During my visit to AMD's Austin, Texas offices last week, I managed to get my hands on an early example of the HP Pavilion dv2, the forthcoming category-breaking product based on AMD's Atom-killer, the Athlon Neo. As we've already reported, the dv2 will feature a 12.1" display and will thus be larger than a netbook, but it will be under an inch thick, weigh 3.8 pounds, and list for $699 when it debuts in a month or two. So we're looking at a very nice ultraportable laptop for not much more money than some higher-end netbooks.
The Athlon Neo is a single-core, low-power version of the K8, or Athlon 64. In the unit I looked at, it was running at 1.6GHz. At that speed, the Neo would bring quite a bit more processing power than an Atom, though clearly less than a Core 2 Duo. AMD told us the Athlon Neo is exclusive to HP, but hinted that it might fit into even smaller laptops than the dv2. We also heard talk of a dual-core version of the Athlon Neo (essentially a low-power Athlon 64 X2) for future products.
Not only that, but the dv2 will feature Radeon HD 3000-series graphics, giving it much better HD video decode and playback capability than any netbook, in addition to decent potential for light gaming duty.
Up close, the dv2 looks like a fairly nice 12.1" laptop, with none of the cuteness factor you get from the miniaturized features of a netbook. The glossy chassis is a champion fingerprint magnet, but the fit and finish were pretty good on the unit we manhandled. Here's a look at the dv2 next to my Eee PC 1000H, which is totally misleading.
I had hoped to provide a useful comparison with this picture, but I managed to create the opposite with a bit of perspective magic. Notice how the 1000H, on the right, is both further from the camera and sitting much further from the edge of the table. It's as if the dv2 were Gandalf and the 1000H were Frodo. Now folks will think the dv2 is twice the size of the 1000H. It is indeed larger, and feels more like a proper laptop, but the dv2 is quite a bit smaller and sleeker than most laptops, in reality.
The dv2's keyboard has a no-compromises feel, like many 12" laptops, and the touchpad is happily enormous, with a dedicated scrolling area on the right. As you can see, the enclosure looks sleek and thin in Charlie Demerjian's stubby hands. With luck, the dv2 should be a roaring success, prompting other notebook makers to step up, as well, and plug the gap between low-cost netbooks and too-expensive ultraportables with affordable intermediate options in the 10"-13.3" range.
We, of course, hope to get our paws on a production dv2 for a full review as soon as possible.