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back to article 2012: The year that netbooks DIED

Netbooks – those compact, underpowered, inexpensive notebook PCs once hailed as the future of mobile computing – are set to disappear from retailer shelves in 2013, as the last remaining manufacturers of the devices prepare to exit the market. According to Taiwanese tech news site DigiTimes, Acer and Asus are the only two …

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Still using a 701

I have two of the original 701s and one of them is still in use as a fileserver on my home network. Most of the time it just sits there consuming very little power allowing the other machines in the house to drag files off the bank of external drives. It does an admiral job too.

Yes there are better options available but these cost nothing as a school I used to do work for gave me them along with a BBC Master which was about to be scrapped.

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Coat

Re: Still using a 701

From the deck of HMS Ramilies; I salute you sir!

I think you mean 'admirable'

Collects coat........

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Megaphone

This has to stop.

Laptops are called laptops, not notebooks. Notebooks are called notebooks - books you put notes in.

Also, while I'm on the subject, when was the last time you played a game on a video? Computers games are called computer games; only Telly Addicts and Knightmare (VHS) were 'videogames'.

Can we have some standards, please? We're not Americans.

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Re: This has to stop.

"Videogame" is a generic term for a game played on a "video device" (typically on a monitor). Arcade games were called Videogames even before the widespread adoption of VHS.

Whilst "Computer Games" sounds more appropriate in certain circumstances, it doesn't fit particularly well with Arcade/Console/handheld games. Nintendo went to great lengths to market the NES as an entertainment system, and not as a computer for example.

"We're not Americans" - In this instance it seems as if we are, if we insist on creating a new name for something just for the sake of it.

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Unhappy

Shame.

I like my asus eee 1000, the one with the 40GB SSD, first gen thingy. With an added 1GB of RAM.

Runs ubuntu 11.10 and windows xp dual boot fine, even plays things like homeworld & homeworld 2, the original C&C and diablo fine. And I can output via the VGA adaptor to a projector for meetings.

Runs office 2003 fine and has enough ooompf to watch films. I have since got the transformer prime but that just isn't a replacement, it needs the internet all the time and the apps are just not mature enough to replace office with multi tasking etc.

I might have to buy a replacement when the last prices start to appear.

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My netbook by Asus never agreed to become extinct

Some times when you're on the go and need a key board the notebooks are just to large for it. Then the tablets don't have the key board you need. Best thing that ever happened in computing was a way to have my notebook functions and software in a package that isn't a clumsy in the way size. I mourn the fact I may not be able to get another netbook. These things rock!

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Re: My netbook by Asus never agreed to become extinct

You know, reading through this thread a thought occurs to me.

As many have said, netbooks are ideal for use when traveling, small and light I find mine ideal to use in an aircraft. As I invariably travel cattle class I wonder how those people talking about using their 15" or 17" laptops get on. They must be traveling business or first class, 'cos when I wedge myself onto the shelf the airline laughing calls a "seat" there is not much room to exhale let alone open up a 17" laptop. Unless that is they have a high aspect ration machine with a very wide screen, but then surely that would get in the way of the person sitting next to them.

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I've always been a fan of the small form factor laptop, and my current Netbook has served me well in this niche - I bought it before Ultrabooks existed, and it gives me a small machine I can do image editing on in the field. It's obviously a bit slow, but it has a screen capable of running the software I need, a processor that's just about quick enough, and I've replaced the HD and maxed out the RAM at a massive 2GB - but it works. Will I miss the Netbook format? No, the Ultrabook was always closer to what I wanted.

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Price

There's a lot you can do with a netbook and it makes a handy tool or portable notebook (for certain uses). I appreciate mine for what it can do but have no illusions about its capabilities : it is not a small notebook, but a limited notebook.

Given their limitations, netbooks should have declined in price to between £100 and £150, but they are still generally being pushed at the £200+ level, so inevitably their sales have declined as notebooks have come down in price.

