To hell with netbooks; bring on the slates!

After wrapping up TR’s latest review of a 10″ netbook—arguably the nicest such system so far—I’ve come away with the impression that, well, it’s time to move on. Netbooks in general have done great things for consumers, but their reason for being has all but vanished as the industry has adapted. In the immortal words of Tenacious D, they’re too old to rock; it’s time for them to pass the torch. The first half of next year, when all the big players are expected to unveil their iPad competitors, can’t come soon enough.

Explaining the growing obsolescence of netbooks calls for a short history lesson. I think we can credit the One Laptop Per Child project for igniting the spark that led to the netbook revolution. Soon after the OLPC folks came up with the concept of a $100, kid-friendly, carry-anywhere laptop—then decided not to commercialize it—Taiwanese hardware makers like Quanta and Asus just happened to start working on low-cost, small-form-factor laptops aimed at developed countries. Barely two months after we caught wind of Asus’ plans, the company unleashed the first Eee PC at Computex 2007 in Taipei.

The Eee PC 701, as it was called, was pretty limited even by current netbook standards. It had a 7″ 800×480 display, was powered by a 630MHz Celeron processor, and only had a few gigs of storage capacity. Still, we loved the first Windows-powered model we reviewed back in January 2008—so much so that we gave it our Editor’s Choice award.

Then came the Atom processor, which I believe Intel originally aimed at a very different class of product: the Mobile Internet Device, a sort of oversized smart phone that never really caught on. By the time the Atom officially launched, Intel was already talking about slapping the chip in those newfangled netbooks. It didn’t take long for netbook makers to do just that. In the summer of 2008, the first Atom-based Eee PCs arrived on North American shores, and the higher-end models didn’t look too different from today’s 10″ netbooks.

Getting a 10″ netbook for around $500 was the bee’s knees two years ago. The only similarly priced alternatives would’ve had 14″ or 15″ displays, Celeron CPUs, and two-hour run times, while real ultraportables were high-end business systems that often retailed in the neighborhood of $2,000. Netbooks offered much of the same functionality as those ultraportables for a fraction of the price. At long last, the rest of us could take the Internet (and our work) with us wherever we wanted.

Joe Sixpack and his ilk started to take notice. In May 2009, DisplaySearch reported that netbooks had accounted for nearly a fifth of worldwide laptop shipments in the previous quarter. Right around the same time, the first Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage processors—and the concept of the “consumer ultraportable”—were born. Perhaps Intel just didn’t want the Atom cannibalizing its pricier mobile CPUs any further, but the fact remained; the laptop market had undergone its second radical change in just over two years.

By late October 2009, it was all over. Acer announced a $399 Windows 7 ultraportable, the Aspire AS1410, leading anyone sane to think twice about settling for a netbook. Things stabilized over the next few months, and today, the conflict between netbooks and consumer ultraportables is more of a cold war. The ultraportable camp has solidified its sphere of influence a small distance away from the line boldly crossed by the AS1410, while netbooks have largely retreated below $300, refusing to capitulate.

As with communist dictatorships of old, though, conformism and stagnation are slowly choking the netbook camp from within. Ultraportables are only getting slicker and more powerful, while netbook users must still make do with 1024×600 screen resolutions, cramped keyboards, limited amounts of memory, and underpowered Atom processors. The elite party members may get 12″ netbooks with higher-resolution displays and bigger keyboards, but those still pale in comparison to even entry-level CULV systems.

Going into next year, I think slates will administer the coup de grace to the netbook camp. Here’s why.

The one thing netbooks brought us was the ability to surf the web on a small, cheap, highly portable device with a decent-sized screen. And it so happens that surfing the web is the one thing slates do much, much better than netbooks. I expect anyone who’s ever sat down with an iPad and checked their favorite sites will agree. Dragging your hands across that 10″ glass touch-screen is a joy. Panning, zooming, bouncing between different pages and tabs is all effortlessly simple. Sometimes, you can use a dedicated app to enjoy a tailor-made content consumption experience instead of the plain old HTML website. It all works so seamlessly.

By contrast, browsing the web on a netbook is a chore. 10″ netbook displays might have roughly the same diagonal size as the iPad’s, but there are fewer vertical pixels, and what little vertical real-estate you have is occupied by the Windows taskbar, browser toolbars, the window title bar, and so forth. In the end, you’re left with something like this:

As if that weren’t bad enough, the input is convoluted, to say the least. Netbooks force you to do an inordinate amount of scrolling, yet that scrolling is usually confined to a tiny touchpad with often flaky multi-touch support. (Sometimes, I’ll get frustrated enough with poor touchpads to use the arrow keys to scroll.) Typing is about as bad. The iPad might not have a real keyboard, but what it has is no worse than those awful little netbook keyboards with their mediocre, rubbery-feeling chiclet keys.

