I’ve mentioned the Intel CULV, or Consumer Ultra Low Voltage, platform several times this year. That’s the product that will help bridge the gap between underpowered netbooks and powerful, but less portable, notebooks. Mark Spoonauer offers up an insightful observation over the LAPTOP Magazine blog on this space. He notes that a $399 Acer Aspire 1410 configuration compares more than favorably against some of the top-rated netbooks in the same price range. In fact, two out of the three netbooks — Toshiba’s NB205 and HP’s Mini 311 — cost more and offer less on a spec and feature basis. Only the Asus Eee PC 1008HA cost less than the full-figured Acer in this comparison, and not by much
So here you have a more powerful notebook at roughly a netbook price. The Aspire 1410 and its 1.2 GHz Intel SU2300 beats the pants off the netbooks when it comes to benchmarking performance. It also comes with 2 GB of RAM, an 11.6″ display capable of 1366 x 768 resolution and weighs 3.2 pounds, which is about the same weight as my Toshiba netbook. Extra power generally comes at a hit to battery life, but the Aspire 1410 tested to run for over six hours. Oh and the version of Windows 7 it comes with is Home Premium, not Starter Edition.
At the end of the day, Mark makes a compelling argument for this sector to start displacing netbooks. The product gains performance, offers more screen real estate yet is still easy to tote around and offers solid battery life. While we’re expecting the Intel PineTrail Atom devices within the next month or two, I think Mark’s final point is accurate: “[i]f you can nab a fully capable ultraportable for less than 400 bucks, I think traditional netbook prices will have to sink even further if the category is going to stick around.” I suspect the category will stick around because tens of millions have proven they want and can use a device in the 10″ display range. And some won’t want to give up the 8 or 9 hour battery life they see on a netbook — as good as the Aspire’s runtime is, some netbooks can still run for 40% longer, if not more. Thoughts?