Shame, really, but I'll be keeping an eye out for a replacement if the prices do drop as they should.

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Re: Price

You get an upvote for that. For me the compelling thing about Netbooks is that they can be treated almost as disposable and hence go to places and situations you wouldn't dream of taking an expensive Ultrabook or Macbook Air (particularly if we're talking of your own kit bought out of your own budget) - as an exampe I was always perfectly sanguine about chucking an Asus Eee in the tankbag of a motorcycle (and leaving it there as I refuelled either the bike or myself) and perfectly at ease with paying for replacement if it got nicked or fell out under a bus (don't laugh, this actually happened to me!).

If something's small and light enough for me to take anywhere and use everywhere then that's what I want to do with it, this carries a risk potential that (for me at least) doesn't sit comfortably with the price tags on the current crop of Ultrabooks and tablets (I'm posting this from an iPad by the way), particularly inexpensive tablets, don't offer the functionality I get from a Netbook with it's (albeit cramped) physical keyboard and range of standard applications...

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Linux

surely?

Somehow the prices managed to go up I think. My Eee cost around £135 from memory and used it for many years. £200+ was ridiculous. I think that was to pay the Windows tax plus the higher specs Windows needed. If only the Linux distros they shipped with hadnt been so bad, as most people do not know how to install Ubuntu or whatever to make them work.

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re: premium Ultrabooks, the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbons are 1600x900 in 14",

there are Acer Aspire S7 11.6" models with full 1920x1080 HD video. Samsung and Asus have similar ultrabooks.

these start around $1100 and up.

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Anonymous Coward

11.6? Too big.

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Having a work-issued 11.6in ; I'll second that (from my 10in 2140)

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Size

I am also one of the people who finds a netbook the perfect size for trouble shooting.

When someone shows me an ultrabook or laptop that I can put in my handbag, I'll replace it.

I don't want to carry 2 bags, and my aspire1 and it's PSU both fit in with all my normal handbag stuff. If I need more power I'll carry my L and SL series thinkpads, but it's always a size/weight issue, the netbook travels with me all the time.

Tablets don't have any apeal for me. I haven't seen one that fills my requirements (ethernet, rs-232, keyboard, etc..)

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Useful

Netbook for me is used when I go on holiday and don't want to take an expensive device with features I don't need. I use it to dump digi photos on to from the SLR and then pop it back in the hotel room safe. Maybe check the email once in a while. I'm sure it will be used in this way until it pops.

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Anonymous Coward

Netbooks are proper computers, tablets are not.

True, netbooks had slow CPUs, but they were small and light enough to fit in a narrow Deuter sport back pack, and I upgraded mine with a 320GB 2.5" hard disks, and 2GB RAM, so it can still do a lot more than any tablet currently can, and I still use it occasionally to drive external monitors.

I had a full development environment, a database server, and VirtualBox running on my netbook two years ago, for work outside; try doing that on a tablet, even now! Yes, I have Android tablets too, but only for instant on consumption use.

Ultrabooks have always been grossly overpriced, and most laptops are still way too heavy and bulky for transport, and where I need more power, I always want a much more powerful desktop machine with multiple proper screens, and a decent keyboard and mouse, which a laptop is frankly useless for, unless you spend stupid money for one!

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Paris Hilton

That "Microsoft" experience was so dreadful that it has now killed the entire Netbook market.

Yep, what will it do to Nokia..."Sendo" off the planet?

Still got my 2 Asus eee701's, still damn useful. Not powerful, but useable.

(Pity we don't have a girl-on-the-beach icon. This'll have to do..)

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Pint

Re: That "Microsoft" experience was so dreadful that it has now killed the entire Netbook market.

Like it!

Neat 'Sendo' reference there [for anyonw lost - just Google 'sendo microsoft mobile phone' and watch the muck fall into place.

Yes MS did 'do' for the netbook - they trashed the whole 10in lightweight laptop idea [by leaning on the OEMs] while they tried to kill WinXP and put us all on Vista.