Ah, but the iPad doesn’t do Flash, does it? That’s true. Now try playing a full-screen, high-definition YouTube video on a netbook, then try it on an iPad using the YouTube app. The iPad actually delivers a better, smoother experience, believe it or not. And not all slates are going to lack Flash support: RIM has already said its PlayBook slate will play Flash video, and Android 3.0 slates will probably do the same. To those readers who would point out that the iPad costs far more than netbooks, I’ll provide a similar retort—the iPad is only the first of many upcoming slates. You can bet a price war will break out in that space as soon as more competitors enter it.

If one thing can save netbooks, it’s the emergence of convertible designs with equally affordable price tags. Being able to switch to portrait mode would alleviate the screen real-estate issue, and a touch-screen display would alleviate the crappy input issue. Problem is, I don’t know if such convertible netbooks will be able to compete with thin, power-sipping slates that have specialized software designed from the ground up for touch. Maybe if netbook makers started making convertible systems with ARM CPUs and Android—but then, would they really be anything more than slates with keyboards?

Comments closed
    • trackerben
    • 9 years ago

    People need to use the devices to discover what they have been found to be best for. Smartphones for commo and info lookups, slates for convenient consumption in transient situations. Netbooks are ok for standard productivity and communications while travelling, notebooks add more efficiency in desk settings at the cost of mobility. For industrial duties and hardcore gaming, desktops have much value.

    What makes slates the current special is that it breaks new ground in nontraditional, more fluid usage – such as bedtime, in-between transit or queue situations. Those using iPad, the first truly useable general-purpose slate, are notable for having discovered this new computing ground earlier than most.

    • spiritwalker2222
    • 9 years ago

    The biggest drawback to slates or the iPad for me is the lack of software support. I though about buying an iPad, but one of my must have requirements is for it to support my garmin GPS software.

    Until I can get a slate or iPad which will support my GPS, I’ll keep using my netbook when I do my long tours on my road bike.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    I want there to be truely feasible slate devices. There aren’t any right now.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    I want tablet.

    • Wrakkenruan
    • 9 years ago

    Am I the only one thinking “Tenacious D? – Whodat?” Do you mean Jethro Tull?” (re: Too old to rock 🙂 )

    -Martin <><

    • dashbarron
    • 9 years ago

    I bought one of those Acer 1410 for someone last year and I recently used it for a last-minute LAN party. I was playing a few older games without lag, and when I fired up WoW and entered a raid it still managed to chug along at a playable experience of 7-14 FPS. I was pretty impressed.

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      Playable? That’s ridiculous. You can’t raid with that unless the others were just boosting you through.

        • dashbarron
        • 9 years ago

        I’ve been forced to raid on WoW (and play others) with about the same rates in the past. I used to spam arcane explosions in Kara hitting 2-4. But 10 FPS raiding is doable as long as you “work with it.” I was a 6.1gs bear in ICC and it went pretty well.

          • jcw122
          • 9 years ago

          LOL Might be do-able in MMOs but that will never be playable in an FPS.

            • dashbarron
            • 9 years ago

            God no. Although I frequently play L4D with 250 ping and manage. I don’t believe these rants that 50 is required to play them.

    • Storme
    • 9 years ago

    hmmm – seems it’s definately a point of “what you do with your device!” situation…
    As a very frequent traveller, I am completely enamored by my Asus EePC 1005HAB Netbook.
    I no longer have to lug around my 14″ Lenova T400 that only lasts about 3hrs on a plane flight from Australia to USA (16 hr trip).
    The super light and easily transportable EePC easily lasts 8+ hrs, doesn’t take up inordinate amounts of room on economy sized airplane trays, allows me to catch up on document editing, project plan revision, excel spreadsheet updates AND get a little light gaming in on the side before finally getting some sleep.
    THEN in my hotel rooms i can link wirelessly back to the office in Australia, do emails, some online banking and even video conferencing when required.
    SURE – my business provided Lenova could do all of this even better BUT it’s way heavier and bulkier and lasts only 25% of the time on battery.

    So, can i do all of this right now on a Slate device?
    Maybe i will be able to soon but for the last 18 months this little Netbook has been a godsend!

    • Buzzard44
    • 9 years ago

    I know you’ve caught of flak about this article Cyril, and I love your work, but I have to disagree with this article.

    Between the article and the comments, I gather this:

    Slate advocates view that, to be qualified as a netbook:
    – the device must have an Atom (crappy) processor.
    – the device must have a 1024 x 600 (very low) or lower resolution.
    – the device must not have a full sized keyboard.
    – the device must have a 10″ or smaller screen.

    The argument: Netbooks suck; slates are better.

    Counter-argument: No look, I’ve got a pretty good netbook. Check out the specs.

    Retort: No, that’s actually a good netbook. Therefore, it’s not a netbook.

