Notebook Predictions for 2008

By Darius Chang

In the mobile computing world, quad-core processing and chipset refreshes are almost as certain as death and taxes. Fortunately, 2008 looks set to be a more exciting year than simply watching specifications grow.

The upcoming CES will be a fertile ground for the latest breakthroughs in technology. However, many of the prototypes showcased may take years before hitting the retail market, assuming they are not vaporware. So keep an eye out for our extensive coverage of the event for laptops of the future. For now, check out our educated guesses at which areas in mobile computing are likely to make the most impact in the coming year.

UMPCs equal ultraportables in performance
The ASUS Eee PC did more for the UMPC cause than others did due to its ground-breaking price point. This will pave the way for more vendors entering this niche market with cheaper or more powerful products.

Though the original intent was for UMPCs to become companions for your primary computing device, this group of machines may soon hit the same performance bracket as full-fledge ultraportables. Already, models like the Gigabyte U60 and Packard Bell EasyNote XS20 are running at 1GHz clockspeed. With the combination of faster flash-based storage and improved graphics engines, the time may come when choosing between a UMPC and an ultraportable becomes a matter of screen size preference.

Design becomes as important as specifications
With Intel dominating the mobile CPU and chipset scene, there is really very little performance difference between getting a laptop from a premium vendor versus one from a budget manufacturer. So getting laptops based on specifications have become as useful as buying a car based on the number of tires.

2007 was a colorful year as various vendors like Dell and Sony decided to differentiate their products by offering a range of colors. HP went down another path and started a range of limited-edition models sporting unique HP Imprint designs. Yet another maker, Fujitsu, adopted a different approach by squeezing a 14.1-inch display into a 13.3-inch chassis. Who knows, perhaps soon your friendly sales assistant might have to start taking lessons on aesthetics rather than technology.

Mobile gaming hits new highs
While US gamers have been happily shooting and looting with insanely fast laptops holding dual graphics cards (GPU), Asian consumers have had to meddle around with single-GPU notebooks for far too long. Thanks to Dell, the XPS M1730 finally made its way to our shores and changed the way we think about mobile gaming.

From here on out, any laptop which claims to cater to the gaming crowd will certainly need to offer dual GPUs in order to be taken seriously. In fact, Nvidia has already announced that its new SLI configuration is compatible with three video cards. Though we doubt a tri-GPU portable will appear anytime this year, we can always hope.

More notebooks get the SSD treatment
Since the processor and graphics card of a laptop are decided at birth, the primary method of improving a notebook’s performance hardware-wise used to be by upgrading the memory. Not anymore. The rise of the solid state drive (SSD) offers another viable method to boost your machine speed.

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