Those of us who 'got' the netbook ethos will mourn their disappearence [but eBay will probably be a great supply for years]

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Linux

Re: Netbooks were popular when they had Linux on them

I for one will never forgive MS for that.

And the rest.

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Re: Netbooks were popular when they had Linux on them

The thing that killed it was the spec staying still for 5 years. 1024x600, 1GB RAM! I agree it's a shame that Linux netbooks disappeared, though I find my Windows netbook fine. The experience is only poor compared to more powerful laptops, but tablet are less powerful too.

The experience would have also been far better if they hadn't stuck the specs at 2007 level - e.g., 2GB RAM makes Windows run much better (even phones have this now), or higher resolution (again, phones are fine for this).

As for Apple - *snort* - all those markets existed for years before Apple joined the market late. The ipad is a larger smartphone, not a new market (or is the first 7" or 11" tablet also a new market then?) This is The Register, not for people who think Apple invented phones (the first iphone wasn't even a smartphone - couldn't run apps). Not to mention that Apple are competely irrelevant, as their only ultra-portable laptop is way more expensive.

The "desktop" is a mature market - I don't see Apple taking it in any new directions either. Yeah, MS are really killing it with their 90% market share. Do you have a source for your last paragraph? The evidence doesn't support it - sorry, I live Linux and run it on my Clevo dual boot, but I actively chose Windows for my netbook.

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EeePC901 all the way

Just because M$ forced the manf's to uderspec them, people lost interest; but open the case, max out the RAM and slap in a decent SSD, and they become good little machines. There are even on-line plans showing how to fit a 3G card internally.

My 901 has 2Gb Ram, a 64Gb Patriot SSD and runs the full XP Pro package loaded with EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM my desktop runs; sure it wont run modern 3D games (and it isnt keen on .mkv files), but it does everything else - including running as an eReader and mp3 player for the 10 hour coach ride from Guangzhou to Nanning.

Getting back to the UK after more than 6 months in China, I didnt get around to switching on my desktop until nearly a month later, when I needed some old email contact details.

Cold boot to working environment is 35 seconds, the same as a friends new "top of the line" Alienware (which can run for as long as an hour on batteries!!)

Asus lost the plot when they followed the others up the size ladder, the 901 is the IDEAL size, small enough for a largish coat pocket, but with a usably sized keyboard and screen, although a slightly higher rez would have been nice.

(Where is the "Prise my 901 from my cold, dead, hands" icon??)

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real shame

I need to replace my netbook and I was holding out for another one to emerge with a retina style display rather than the 1024x600 they all seem to come with. I don't understand how they could put that screen in a tablet but not a laptop. I figure it must be a real battery killer and that plus Intel wouldn't give you more than 45 minutes on battery...

Ah well. Now I need to find a laptop with a respectable resolution that will run a Linux distro. Everyone I look at seems to be x768 though which is pathetic.

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FAIL

Good luck...

Good luck getting that ultra-book into the hotel room safe when you go on holiday.

(I have a netbook solely for this reason, I travel abroad 4 times a year)

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Anonymous Coward

not forgetting the VIA options

The VIA based netbooks didn't have Intel's artificial screen resolution limitations - I'm still happily using an HP 2133 which has a 9" 1280x800 display and a pretty decent keyboard. Just not a very mobile netbook, due to appallingly short battery life.

The Samsung NC20 used a later VIA processor which is competitive with Atoms in performance, and had a 12" 1280x800 display... and about 4-5 hours battery. But sadly was not sold at typical netbook prices!

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Re: not forgetting the VIA options

Buy an extended battery for it - I did for mine and it really was worth it [you can still get them via eBay and some replacement battery suppliers]

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Too simplistic

the wife and I have had several Dell and Samsung netbooks but now I have an AMD-driven HP Pavilion dm1 and she a Chromebook 3 as our second/travel machines. Neither is technically a netbook but both have 11.6inch screens, no optical drive and cost £290/£220 respectively so really they occupy the same market nich . The "netbook" is only dead if you are restricting the term to 10.1 inch 1024 x 600 Atom powered mini-laptops.