    Counter-retort: So you’re saying that I have to compare your slate to crappy versions of antiquated devices that cost 40% of your device?

    Yes.

      • Cyril
      • 9 years ago

      q[

    • xii
    • 9 years ago

    People are used to be able to do anything with a computer, i.e. the computer as a general purpose device. Even though a netbook might be slow and cramped, it can still be used to open a document, add a few lines of code to a program, work in a shell window, make a remote SSH connection, type an email in an efficient way, etc.

    What I wonder is if people won’t be terribly annoyed when they receive an email with a document attached to it and the question if they can edit it quickly. Will they have to run back to their “real” computer to do anything related to content creation or doing any actual useful work? Slates are just a media consumption device (for now, at least). They are more appliances or gadgets than a general computing device, especially with functionally limited apps and walled gardens.

    As people now have to choose between a desktop computer, laptop, slate and cell phone – still being limited to the same budget – I’m not sure if the entertainment-only slate will really win anyone’s heart… And then I’m not talking about the corporate-first approach some companies seem to take regarding slates.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      I can’t remember the last time I received an email attachment outside of work that was more than an image, or a PDF.

    • thermistor
    • 9 years ago

    #67…I purpose-built a basement room (almost finished except for trim, door, odds/ends) AROUND my computer and related paraphernalia. Got an old cast-off Steelcase corner desk from work that can hold 3×1 22″ displays very comfortably, as well as an adequate 2.1 set of powered speakers.

    Been dinking around with a cast-off laptop from a friend for the last few days – my conclusion:

    *Anything* portable diminishes performance based on the premise of portability.

    • seawolf1118
    • 9 years ago

    Win 7 slates look very promising and can’t wait to get hands on one of them!!

    • odizzido
    • 9 years ago

    I am very much against your viewpoint.

    I would love it if a slate could do everything I want, but it can’t. To me that “built from the ground up OS” feels like a crippled failure. While the atom is certainly not that great, it does do one thing very well apparently. Size and weight. I have never seen a fully functional(as in W7/linux) laptop less than 10 inches and under a kilo that wasn’t an atom.

    I’d be very happy to be able to get a CULV proper laptop that was 9 inches and 960 grams, but I just can’t see that happening.

    I’d also be very happy to get a slate that let me write c++, rip/edit video, and run any program that W7 can, but I can’t see that happening either.

    I am satisfied with atom, but I do wish it were a little more capable. Bobcat is my most wanted processor for that reason and I really hope it boosts performance without growing into CULV sized territory.

    • burntham77
    • 9 years ago

    I look at tablets as the “couch PC”. I am playing a game and I need to look something up, so I reach for my trusty tablet, a few swipes of the fingers, a little typing… BAM I am at GameFAQs.com and back in the game. Dig it.

      • PenGun
      • 9 years ago

      So it’s a tool for cheating? Or am I missing something here?

      • esterhasz
      • 9 years ago

      You know who has couches? Right, the DEVIL!

    • jcw122
    • 9 years ago

    Slates….the raping of ergonomics in the electronics world. Back to the desktop I say! I want to be COMFORTABLE when I’m using a computer!

    • A_Pickle
    • 9 years ago

    Just one problem with your reasoning, Cyril…

    …an average netbook is literally half the price of the iPad, and some of the more expensive netbooks (still cheaper than the cheapest iPad) have ports, have graphics processors that handle HD anything with ease and even play some 3D games, and have processors that can do some real work thanks to a secure, easy-to-use operating system that runs great and has tons of application support!

    Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the ION netbooks, or Toshiba’s Satellite T115-S1150.

    No thanks, I’ll keep my netbooks running a much more open platform. But feel free to throw your consumer rights in the toilet!

    • gerbilspy
    • 9 years ago

    I will probably get a slate, and it will not replace anything I have, but be an addition to the armada of electronics that let me work, play, and live.

    • PixelArmy
    • 9 years ago

    Though I understand what image pops into people’s heads when the term “netbook” is used, is there a strict definition for netbook?

    I’ve always felt it was just a marketing term to mean an inexpensive, small laptop. In other words, form factor and price, not performance.

    Or is a netbook barred from using a CULV and a better screen by definition? Though the term might go out, products will still fill that market segment. Seriously, in terms of physical dimensions, the Acer Aspire referred to in the blog isn’t much bigger than a netbook.

    Asus EEE 1015PN: 10.3″ x 7.0″ x 0.9-1.4″
    Acer Aspire: 11.2″ x 8.0″ x 0.9″-1.2″

    The distinction seems highly artificial.

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      In general, the cutoff for a “netbook” has fallen somewhere in the range of a 10″ screen or less with 1024×600 display resolution, 1-2GB of RAM, an Atom processor, and WinXP Home or Win7 Starter Edition.

