Will Netbooks Become Obsolete Courtesy of Intel’s CULV Platform?



Image Credit: LAPTOP Magazine

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?



There may be a few broad type of people who buy netbooks:

a) people like Kevin and the netbook owners here who need a secondary computing device for light tasks and truly value the Price-Performance-Portability balance that netbooks provide. These are “pure” netbook users.

b) the price sensitive customer who doesn’t really need the Portability and can make do with the low Performance.

c) the user who skews less on portability than type A, but actually needs to carry a laptop around a lot. With a bigger budget they’d be looking at a Thinkpad T or X series. This might not be their only computer, but its their *only* laptop.

The Acer Aspire 1410 will lure type B and C away from netbooks. A bigger screen is actually a plus for them and better performance and maybe an optical drive are nice bonuses. And in that light, netbooks in their current avatar might stop being the best-selling item that they are and become a niche product that will nevertheless figure in every manufacturer’s lineup.

Roy @ OKC

Another netbook user who purchased for size, not speed.

I paid more for my Asus 901 last year than some budget laptops cost, especially after upping the RAM and purchasing an external DVD drive.

I wanted something that was small and light and had good battery life, primarily for travel purposes, and it mostly fits my needs.

However, I see no compelling reason to purchase another. The only feature available now that I didn’t have an option for is a hard drive (versus 20G SSD total). However, a faster CPU and higher resolution 9″ or 10″ display without reducing battery life would surely entice me towards a new system.

I also agree with Hal’s comment about matte versus glossy screen. I will not buy a glossy screen anything (laptop, monitor, TV, etc.), as I find the reflections severely distracting.



The Acer is only a bit bigger than a 10″ netbook so perfect for me. However, I’m waiting till Acer and the others understand two things:

1. One of the benefits of the netbooks like the Samsung NC-10 is the matte screen! A small, portable computer is also for using outside the house and you don’t want to look at a mirror. I’ve used the NC-10 in direct sunshine often. When turned up on max it was usable. No way I would be able to do that on a glare screen.

2. Why let the atom run away with the best graphics? Why force customers to choose between min. decent graphics (ion) and a powerful enough cpu (culv)? We want both!

Until Acer & Co. figures (especially #1) out, they don’t get my money! I would gladly pay extra for a matte screen. Why not at least make it an option? And $50-100 on the price and make a dual core culv, ion + matte screen and I would run to the store.


Just to prove my point: The Acer netbook was quite a bit less than the Samsung NC-10 when I was buying a netbook but I paid extra only to get the matte screen…
Now unfortunately Samsung is also starting on the mirror-nonsense like the rest :-(
Yes, the mirror might look better in the store but for second+ time buyers, a lot of us want that matte screen!


I was wondering when I’d finally find a discussion about CULVs and weak graphics. Every CULV notebook I’ve seen has Intel 4500 graphics–are any paired with Ion yet? (While I’m at it, count me in with the portability advocates: I think 9″ and 10″ CULV systems–with Ion!–would be interesting.)


I tend to look at conflict of interest when it comes to stories. See the “laptop magazine” source? That should say enough. But just to make it clear, anyone with interests (websites, income) related to laptops, should be very fearful, and likely have been losing a lot of sleep over the devaluation of their “laptop” word. It has been becoming more like fools gold. You may have built your empire on laptop, but when netbook shows up and you are on the outside, you bet you hope that something changes. So, if you can get past bias, and wishful thinking of the source of the article, then perhaps you will take the arguements for what they are. No different than the head of Dell talking (wishfully I might ad) that people want their big screens back. Hmm. Better to sell laptops with higher profit margins that netbooks. Convince the public that laptop or notebook is better, and they will be happier. If the source of this post wasn’t so bias, I wouldn’t use the paper for the bottom of my bird cage.


I should also add, who is to say that this Acer isn’t actually a netbook? I mean, depending on the source, people would call it a netbook. Take an 11 inch or even 12 incher out in public, and wouldn’t people say hey, nice netbook! I guess the point I’m making is, does the CULV make it a laptop? Face it, it’s a big gray area right now on definition. Perhaps you could convince me what make this NOT a netbook rather than what makes this a LAPTOP instead. Kind of a silly take on the situation, but my that’s my opinion. I bet 75% of the sites and people are calling it a netbook.

