Samsung Series 7
Samsung Series 7 Sliding PC

Intel is reportedly hoping computer makers will blur the lines between netbooks and tablets soon. The company’s next-generation Intel Atom chips will be appropriate for standard netbooks with 10 inch screens and keyboards, but Fudzilla reports they may also show up in convertible netbooks with touchscreen displays that can be folded down over the keyboard, or tablets devices with slide-out keyboards.

Of course, there’s nothing completely unique about these form factors. We’ve seen convertible netbooks before, and Samsung introduced a model with a slide-out keyboard earlier this year (although the Samsung Series 7 Sliding PC has yet to ship).

What’s new is that the upcoming Intel Atom Cedar Trail M 32nm chips will generate less heat than older chips, thus allowing for fanless design. That means we could see thinner computers with these form factors.

The Oak Trail chip in the Samsung Series 7 also supports a fanless design, but the Cedar Trail platform will offer much better overall performance than Oak Trail.

The Intel Atom N2600 and Atom N2800 chips will also reportedly support WiDi wireless display technology and fast boot features.


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6 replies on “Next-gen netbooks could serve double-duty as tablets”

  1. Wow.  Convertible form factors?  I guess this was exciting over 10 years ago when they started coming to market (in x86 flavor, MIPS had already been around for a while by then), but this “next gen” possibility isn’t different than what has already been a “previous gen” reality.  There have been Atom convertibles for years.

    The 90s called, and they want their Vadem Clio back.

    1. Think hybrid designs, like the Transformer, would be more interesting.  Though these next gen systems will be cheaper, lighter, thinner, and run longer than the older systems you mentioned.  So may have more appeal than they did the first few times around.

      Though competition with ARM may not really start till 2013 when the 22nm Silvermont comes out and most ARM systems have moved on to the Cortex A15.

      It’s a bit of a race for both as ARM may have the SoC power advantage but they’re still working on creating more powerful systems.  While Intel and AMD are coming at it from the opposite direction and trying to make more efficient low powered designs.

      Both have to work on getting to smaller manufacture size and right now even the upcoming Tegra 3 is still a 40nm design.  So on that front Intel has the lead, while AMD will soon come in with 28nm and then Intel goes 22nm soon after that to retake the lead.

      While by 2014/15 they’ll all be around 14nm and we’ll probably have a tough time telling them apart, especially with Windows 8 running on all of them. 😛

  2. It’s all about power consumption and battery life. If Intel could match ARM in power consumption, they would be bragging abou it. Until they do, Intel will be trying every way they can to get people to stop buying tablets. Good luck with that.

    1. I don’t think a touch interface works with Microsoft Windows; the fact of the matter is that Windows applications are built around the keyboard + mouse paradigm and none of the attempts done over the years to give Windows a touch interface have had success.

      I am looking forward to the N2600 and N2800 because they will give us cheaper and more powerful netbooks.  The N2600 will give us, roughly speaking, N570 performance (with a better GPU to boot) while using considerably less power than even a N435.  The N2800 will at least as much performance as an Atom D525 (probably even more) while only using as much power as a N455.

      Netbooks are really great for what they are: Inexpensive Windows/Linux machines (yes, everything has drivers and works in Linux, even RHEL6, when using a N455 chip) for people who want to use a smaller and lighter computer.

      1. The only potential issue is the new Cedar Trail GMA’s will be based on Imagination’s PowerVR SGX 545 GPU core, similar to the SGX 535 used in the Intel GMA 500/600, which is infamous for the lousy driver support it had and lack of open source drivers that really made running linux on those systems hard.

        Though linux community project is working on open source drivers and think they should have something solid by the end of the third quarter of this year.  While Intel is taking an additional two months before releasing Cedar Trail in November to work on the official drivers.

        Early benchmarks on the N2800 do indicate GPU performance will be over twice the previous GMA 3150 though.  While unlike the Intel GMA’s the PowerVR chips support hardware acceleration and the normal full range of video types and not just MPEG-2.  So as long as they don’t mess up the drivers they should finally offer full HD video performance, along with making HDMI/Display Port option standard.

        We’ll just have to wait till November to know for sure…

        As for Touch, Windows 7 does have some touch features but like you pointed out it’s still grounded by optimization for keyboard and mouse.  But Next Gen systems can also look forward to Windows 8, which may finally provide a version of Windows that can work well with tablet only interface but still allow traditional Windows interface as well.  Though we’ll have to wait till the end of next year to see how well it really works.

        A side note on the fan-less design though, is that may only apply to the lower end Cedar Trail 1.66GHz N2600, with a max TDP of 3.5W that puts it close to Oak Trail’s 3W for what is usually expected for fan-less design.  The higher end 1.86GHz N2800 at 6.5W TDP may still generate too much heat to go fan-less, but MSI at least managed to squeeze one into a 10″ tablet design.

        1. One of the things I really like about my N455-based netbook is that everything works in Linux; the only things I had to tweak by hand to fix were the wireless driver (a simple download from Broadcom) and setting the screen brightness (there is a command line incantation that can do this).  This in a RHEL derivative, which will be supported with security updates until 2017. 

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