      The consumer ultraportables have been rocking 11″ and larger screens with at least 1366×768 res, Intel CULV processors, and Windows 7 Home Premium. And they usually start at 2GB of RAM and go up from there.

    • paralou
    • 9 years ago

    What i’m concerned, i need a “high performance”, and reliable notebook.
    And about the iPad…it’s much to early ! We’ll see in two years or so !

    By the way, if you intend to write a french language, such as:

    [ coup de grace ]…You need to ad an “circonflexe accent” like:

    [ coup de grâce ]

    You get it ?

    Regards, and thanks for your report,

    Salut les amis,
    Bonjour Cyril…et les autres !
    D

      • Cyril
      • 9 years ago

      Bonjour Jean. Ne t’inquiète pas, je connais plutôt bien la langue Française. Malheureusement, comme j’écris avec un clavier Américain, je n’ai pas le loisir de pouvoir taper les accents facilement. De plus, nos lecteurs anglophones ne sont généralement pas préoccupés par ces détails. 😉

        • indeego
        • 9 years ago

        Dude, ernstig, as jy die tyd neem om ‘n blog inskrywing te skryf nie, kry met die foto op die taal keuseg{

        • esterhasz
        • 9 years ago

        bouha, si moi je me plaignait à chaque fois qu’un Français massacre un mot en anglais, je ne pourrais plus sortir de chez moi…

          • adisor19
          • 9 years ago

          Idem.

          Adi

        • adisor19
        • 9 years ago

        Moi, je ne me casse plus la tête avec les accents car je n’utilise jamais le clavier en mode Français. Heureusement, l’extension “correcteur Français” de Firefox s’occupe de çà pour moi avec les résultats que tu peux voir…

        Adi

        P.S. Je suis super content de pouvoir écrire mon premier message en Français sur Tech-Report 🙂

    • End User
    • 9 years ago

    The 10″ netbook form factor is a dead end as far as I am concerned. A smartphone/slate/tablet/pad with a mobile OS is a far better option.

    I still have a need for laptops/desktops but my iPad and iPhone are taking on more and more of my tasks simply because they provide me with the apps I need to get the job done. The same thing goes for Android, WebOS, etc. This functionality goes way beyond games, browsing the web or watching videos.

    Much of what I do at work can easily be handled by mobile devices. Web apps work perfectly. Remote workstation/server management is not an issue as there are many web/native apps for that. Document creation/sharing is not a problem as, again, there are many native/web apps to choose from. Typing is not an issue as I can use a Bluetooth keyboard (but I rarely do). We are developing a mobile elearning product that will allow students to access their training material on their smartphone/tablet/pad via a custom app.

    At home I’m starting to centralize everything to my server. Video encoding (conversion and on the fly streaming), file management, backup, torrents , VMs and more. Everything has a web front end or a CLI. The server is an extension of the mobile device, accessible from anywhere in the world. All from the palm of my hand with no physical keyboard/mouse in sight.

    • ClickClick5
    • 9 years ago

    Meh, to hell with hampster wheel processors.

    I need POWER!!!

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      I have a G4, that might qualify as both POWER and a hamster wheel. You should see it trying to run flash.

      • sjl
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve an old RS/6000 sitting under my desk at work. POWER3 good enough for you? It won’t run AIX 6.1, but it will run 5.3, Linux, and most BSDs …

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    To hell with netbooks and slates. I want a thin and light notebook. I can just plug in an external DVD burner if I need to read or write discs.

      • Orion
      • 9 years ago

      So you want a new MacBook Air?

        • ronch
        • 9 years ago

        To hell with the MacBook Air! I want a PC in a thin and light form factor, such as Dell’s Adamo or those of Asus. I’ll get those when they become sensibly-priced

          • Anonymous Coward
          • 9 years ago

          The “air” is very reasonably priced (and perhaps so are the Dell and Asus). I don’t understand all you people who sit around screaming “cheaper, cheaper” and can never see a low enough sticker price. Buy something well-made and keep it for a long time!

            • Trymor
            • 9 years ago

            +1

            • ronch
            • 9 years ago

            Actually, I haven’t been checking prices lately, as I plan to hold on to my Acer Aspire for about a year more. Or as long as it’s working well enough for me. Lower prices in the future can only be good for me as long as they keep quality solid. And I prefer the PC due to the fact that I’m already more familiar with it and I don’t wanna pay the Apple tax.

            • paulWTAMU
            • 9 years ago

            Budgets are finite, thanks 😉 I haven’t had a raise since 2007 (thanks crappy economy!) and in the meantime food and utilities and health care have all gotten more expensive.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 9 years ago

            Yeah, no kidding. I like what Apple does, but I won’t be buying any more of their stuff until income goes up or expenses down…

    • Black Jacque
    • 9 years ago

    Slates have no keyboard.

      • blubje
      • 9 years ago

      yeah, computer sans keyboard is about as useful as a television (i.e. not at all).