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There is a pretty good netbook made by HP with an i3 processor afaik it is still made.

Ultrabooks still look flimsy as hell. (Maybe there is a Toughbook one ?).

No reason that decent netbooks couldn't be made using AMD Fusion (Or the next in the range of Bobcat etc).

Problem with Netbooks is they won't give you enough vertical pixels. (Or even horizontal).

1650x1050 would probably be ok. 2G RAM. SSD.

If you are the only one in a market you should be able to do pretty well.

(I don't want another tablet or an ultrabook).

They all seem to be set in such a way that for what I want I have to pay a fortune for things that until relatively recently were standard features.

I am looking for a replacement for my IBM Thinkpad X31 but I want similar build quality and a Matte screen. Not bothered about weight (As long as it is the same or less) or thinness. I have had this for at least 5 years (Maybe a little longer) years and it is just about starting to need replacing. (I don't put any effort into taking care of it never have). Not many choices for someone like me. (Might just get a second hand semi rugged Toughbook).

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Angel

Not bothered

"... about weight (As long as it is the same or less) or thinness."

So you're looking for a regular laptop then?

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Linux

Mini 9 - one of the best netbooks

I picked up a brand new Dell Mini 9 - with Ubuntu pre-installed no less - for 149 quid a few years ago (not long after their launch in fact). Wireless, wired, touchpad , 3 USB ports (external keyboard and mouse therefore should I want to), VGA, reasonable keyboard, runs any Intel OS (I've ended up with Fedora and Windows dual booting on it) for a pretty cheap price.

Of course, I upped the RAM and swapped out the SSD for a bigger/faster one over time to give it longevity, but it served me well and was probably the best portable device I'd bought over the years. Nowadays, I'm on a Nexus 7 which is great as a media/entertainment device, but nowhere near as productive as the Mini 9 was.

The closest you get to a Mini 9 nowadays are the Transformer series, but they are much more expensive and come with Android as default, which isn't really conducive for productivity/development work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mini 9 - one of the best netbooks

I'll second that - add fan-less and silent to the attributes too, but with the qualification that the Mini-9 with the built in 2G/3G modem was even more useful. Battery life is not as good as contemporary netbooks, but nothing else was at the time, so I carried a spare battery if anticipated use required it.

Mine is still working, and it became more useful as memory prices dropped - 2GB RAM, and bigger 32GB SSD fitted first.

What has happened since the Mini-9 was first sold is that the 32GB SDHC card that now sits permanently in the slot as an extra drive, and the 32GB Sandisk Cruzer Fit 'buttton' USB that is semi-permanently in one of the USB slots extended the storage to 96GB, as much as I ever needed. The point being that at the time the Mini-9 was first sold both these 32GB storage options would have each cost more than the Mini-9. So I also endorse the point others have made, that the Microsoft specification limitations effectively killed the netbook, probably in cahoots with Intel who paid OEMs to limit use of AMD netbook processors/chip-sets/SOCs.

Much as I love the Mini-9 the WiFi b/g and single core processor is only just up to IPTV, and earlier articles about the imminent demise of the netbook, prompted me to look for a dual-core replacement, before the latest ones were likely only available supplied with Wndows-8. Closest was the Asus Eee PC X101CH, fanless, matt-screen, and required Wifi b/g/n, but couldn't find one with 2GB RAM, and the 1GB is soldered to the MB without a SO-DIMM socket. Settled for a MSI-U180 in the end which can be upgraded to 2GB RAM.

Which prompts the thought why don't the OEMs make the netbooks we want - nearest thing to a modern netbook specification seems to me to be an HP-dm1, that I upgraded to 8GB RAM. It cost extra because it came with 64-bit Windows-7 Home Premium, but with an 11.6" screen it's not the portable size of a Mini-9. Mine's the one with an AMD-E450, same as the 11.6" MacBook-Air, but half the price.

