Netbooks refreshed by new Atom chips

Dell and Fujitsu are the first to take up Intel’s latest Atom chips, announcing new netbooks with longer battery life.

Dell’s Inspiron Mini 10 is a refresh of earlier models. Though Dell hasn’t said how the size of this computer compares to its existing netbooks, it weighs 2.75 pounds pounds in its basic configuration, which includes a 3-cell battery, a 160 GB hard drive, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, wireless b/g and a 10.1-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution display. The Mini can be souped up with a 1366-by-768 display, an HDTV tuner, a 250 GB hard drive and a 6-cell battery, boosting the battery-life to 9.5 hours on a charge.

The Mini 10 goes on sale at the end of January, starting at $299, with a choice of Windows 7 Starter, Windows XP or Ubuntu.



Fujitsu’s offering is a bit pricier in its fixed configuration. At $449, the Lifebook MH380 weighs 2.97 pounds and lasts 7 hours on a charge. Otherwise, this netbook has everything Dell’s Mini offers in its fully-equipped version, plus wireless b/g/n. The operating system is Windows 7 Starter.

Both netbooks run on Intel’s new Atom N450 processors, previously code-named Pine Trail. They’ve got the same 1.66 GHz clock speed as existing Atom N280 processors, but they’re 60 percent smaller and 20 percent more energy efficient. Their graphics and memory controllers are also embedded directly into the CPU, making the processor more efficient overall. Intel has said these netbooks should have no trouble with 720p HD video, but still advises against graphically intensive work.

Nonetheless, manufacturers will try to boost the netbooks’ multimedia capabilities. The options for 1366-by-768 displays don’t surprise me in the least, and Dell plans to offer an optional Broadcom Crystal HD media accelerator for those who want 1080p playback.

Are these netbooks worth waiting for beyond the holidays? Maybe, but Dell and Fujitsu certainly won’t be the last to launch new netbooks in the next month or two.