Netbooks now make up about 5 percent of global PC shipments, down from 13 percent two years ago. That’s according to new figures from research firm Canalys. The firm also reports that netbook shipments were about 34 percent lower during the first quarter of 2012 than the same period in 2011.

I think it’s too early to proclaim the death of the netbook, as some people always want to do for some reason. But clearly some of the predictions made a few years ago have turned out to be a little less than true.


Netbooks are small, cheap laptop computers. Most of the netbooks on the market today are powered by Intel Atom processors which don’t use a lot of energy, offer a lot of performance, or cost very much.

A few years ago a typical netbook sold for around $400 or more, but prices have fallen to less than $300 for many models today. That makes them reasonably attractive for shoppers who value low price and high portability over performance — but they’re not particularly attractive for PC manufacturers that would rather sell pricier computers with higher profit margins.

Dell has stopped selling netbooks altogether, and while HP, Acer, and Asus have all released new models in 2012 other companies including Toshiba and Lenovo introduced new models at CES… but haven’t actually brought them to market in the US yet.

Even Linux PC builders System76 and ZaReason recently stopped selling netbooks.

As long as there are some people who would prefer a low power laptop with an x86 processor to an Android or iOS-powered tablet, I suspect at least a few PC vendors will continue to offer them.

But the most important legacy of netbooks may be that they showed there was demand for low cost ultraportable laptops with long battery life. Up until the introduction of the netbook, a 3 pound laptop would run you $1500 or more.

Now the average price of all laptop computers is just over $500, and PC makers are rallying around Intel’s ultrabook platform, offering thin and light notebooks that are far more capable all-around computers than netbooks — even if they cost two or three times as much.

Like netbooks, ultrabooks, tablets, and other items that are hot today could be passé in a few years when something else new and trendy comes along.

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17 replies on “Netbook shipments down 34 percent from last year”

  1. Hi!

    Re: intel atom n2600/n2800 netbooks. Please help me. Im torn between SAMSUNG NC110, LENOVO S110 and MSI WIND U180. They all have the same prices but here are the differences:

    samsung nc110 – 6600 mah battery, atom n2600
    msi wind u180 – 5200 mah battery, atom n2800 (actually US$10 less)
    lenovo s110 – 4400 mah battery, atom n2800

    I’m leaning towards samsung nc110 because of the 6600 mah, but im bothered by n2600. However, I’ve learned that it has a 3.5W TDP so it might still be better. Is the difference between n2600 vs n2800 that big? Is the 0.26 ghz in clockspeed difference and 240 mhz graphics base frequency difference with them is noticeable in everyday use such as playing facebook games, watching youtube videos and playing downloaded 720p videos?

    I currently own an atom n450 and the only gripe i have about it is the choppy HD 720p youtube videos.

    Thanks so much in advance! and for anyone who could help 🙂

  2. I personally like Netbooks myself, Im typing this on my HP dm1 11′, I also have an HP 5101, when it comes to travel I think they can’t be beat because they are small and very portable. I don’t want to carry around a 15′ or larger laptop, that defeats the whole purpose for portability. I also have the HP Touchpad and as far as using it as a full blown computer, Im not sure I would use it for everyday computing, for me all these tablets on the market are just a Gimmick, except for the one’s with the detachable keyboards. Those make more sence to me.

  3.  I still like netbooks and the concept and philosophy behind them: A small, light weigh, handy and very affordable device with a good usable keyboard for basic everyday tasks, inspired by the OLPC-thinking (One laptop per child).
    If you can afford buying a top-shelf ultrabook for each family member, lucky you, but most people on the planet simply can’t…
    Tablets (sans keyboards) are fun and great and are getting really affordable, but I would not like being assigned to write a lot of school essays on them!
    Netbooks will never satisfy the power user, but then they were never designed to do so either…

  4. The problem was netbooks were netcentric.  The clue was in the name.  And Windows isn’t.  Netbooks aren’t all that good as Windows PCs and 99% of netbooks are now sold as Windows PCs so people who buy them expecting a satisfying Windows experience is likely to be disappointed.

    1.  True, though that didn’t stop netbooks from being very successful before.  People found uses for netbooks despite their limitations and it helped that there was no alternatives that fit in the same role as netbooks.

      Problem is that’s no longer the case and netbooks need to evolve with the times.  Also many of the reasons people would normally get a new device don’t yet apply to netbooks as they haven’t been updating them like they have other products.

      The netbook you can get today isn’t much better than the netbook you got two years ago for example.

      While also most people who would want netbooks already have them.

      Then there’s the growing mobile device market and Ultrabooks, where most profit is seen to be coming from right now.

      All of which is why netbooks aren’t doing well right now.

      However, next the move towards mobile devices doesn’t really exclude netbooks and the advancements they are making to improve technology by the beginning of next year will provide reasons to take another look at netbooks again.

      The ATOM has basically been held back for 5 years but Intel has still been advancing their technology all this time.  Now that they’re actually interested in advancing the ATOM to give them access to the mobile market means the ATOM stands to get a major upgrade next year when they move to 22nm FAB and start applying many of the same technology they’re already applying to Ivy Bridge.

      The 22nm FAB alone will help reduce costs and reduce power consumption.  While Intel’s Tri-Gate should boost performance efficiency, and all that’s before seeing what updating the ATOM architecture would do to improve performance.  Along with design advancements like going more SoC to reduce costs and power usage much like ARM does.

      So as long as Netbooks don’t die out before next year they still have a chance of coming back into favor.  After all, many of the reasons people liked netbooks still apply.