    • srg86
    • 9 years ago

    To Hell with slates, I want something that’s small, but I can still go real stuff on, rather than just look at web pages.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    To hell with netbooks & slates, bring on the more powerful ultraportablesg{

      • srg86
      • 9 years ago

      Totally agreed, Although I have nothing against the Atom processor, unlike a lot of people here, an ultraportable is vastly more usable to me than a slate.

      • blitzy
      • 9 years ago

      word.. id take an ultraportable over a slate every time.

    • Faceless Clock
    • 9 years ago

    Netbooks certainly not the coolest thing on the block today, and their flaws are obvious.

    It is important to remember, however, that is always going to be a market for computers made up of people that hate computers and want to spend as little money on them as humanly possible.

    These people will continue to buy $299 netbooks until a similar product with a lower price enters the market.

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 9 years ago

    I remember “convertible” touch laptops and they proved two important facts. That it costs MORE to make a device switch between different configurations on the fly than it would to give the user one great form factor and reduces the focus of the device maker on making each mode super-functional as the number of modes increases.

    I’d rather they focus on making the slate design work and let CULV’s hold the low end market. Even an underclocked CULV with an integrated GPU and slower CPU would be better in nearly every scenario than an Atom+ION2. Unless you want to play WoW on your slate. But why would you?

    I think the desktop’s the form factor that suffers in all this. I can foresee a user having a smartphone, a slate, a laptop, possibly a media player PC and potentially a displayless server to hold and send out personal data that a person doesn’t want in the Cloud. Even the Media Player PC will probably be replaced by the Boxee Box’s, GoogleTV’s and AppleTV’s of the future.

    Do people really want a desktop computer they can’t take from room to room as they move? Isn’t it starting to feel like the early 2000’s to have to go into a certain room to use your computer?

    Each of those above devices (smartphone, slate, laptop, media players, personal server) fosters the ability to go anywhere you like and have your data at hand. Desktops, able to function as servers strictly speaking, cost more than a cheap server and require you to go to them rather than have your data come to you. (The Media Player PC would connected to a display device you already own and would be going to regardless.)

    In the end, the story is not the conversion of the netbook from a laptop wannabe to a slate, but the fact that the slate is yet another case of the market’s preference for convenience over performance. Netbooks were always on borrowed time because Intel was not going to make an Atom powerful enough to remotely challenge its main processor lines, even if it had to push cheaper and cheaper CULV’s to guarantee it.

    Like content producers who fear the idea of their TV shows, movies, and music being low-dollar and high volume items, Intel fears the day computers are truly commodity-priced items below $200 because it would kill the sales of their high end items that essentially cost no more to design or produce than their low end variants.

      • WaltC
      • 9 years ago

      /[

      • jackbomb
      • 9 years ago

      “Do people really want a desktop computer they can’t take from room to room as they move?”

      When I’m at home, I don’t even think about using my laptop or phone to surf the Interwebs–much less do any real work.

      My big, inefficient, light-dimming desktop, with its 24″ IPS display and /[

      • PenGun
      • 9 years ago

      You are gonna have to pry my very nice OC’d P55, nice video card, nice brutal stereo. and my 34″ Sony HD CRT from my cold dead hands.

      I sit here in my very comfy chair and have a real advantage. Your head is big on my screen, I will shoot it. I must be nearly invisible on your laptop or especially phone.

      I don’t need a computer on my bike. Don’t need one for my bush rambles. Don’t need to carry one around at all actually.

    • darc
    • 9 years ago

    Agree with everything in the article, but I’m still holding my breath (and my credit card) for the slates that will replace proper NOTEbooks. I can’t see why I can’t have a fast PC in a streamlined (though obviously less streamlined) slate form factor with optional, detached bluetooth kb and mouse, external mass storage via USB 3. That’s the machine that will change things for me, and I’d be happy to pay a couple grand for it.

    • axeman
    • 9 years ago

    The Windows 7 screen shot is misleading. I see several things you could quickly due to reclaim screen real-estate. Just because the defaults aren’t designed with a netbook screen size in mind doesn’t mean you’re stuck with one way of using it, like or leave it, unlike a lot of mobile platforms that have very little user customization available.

      • HisDivineShadow
      • 9 years ago

      Turn off the bookmark bar and reduce the icon size on the taskbar were obvious things that would be done by anyone using such a low resolution. I should know. My laptop’s 1366×768 resolution had me do these things immediately. It’s also why I’ve been using Chrome for over a year now. I suppose it’s also why the new IE9 beta takes up the same amount of vertical real estate.

      I wish I could reduce the height of the Omnibar/controls/extensions line, though. It seems unnecessarily large for users with low resolution displays.

    • Beastie
    • 9 years ago

    I think most people are just getting too square about what ideal device they need, sure you could watch tv with a pc keyboard as a remote and claim you have more ‘power’ but at least here everyone is familiar enough with this situation to know ur being a square.

