N127 sported a perfectly usable, if slightly cramped, clicky keyboard and a responsive touchpad. We just suggest that Samsung makes sure to ditch that 'Windows' key before pushing this out to consumers.