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Only one advantage?

What bollocks. Netbooks had price, weight and, most importantly, battery life.

Price was the least of it's advantages. The cheap Shitty end of the laptop compuetrs was with £130 of, say, an eee901 so hardly a huge leap if you are just buying one.

No, the true advantage came with the 1 kg weight (compare to crippling 3.5 KGs for your £350 laptop) and the battery life measure in hours rather than minutes for a laptop. A 90 min battery life is not a f'ing 'portable'. A battery life of 6 hours (now 9 is typical in a netbook) is.

And given that I did python and flex development in Eclipse on my 901 I fail to see how they were underpowered. The thing that killed the netbook was the release of the iPad causing all the manufacturers to pull their (often very advanced) plans for ARM netbooks. Hacking another £60-£100 off the price of a netbook would have been huge.

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WTF?

I'll be buying another eventually

Will buy another netbook when my current 4 year old one dies. Looks like it may have to be from bargain bins or an ADM 450 based 11 incher. My aged MSI Wind still gets used regularly. Perfect for holidays / travel. Has Chrome,has a matte non-dirty screen, plays movies fine and has a keyboard /mouse so is actually useful too rather than a stupid swish-swish-swish-screened toy.

Ironically it was the only device I considered upgrading to Win8, seeing as it is one application at a time on that size screen anyway. The upgrade advisor software said screen res too low.

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Unhappy

Cattle Class

I hadn't noticed the width of cattle class seats (trains or planes) getting wider. My netbook fitted nicely on the tray tables found in cattle class. My old school 15 inch laptop was a total failure for that. I shall mourn the passing of these little wonders.

Let's hop someone takes a leaf out of the Raspberry Pi (and similar), ups the RAM, adds a screen and keyboard. I'll happily run Linux on ARM.

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Linux

Re: Cattle Class

Thats a Chromebook then? You can wipe ChromeOS and install a normal ARM Linux distro. Although not sure exactly what size they are maybe they are too big for this as I have no yet seen one...

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FAIL

Re: Ultrabooks have already failed

Well they are conceived by people with no idea for people who don't care what they get.

Seriously, there are people who want beautiful toys, and there are people who want tools. Those who want toys want status symbols. They don't care about technical details, they want a brand.

And "Ultrabooks" were neither interesting for the people who want tools, neither for those who want toys. They are not good enough technically with low resolution displays and tiny batteries. (seriously 720 pixel height on a >12" display?)

Those people who care about the thickness want some charismatic figure creating a strong brand, but Intel hasn't managed to do that.

And then again, used Thinkpads are cheap and of high quality, so the tolerance for less than perfect laptops is pretty low at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't forget Hackintoshes

I've got a couple of Dell's (9" and 10") which I bought specifically because they could be easily used to run OSX on them (including install from a standard OSX installation DVD).

At the time, Apple didn't have anything in the form factor I wanted (the closest was the original MacBook Air).

Stopped using them since I got a MacBook Air 11" - which I guess confirms the point about ultrabooks killing off netbooks (in an OSX kind of way).

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HBT

Well there's a surprise

More proof (along with the screen sizes fiasco) that the PC industry has completely forgotten how to serve its customers with products they want.

Give me a better version of my HP Mini netbook (eg. back-lit keyboard, better screen, HDMI out, faster/cooler CPU) and I'll buy it..

Give me an ultrabookish notebook with a proper hi res screen, and I'll buy it.

What, you can't? Not buying anything then.

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Linux

Re: Well there's a surprise

More likely you've got a split between n00bs and power users and both are cost conscious once you get beyond Apple users. Both netbooks and ultrabooks fail to compete against tablets on the lowend and more powerful laptops on the high end.

PC users probably aren't interested in the expensive shiny shiny that an ultrabook represents.

It's almost like PC users remain PC users because they aren't interested in the options Apple offers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well there's a surprise

@Jedidiah:

PC users probably aren't interested in the expensive shiny shiny that Apple offers.