    I had to recommend an iPad to a top exec at work just to read his exchange email because his old black berry wasn’t oerking out for him, he needed some simpler yet more powerful, the iPad saved the day and our CEO stopped swearing because the emails were that important. This exec had a laptop but it doesn’t just doesn’t ‘work’ for him.
    You gotta understand the ultimate power device is just big problem causer for some people in business, and even some of the biggest power users don’t see it even when it is right in their face.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    How ironic that you posted this the night before the /[

    • TechNut
    • 9 years ago

    Cyril, have to disagree with you on this one.

    Netbooks will continue to have their place. For the portable web surfing/e-reading crowd, you are right. The slates will easily replace them. It is just like Steve Job’s positioned the iPad, somewhere between a netbook and a smart phone.

    People will still gravitate to netbooks for a number of reasons. If you want a PC-style computer, the netbook is the best/fastest/cheapest way into it. My HP Mini, while not the fastest machine is ok for typing (it’s 93% full size keyboard is pretty good). Try typing a term paper or doing a last minute to a business presentation using PowerPoint on a slate. Using touch screens to type is not efficient for long periods of time.

    So, to call the netbook “they’re too old to rock” is a bit of editorializing on your part. My HP Mini plays you tube just fine, also handles other videos a-ok as well.

    Are slates better optimized for the media/personal experience? Sure they are! They are a convenience device! For on the go, nothing beats them. If I want to do more than browse the web and watch videos, a netbook or a laptop is a much better idea.

    Different markets and different demographics for slates/tablets versus netbooks 🙂

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    q[< Netbooks in general have done great things for consumers<]q Like what? All they've done is separated a person from their hard earned cash in exchange for somethings that's difficult to use do to small screen size and that has extremely limited storage and that is difficult to type on. If that's doing great things for the consumer, I'd hate to see your idea of a rip-off. I've never seen a netbook that I thought was a good value or, to rephrase, that was anything other than a waste of money.

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      I used an Aspire One as my primary portable device for nearly a year and a half. It was so good at being portable that it replaced my 15″ notebook for 80-90% of all uses. As a result, I finally ended up splitting the difference and buying an Acer Timeline 1810TZ, and getting rid of the 15″ notebook entirely.

      I still have the Aspire One as an emergency backup if the 1810 ever gets broken/lost/stolen.

      That’s what netbooks did for me: made my life easier at an affordable price, then ushered in the consumer ultraportables. YMMV I guess.

    • cegras
    • 9 years ago

    I agree with the overall tone.

    For one I never thought about buying into a notebook, simply because the atom is an abomination of a chip that goes back on the “core 2 duo” performance standard that everyone has come to expect out of modern computers.

    • Lianna
    • 9 years ago

    l[

      • miken
      • 9 years ago

      This. I bought a Viliv N5 (pocket-size Win7 UMPC) a couple months ago and love it. I’m a software developer and could not justify spending money on a glorified toy, I need something that I can actually accomplish something on.

      Sure the N5 has “only” an Atom and fits other complaints about netbooks, but since it is so tiny, I think the complaints don’t apply. I might want a CULV CPU on an 11″+ notebook, but since I travel a lot and don’t have a car, I know something heavy (> 2 lbs) or big (> 10″ screen) is simply going to be left at home a lot, and so will be a waste. This thing is so small I take it everywhere, even when I don’t bring my backpack — it can fit in my jacket pocket. Incredible.

      I actually just installed MS Visual Studio and my favorite editor on this thing. I get a real kick out of being able to actually code, compile & debug — while riding on a bus! Try doing that with a slate. It is really amazing to see such serious (and familiar) software running on an almost phone-sized screen.

      BTW I hear endless complaints about keyboards “too small to type on” for even bigger devices. But I’ve had a Psion Series 5mx keyboarded PDA for over a decade: it’s exactly the same size as the Viliv N5, and I can tell you it is possible to learn to type pretty fast on even such a small keyboard. My hands are not particularly small, so I can only assume the complainers actually just need to give themselves more time to get used to it (or else typing fast on pocket-sized keyboards is my secret super power). OTOH the Viliv keyboard, though of high build quality, is not as good a design as the Psion’s — which no-one has beaten or even tried to imitate to date, to the world’s loss — which limits typing speed unnecessarily.

      Slates will remain a curiosity for people like me. I’d take one if I won it for free in a contest, but I can’t imagine actually buying one. They are cooler than PCs and netbooks but I’m content not to be one of the cool people.

    • Stargazer
    • 9 years ago

    q[

      • esterhasz
      • 9 years ago

      Adblock plus?

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      As a site which makes revenue off of advertising, perhaps you might not want to trumpet that horn too loudly….

        • adisor19
        • 9 years ago

        Seriously. I got banned at one point for breaking that rule..

