CES Roundup: ARM, Netbooks, Tablets

Even though CES hasn’t even officially started yet, the gadget news is already coming in at a very steady stream. We can’t report on all of them, obviously, but we can make a selection of the most interesting ones we’ve seen so far.

Yes, it seems as if the Asus Eee keyboard thing has now been given an official launch date and price, after many, many delays. The specifications are mostly bog-standard netbook territory, with the Intel Atom N270 (1.6Ghz), 1GB of RAM (not easily upgradable), 16GB SSD, and a battery that lasts for four hours. It comes with a standard set of ports, and a wireless HDMI connection. The additional mini-display supports multitouch, can act as a trackpad, and can run widgets (mobile applications, more or less). On sale from February for USD 499 and USD 599.

At CES, ARM showed off a development board containing a Cortex-A9 dual-core processor running at 500Mhz. They showed it running side-by-side with an Atom netbook, while doing some browsing. Performance was comparable, which is all the more impressive considering the Atom runs at 1.6Ghz (compared to 500Mhz), and considering the ARM board didn’t have a graphics accelerator (while the netbook does).

Speaking of ARM, a few companies showed off some ARM-powered netbooks (smartbooks) at CES. Lenovo brought its Skylight along (hands-on), a rather odd-looking smartbook which it will start shipping in April for 499 USD. It uses a Snapdragon 1Ghz ARM processor, has a 10.1″ 1280×720 display, and sports 10 hours of battery life. It runs a customised version of Linux.

Related to the Skylight is Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1, a Snapdragon-powered tablet which you can dock in a laptop-like clamshell. The actual tablet has more or less the same specifications as the Skylight, but the clamshell sports a regular x86 CULV processor. When “docked”, it runs Windows 7, and when you undock the tablet from the clamshell, it switches automatically to a customised Linux install which runs on the tablet itself. No information yet on availability.

Marvell also introduced a smartbook, one so thin you could cut yourself with it. With a price tag of only 200USD, and running Ubuntu Linux and capable of doing 720p video, this is a pretty slick machine. Sadly, they’re not selling it directly, but rather they are looking for someone else to brand and ship it. Design-wise, they definitely drew inspiration from Dell’s Adamo (good!).

The last gadget (if you can call it that) I’d like to highlight is a laptop Asus co-designed with Bang & Olufsen, which is probably one of the most beautiful (and ridiculous) laptops I have ever seen. The Asus NX90Jq has a rather odd design, with two touchpads located left and right of the keyboard. Sadly, they’re not multitouch, so you can only use one at a time. It’s ridiculously powerful, too: Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 334M graphics chip, up to 1280GB of storage (dual drives), a slot-in Blu-ray drive, and USB 3.0. It will set you back a hefty 2500 USD.

For the rest, CES is packed with netbooks in all shapes and sizes, some regular laptops and desktops, and a number of pocket projectors. You can head over to your favourite gadget blog to follow the news.

Tonight (PST, sadly, so I’ll be fast asleep) Steve Ballmer will hold his CES keynote speech, and it is rumoured that he will unveil a Microsoft tablet (made together with HP), perhaps an evolution of the Courier concept “leaked” from the company (video). If it indeed is anything like the Courier (and not yet another butt-ugly convertible tablet with Windows-regular), then they might actually make an impact. Stay tuned.


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