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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Skinny laptops & supercharged tablets

Laptops that are slim, lightweight and with ultimate performance
The Straits Times - June 8, 2011
By: Tan Chong Yaw
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Skinny laptops & supercharged tablets

Super-skinny laptops that do not compromise on performance. Tablets that are powered by quad-core chips, not dual cores. You may expect such products to hit the shelves before the end of the year.

These were some of the gadgetry unveiled at Computex, one of the world's largest IT fairs, in Taipei, Taiwan. The five-day annual show, which featured 1,800 exhibits, ended last Saturday.

Chipmaker Intel debuted a new line of thin laptops that it dubbed ultrabooks. They will be powered by its second-generation Intel Core processors, or Sandy Bridge chips.

Intel described the ultrabooks as as having the quickstart, lightweight qualities of tablets but with the performance of a full PC. Ultrabooks should have a longer battery life because they need less than half the power of current models. Aside from super-thin profiles, these devices will offer practical advantages such as being able to wake up from hibernation mode within five to six seconds.

A compelling feature will be the price tag. Intel said the target price is less than US$1,000 (S$1,230).

One example from computer maker Asus is its UX21 ultrabook, which will measure a mere 17mm at the thickest point of its aluminium alloy body. It is not just about looks, as the UX21 will have a full-sized keyboard for speedy typing, a smartphone-like touchpad and reinforced hinges for durability.

Tablets were also a big part of the show, with more than 50 new tablets unveiled at the show. Most were powered by Google's Android operating system.

An exception was the Iconia M500 from Acer. Its tablet, with a 10-inch screen, runs on MeeGo, an open-source Linux-based operating system jointly developed by Nokia and Intel. The M500 is powered by an Intel Atom Z670 CPU codenamed Oak Trail that is designed for tablets.

Acer will also launch its own ultrabook by the end of the year.

ViewSonic, known more for its computer monitors, released a 10-inch tablet, the ViewPad 10Pro, that lets you choose the operating system: Windows 7 or Android.

ViewSonic also unveiled probably the first 7-inch tablet that runs on Android Honeycomb, the ViewPad 7x. Honeycomb had been the preserve of larger screen tablets such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the LG Optimus Pad whose screens are 8.9 inches or larger.

Nvidia demonstrated its quad-core chip for tablets with the codename Kal-El, comic superhero Superman's birth name. It is the next generation of Nvidia's Tegra chip - the dual-core version is found in the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and Motorola Xoom - which boasts four processor cores with 12 graphics cores.

The graphics-card maker's demo of a game called Glowball (below) impressed not just for its dynamic lighting effects but for the fact that the demanding app ran smoothly on an Android Honeycomb tablet, not a laptop.

Asus' genre-blending Padfone also attracted attention. The 4.3-inch smartphone can be tucked into a dock that transforms it into a 10.1-inch tablet with extended battery life and stereo speakers. There is no hassle syncing two devices as they share the same engine.

On the software front, tech giant Microsoft gave sneak previews of its forthcoming operating system (OS) which bears an internal code name of - wait for it - Windows 8.

The new OS can scale from running a touch-only screen on a mobile device to a large screen, whether it is designed to be used with or without a keyboard and mouse.

In other words, it works for new devices that are touch-centric and equally well with the tried-and-tested keyboard and mouse.

A central feature is the use of a mosaic of tiles or mini-windows for multitasking. The tiles which house running apps can be easily resized and are updated automatically. Microsoft's aim for Windows 8 is to make the user experience, such as that of switching between apps, 'fast, fluid and dynamic'.

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