There, fixed that for you.

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They should have gone further

I mean Netbooks seemed interesting as they were small, yet had a proper keyboard. However today you can get second hand X-Series Thinkpads for about the same amount of money, and those will even include UMTS modules for mobile Internet. Netbooks were just simply small portable unixoid workstations.

I estimate that the ideal point would have been somewhere near the Nokia Communicator. A device with a screen at least 640-800 pixels wide (so you won't have to scroll horizontally) and a keyboard.

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I still have my Samsung NC10 running Windows 7, does the job perfectly. Granted, it is not used half as much now that I have an iPad, but I still use it for Office and use TeamViewer to remote into my desktop media centre for maintenance tasks. Touch screens still don't quite have the right control over keyboard and mouse OS's

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My take on netbooks

The intel atom is not a bad processor, and can run windows quite happily. Hell my parents computer runs an intel atom board (the 2nd version) with 1 gig of ram(it makes the last gen of netbooks look extremely powerful) and for what they need the PC for it works great, They never once complained about the speed of this one, but they complained all the time about the old board that fried as the comp had all that background junk installed that comes pre-installed(and the old board was a P4 2.5ghz on top of it)

Also have a Dell 10something sitting here from my sister, as she got fed up with the hard drive cable falling out every 1-2 weeks(seriously why didn't they secure it in) which is the only reason she replaced it. She complained about how slow it was the day she got it as it had so many background trial applications running it wasn't funny. After I re-installed windows clean she never complained about speed.

I don't see it as it was much of an issue with the processors speed with windows that caused its death. The issue as I see it was from the manufacturers had 4-10 programs running in the background that make the newest of processors run like shit on a processor not meant for it. So pretty much they destroyed the line themselves because lets face it the standard person doesn't know to uninstall everything that is running on a new PC to make it not preform like shit.

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Old I Are

Perhaps it is just an age thing.

But to me Netbooks and Ultrabooks are just odd names for Laptops.

Back in the day we could save money by getting Cheap underpowered Laptops, or big expensive gaming Laptops. Then someone decided to give those products specific names. Some Laptops are better than "Ultrabooks" and some "Netbooks" are better than Laptops. I think it was all just a marketing ploy. Now that they sold enough "Netbooks" they tell the world they are out of style and users now need to buy "Ultrabooks" instead.

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Unhappy

BAH! i love netbooks :(

8" is perfectly fine for ultra-mobile computing, preferably with a 768 verticle res. with an SSD and a good CPU you can do most things on it (anyone who expects to game on a netbook is a bit naive). i use an 11" dell for DJing and really, really wanted to move to 8", but now the arse has fallen out of the market, i'm stuck! i don't want to go to 15" just to DJ, great big hunking things they are! 8" was perfect :(

i think they will come back at some point. let's hope so.

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Happy

Just want to add that my '901 is doing fine in an industrial environment. I run a very minimal debian on it which impresses our customers (no bad thing).

The only problem I'm starting to get now is that it occasionally goes into 'supermarket' mode and gives me two letters for the press of one <- see what I did there?

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Still in use

I still use my Aspire One machines. Until recently, one of them was even my main Linux dev machine, albeit using a WinXP and then Win7 machine running Cygwin to provide a more usable daily environment. Until recently they were running Mint 9 LXDE, now they're running Mint 13 XFCE.

With a few mods (max RAM expansion, internal Bluetooth, larger SSD and a 9-cell battery), it's still a reasonable machine for on the go, and indeed has been places I wouldn't want to take its larger brethren.

Certainly not bad for machines that are four years old. A shame if the form factor is disappearing, I still prefer the netbook to a tablet.

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Anonymous Coward

Semantics

So the original "netbooks" were small, affordable devices running, at first, Linux and then Windows.

And now five years on we still have small, portable devices running a sort-of variant of Linux (Android) and Windows, except now we call them tablets/convertibles.

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