      The success of the Amazon Kindle Fire for example is in large part because of its low pricing, just like netbooks offered for laptops.  Along with the appeal mini-notebooks always had.

      Though netbooks may evolve into more hybrids to combine them with tablets, but we’ll see how it goes over the next two years as all these changes start to take place.

  5. For me netbooks were always about “you could carry it all day without effort” (small & lightweight) and it was cheap ($300-$550).  Thus for me most of the 11″ small laptops from 2010-2011 were netbooks too.  

    Moreover, I think a shake-out of manufacturers is helpful at this point.  If netbooks only account for 5% of the industry, then less companies should be fighting over that part of the pie. 

    I still contend that for kids (7-12) years old a trusty netbook is the way to go.  It fits in a backpack, it does what kids need (if not what they want), and it is affordable for a middle class family.  The stubby & fat design of a netbook is good protection in a bookbag too.

    1. The X100/x120/x130 have all typically resided in the no-man’s land between netbooks and ultrabooks. I guess we just have to call them laptops. 🙂

    2. I would consider any notebook with an AMD E or C series CPU as being netbook class, although they may have a display larger than the 10″ which is normally associated with netbooks.

      Note that this is a moving target, as, for example,

      – the AMD C60 dual core APU has as much performance as an Intel Core2 Solo U3500 single core CPU.  In its heyday (5 years ago?) the Core2 Solo was considered a minstream notebook CPU.

      – the Intel Cedar Trail Atom N2800 dual core and AMD E450 dual core CPUs are almost as powerful as the Intel Core Duo L2500 dual core CPU, a midrange notebook CPU in its heyday.

      – the forthcoming Intel Clover Trail Atom dual core CPU could be as powerful as an Intel Core2 Duo.

      1. It’s definitely a moving target, but there’s a huge performance gap between Atom Cedar Trail chips and AMD E series chips right now… and even a Core 2 Duo ULV processor from a few years ago can calculate circles around a modern Atom chip.

        But there are probably a few different definitions of netbooks… early on they were just small, relatively cheap laptops. By 2009 most people threw Intel Atom processors, 10 inch screens, and Windows 7 Starter into the definition.

        Unlike “ultrabook” though, nobody owns the trademark on netbooks so you can pretty much call them anything you want. But performance-wise, while the Lenovo X130e isn’t the fastest notebook on the market, even the cheapest model with an AMD E-300 chip should perform much better than a typical Atom-powered netbook.

        1.  Meh, to me the netbooks were never about hardware (except perhaps the use of a SSD). When Asus shipped with Linux and a simplified launcher, that to me was a netbook. When XP and 7 started showing up, they just become underpowered laptops. The closest we have to that today are the Google Chromebooks…

          1.  it was formfactor (book size), portability, prize and battery runtime.

          2.  Prize in particular, as much of the rest (battery time was never spectacular, imo) could be had under the ulta-portable laptop banner.

          3. While they didn’t start out with great run times, Netbooks were one of the first to offer over 5 hours and then over 8 hours of run time.  Some even offered over 10 hours.

            This while many regular laptops were still providing less than 3 hours on average run time with the same size batteries.

            Even Ultra Portables in comparison took awhile to catch up and many still don’t provide as much run time as netbooks.

            Just to get netbook like run times you usually need a 9 cell battery for a laptop.

            Then again some laptops can offer over 10 times the performance of a netbook and added performance means more tolerance for weight and size.  So everything is relative.

        2. “Circles”?  Not quite, while the Bobcat cores are superior to the ancient ATOM the performance is still far worse than similar clocked Penryn (Celeron) or Danube (Athlon II) cores. On average the CPU performance of the E-300 lies only a bit beyond a Athlon X2 L310 at 1.2 GHz.

          In Cinebench comparison, the Athlon X2 L310 gets a score of 1758 vs a N2800 getting a score of 1829. Even the E-450 only goes up to 1956.

          So like the reasons why Intel originally went with the ATOM, AMD went with the Bobcat cores primarily for the low power usage.

          While with Cedar Trail Intel raised the max clock speeds of the ATOM, and made all of them dual core, which lessened the advantages.

          So long as the ATOM has a higher clock speed of at least a few hundred MHz than the AMD Fusion, then in terms of CPU performance there really isn’t much of an advantage right now.

          While better multi-tasking advantage was lessened by making all ATOM’s dual core.

          So AMD Fusion mainly has a massive GPU advantage with 5x-9x times better graphical performance. 

          While the CPU performance difference isn’t fully taken advantage of by any but the upper E-Series chips and even then it doesn’t put them far ahead and why they’re all still considered netbook range.

          Though this comes at a price of higher max TDP for AMD and the E-Series thermals are too high for it to be put into anything smaller than a 11.6″ system.

          1. I probably could have phrased that better by separating out my E-series and Core 2 Duo ULV comments. My point is that my 2009 Asus UL20A with a Core 2 Duo SU7300 is several times faster than even the latest Atom chips in my experience.

            The gap between E-300 and Atom N2800 probably isn’t as large… unless you’re playing 3D games.

    3.  Lenovo does offer the X130e with a Core i3 configuration…  So that version would slip into the Ultra Portable laptop range.

      The netbook concept has become blurred over the years but basically falls to what would be considered a low cost basic computer.  Though generally anything from 7″ to 12.1″ systems is still the official recognized size range.  Some just put these low cost chips in even larger systems but they’re the exceptions and not the rule.

      AMD Fusion are still considered netbook range because even their best chip is still multiple times less powerful than even the lowest Core i-Series offering and the point of them is a lower cost offering much like the ATOM serves.

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