Price? It really all comes down to graphics and gaming as the game breaker. ION with Atom likely (don’t forget about ION 2) would completely trash any CULV at the same price point. So, the real war and winner will come down to graphical capabilities. Don’t forget, I’ve seen the Acer netbook for $0, when you sign up for a wireless plan. Add Chrome OS and Android netbooks coming, which will keep the cost spread even greater. I could go on, but I will stop.

Remember folks, the source of this article is full of wishful thinking. People lose sleep when their empire is losing ground. When it comes to the internet, a word losing value can be very costly.


I don’t know if you bothered to read anything by laptop magazine, but they review plenty of netbooks, review them promptly, and generally give seemingly fair reviews (one of which was partly the reason I bought what I’m typing on, an MSI Wind)

Laptop magazine reviews general portable technology, including netbooks, and the supposed “devaluing” of the word “laptop,” which I think “netbook” just defines a subset of, would have nothing to do with their article.

I agree with your comment that “netbook” is a word with an ambiguous definition, as I was thinking of getting an acer 1410 telling myself “it’s just a netbook that’s almost as powerful as a regular laptop”, but I really don’t think there exists a conspiracy theory like you think it does, aside from the policy of writing intentionally provocative stories, which I think is unfortunately common to journalism.

I think you make a good point about graphics, but personally I would prefer the additional processing power, and its better multitasking, than the ability to play a game on the go; I’m a programmer and writer, and my programming and writing friends would, I think, agree with me

Seriously though, man, don’t brew so much kool-aid, it’s no better than drinking someone else’s


Price was never the factor for me with netbooks. It’s all about size and portability.

I don’t care how cheap an 11 or 12 inch laptop is. It can’t fit in my shoulder bag.

Netbooks are the perfect size for my mobile needs. I have a perfectly good desktop and 12″ lenovo laptop for work when I’m not on the move.


I think that the CULV will take over very little if any of the netbook market. People keep forgetting that one of the main reasons people buy netbooks is their extreme portability. If there were 12″ laptop with 10 times the power at half the price, I would still prefer a 9″ netbook.

So at the very most, the CULV will only help make more powerful netbooks down the road. Which, quite honestly, is exactly what I’m hoping for.


I think the atom-based netbook has more to fear from the arm-based smartbook than the culv-based almost netbook. The culv chip is designed to improve performance and margins. The smartbooks are even more portable and power efficient than the atoms. Also the lack of MS & Intel restrictions and costs means they *could* be cheaper too.


CULV or Atom won’t make much of a difference to me when Intel still keeps pairing both of them with poor-performing GPU options. Whether Pinetrail break this trend or not is still yet to see, but there again, Pinetrail has been purposely “delayed” by Intel.

I’ve had many problems with Adobe in the past, but mainly due to their poor coding of software, resource-hungry requirements and lack of backward compatibility. While I use WMV to run 720p/1080p, browser based flash has failed on many devices I’ve had, be it smartphone, netbook or notebook. I would seriously like to kick those people at Adobe in the rear for what they have done with flash – their stubborn refusal to make it more hardware (and consumer) friendly exemplifies the work of a horrendous software company.

Rant aside, and back to the notebook, it would definitely be of better value. But why cram it into just an 11 inch form-factor? Perhaps if CULV’s made it into smaller netbook-sized bodies such as 10″, it would seriously give netbooks true competition. At 11″, netbooks have nothing to fear if you ask me.

I also don’t like the keyboard layout on the Acer – HP’s mini and the Toshiba NB205 have much nicer keyboards on a smaller footprint. I like to have my inverted-T “isolated” cursor keys! :)

Netbook Downloads

Nothing is going to happen to netbooks primary because for a 2 reasons.

1. It is small compared to any other Laptops.
2. When the new CULVs are going to be out, I am sure the Netbook pricing will get even lower or Intel will come out with some new processor for Netbooks which will fill up the deficit.


If the price is right. :)

For now, I have a upper limit of $500 for a notebook or a desktop (without monitor).

Also, CULVs are paired with Intel integrated GPUs, and those GPUs can’t compete with nVidia GeForce 9400M (a.k.a., ION), and there are quite a few “netbooks” with 9400M, which perform better on HD videos.


IMO, CULV is a better overall VALUE than netbooks.

That said, I paid $250, brand new for your bog-standard 1.6 GHz N270, 945GSE, 1 GiB RAM, 160 GB HDD, 1024×600 display, XP Home netbook. (Granted, it was because Wal-Mart was blowing them out to make room for Win7 Starter models, and it would’ve been $300 otherwise, but still.)

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