        Man, pple never learn.

        Adi

      • stormsweeper
      • 9 years ago

      Every major ad network will serve up non-Flash ads if the platform doesn’t support flash. This has been the case for well over a decade.

        • indeego
        • 9 years ago

        Don’t see nonflash ads on many sites I browse without flash installedg{<.<}g Guess it's been broken for a decade.

        • Stargazer
        • 9 years ago

        There are ad providers (and individual sites) that offer fallback ads in cases where Flash is not supported, but it is far from universal. It also seems like even if fallbacks exist, you sometimes end up with fallbacks for only *some* of the ads (thus leaving you with a smaller total number of ads).

          • Anonymous Coward
          • 9 years ago

          I would definitely prefer to disable flash everywhere and see old fashioned mostly static adds. Nothing wrong with those.

    • dklingen
    • 9 years ago

    I think netbooks will continue their progression and become CULV systems, ultimately disappearing by migrating/merging into a different segment.

    I also believe slates should be a killer market for an extra portable system for low levels of typing and web access. This is the kind of device I have been awaiting for since the Nokia N800, but one that actually works. It’s a shame that Apple saw the potential and kick started the market, now if only the Adam slate would release…

    • Stargazer
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve been looking forward to a good slate device for several years now. The iPad is not that device (for me).

    It was however a good start (especially with regard to giving slates public attention), and I’m hoping that slates will see rapid improvement now. So, I fully agree with “bring on the slates!”!

    • Stargazer
    • 9 years ago

    q[<10" netbook displays might have roughly the same diagonal size as the iPad's, but there are fewer vertical pixels, and what little vertical real-estate you have is occupied by the Windows taskbar, browser toolbars, the window title bar, and so forth. In the end, you're left with something like this:<]q When vertical space is at a premium, it might be worth considering setting your taskbar to autohide (the slates you're comparing to run in full screen anyway, right?), and moving your bookmarks to the same toolbar as your address bar. If you really want a few more pixels, you can set up Firefox to use less vertical pixels than Chrome too. I agree that the default UIs in many cases are not ideal for netbooks, but we don't *have to* stick to the defaults in the cases where they're *bad*. Why use a "bloated" UI when comparing to something that has a minimal UI? q[

      • Firestarter
      • 9 years ago

      Or just drag the taskbar to the left or right. Comes very naturally with the default Windows 7 taskbar.

        • Stargazer
        • 9 years ago

        Good point.

        I suppose you could also gain some more vertical space by displaying your tabs on a side, but I’ve never tried that on a netbook myself, so I’m not sure how it’d work in practice. Maybe you’d start feeling cramped horizontally. 🙂

        • esterhasz
        • 9 years ago

        I’ve had my dock on the left for over a year now on my 13″ MBP (every pixel counts) and while it really is a little awkward at first, I now wouldn’t have it any other way and also switched on my W7 desktop…

      • odizzido
      • 9 years ago

      I was thinking the same thing….who scrolls around with the touchpad? pageup/down is where it’s at.

        • Stargazer
        • 9 years ago

        I actually feel horribly crippled when I don’t have access to PageUp/PageDown. My parents’ laptop has PgUp/PgDn on a numerical keypad, and for some reason they always keep NumLock on. I try to avoid turning NumLock off (I’ve sometimes forgotten to turn it back on when I’m done, leading to added confusion for my parents, something that there’s already enough of when using computers 🙂 ), but if I’m using their laptop for a significant time, I eventually break down and turn it off anyway. For me, PgUp/PgDn is simply a *huge* benefit when browsing, and not having access to it is annoying.

        But preferences and usage patterns do vary…

          • Usacomp2k3
          • 9 years ago

          I generally page down with the space bar, and scroll up/down with the up/down arrow keys, at least when reading.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      If every bar and button was banished from a 1024×600 screen, it will still suck. (Writing this from a cheap 24″ LCD, 1920×1200.)

    • esterhasz
    • 9 years ago

    I feel that convertible designs up to now have always had some quirks on the mechanical front (flimsy, prone to wear and tear, etc.) and they have such major drawbacks for integration and weight reduction that I don’t see any successful product in the future – especially with cloud storage quickly eliminating the biggest hassle with switching between several machines: synchronization… a slate for the couch, a laptop to work on the go and a desktop system for those who game…?

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    To me the biggest difference would be in how a slate vs netbook user interacts with their medium.

    You can type comments on both devices, but it’s a lot more tedious on a slate. So the slate user is more likely to become a passive consumer of news and data than one who makes his or her opinion heard.

    Looking at some of the flame wars on the internet, this may not be such a bad thing, but I think there are still significant advantages to having a physical keyboard.

    At the moment, I’m still undecided on the issue. But since money is tight right now, I know I won’t be buying a slate for a while, however, I still need a notebook for general computing uses.

    • Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman
    • 9 years ago

    I still prefer netbooks though; no matter how shitty a netbook’s input device is, I’ve been already so used to keyboard/mouse for years.

      • indeego
      • 9 years ago

      This. I am sooooo much more productive with a mouse/kb than any touch interface. I miss my stylus on my Windows Mobile. Browsing TR fia finger swipes is such a PITA. zooooooooom, press. NO, not that! back, zoooooooom, press. There we gog{

        • Trymor
        • 9 years ago

        Your holding it wrong…

          • indeego
          • 9 years ago

          Let me know when the finite surface area of a finger pressed down is anything less than 20 pixels(in most cases it’s far more because there’s no “point” to a finger,) so in reality you are just mashing down 25+ pixels every press+scatterg{<.<}g

      • MrDigi
      • 9 years ago

      I couldn’t agree more. The touch interface is fine for small screens but on the iPad it’s poor replacement for a keyboard. Besides the missing tactile feedback, screen real-estate, and half the keys, the zooming in and out to see content and select links is much worse than on a Netbook. The slate form factor and weight makes it uncomfortable to hold upright for more than a few minutes. Web browsing if fine if you never need to type usernames/passwords, and like to constantly zooming/scrolling. The aspects that works well are scrolling and zooming, and this is what people experience first and sells people, great marketing is another big factor. BTW, on keyboards the arrow keys work fine for vertical scrolling, and the iPad is a MID. The slate has its place but it is a viewing device, not a creation device.

    • valrandir
    • 9 years ago

    If Netbooks are dead, why did Apple just introduce their own version of a netbook?

      • Dissonance
      • 9 years ago

      Let me tell you, from personal experience, that there is a monumental difference between a 10×6 Atom-powered system and a 13×7 CULV.

        • Pizzapotamus
        • 9 years ago

        There is still the issue of horizontal vs vertical orientation but there’s no reason at all for it to be as ludicrous as your screenshot, if all one wants is a fullscreen web browser without the amenities of windowing just hit f11

          • Pizzapotamus
          • 9 years ago

          right….not meant to be a reply to that comment

        • axeman
        • 9 years ago

        Some people don’t understand that the term “netbook” implies low performance and price. The MacBook Air is an ultra-portable, big difference, both in performance and price.

      • SPOOFE
      • 9 years ago

      I think it’s pretty clear the article was focusing on inexpensive products featuring low-price, low-processing power, low-energy consumption ultraportables. “Apple’s version of a netbook” applies to only one of those…

      I think the author is predicting a steady evolution from “small laptop form factor” to slate/iPad designs, in the price range somewhere near the upper end of the netbooks and lower end of CULV.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 9 years ago

      Even the 11″ Macbook Air has a full size keyboard, good CPU, good GPU, and a full size multitouch trackpad. It is silly to compare it with a netbook.

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        not really. His complaints were mostly on screen size. which is the same on either product now, 1366 x768

          • Stargazer
          • 9 years ago

          Since TR is ad financed, I should not point out that the iPad can’t display Flash ads?

          Or should I not be mentioning that when Cyril is comparing browsing on the two form factors, he’s actually not comparing a /[

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            no sorry, I was stating that cyril should probably defend the flash ads. I was arguing apple is hurting his business.

            • Stargazer
            • 9 years ago

            Ah, ok. Understood.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            but when I load TR on my iPod, I get ads. They’re animated GIFs. Do Flash ads pay more money because they’re more annoying or something?

      • ltcommander.data
      • 9 years ago

      Because they didn’t? The article is saying that cheap ultraportables with CULV processors, of which the new 11.6″ MacBook Air is one, are killing the netbook market.

        • indeego
        • 9 years ago

        uh, it *just* came out. How is that possibleg{

          • ludi
          • 9 years ago

          As he said: “cheap ultraportables with CULV processors, of which the new 11.6″ MacBook Air is one”

          The template for consumer ultraportables has been around for a solid year now, and the 11.6″ MBA is made in the same mold. IOW it’s not a netbook, it’s part of the consumer ultraportable trend that is killing off the netbooks.

      • adisor19
      • 9 years ago

      At 11.1″, Apple’s MBA actually has a full size keyboard so it’s not a Netbook. It’s actually the most extreme ultra portable form factor out there. Oh, and it has a Core 2 Duo at up to 1.6Ghz CPU compared to a dinky Atom found in netbooks. Also, the screen rez is way above what most 10″ netbooks have.

      So yeah, the MBA is anything BUT a netbook.

      Adi

    • Yawn!
    • 9 years ago

    I agree with half the title.

    • VILLAIN_xx
    • 9 years ago

    l[<"In the end, you're left with something like this...."<]l (insert front page image) It wouldnt have been that big of a chore if you guys have stayed with the old "at a glance" viewing option. 😛

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