I had a few things to say about Patrick Moorhead’s comments on the impotency of netbooks last fall, and I thought that would be that. But Mr. Moorhead obviously didn’t agree and served up another classic on his ‘blog’ in an article entitledÂ ‘The Magical AMD Yukon-based HP Pavilion dv2 Ultrathin Notebook‘. Taken in context with his article I spoke about a few months ago, it clearly shows Pat’s care for the consumer, something he tries so hard to portray, is in reality next to nothing, instead pushing his company’s products at every opportunity.
When HP first presented the dv2, I thought, Wow, finally something cheap and useful like the Dell Mini 12, but less ugly. The new AMD Yukon platform even sounded decent, although watching high definition content isn’t anywhere near the top of my list of priorities when it comes to a cheap mobile computer. Unfortunately, after digging deeper, the whole package (at least in HP’s initial implementation) is severely lacking.
Power consumption is a big deal. As my mentality towards computers changed more and more towards being a tool as opposed to a hobby, I’ve placed more emphasis on portability and autonomy. Under light load, web browsing/word processing, I can get almost 4 hours of battery life with the 6 cell in my Dell XPS M1330 (with a discrete NVIDIA GPU). Meanwhile, the dv2 is rumoured to provide over 3 hours of autonomy with the integrated graphics option. Not impressive at all, given the lack of an optical drive, a much lower performance processor, smaller display, and no discrete graphics in this option.
Netbooks may have limited use cases, but with a 6 cell battery, they’ll almost universally allow 5 hours+ of productivity work before requiring a recharge. If the dv2 is intended to be extremely portable, it simply needs better battery life.
There’s a very legitimate reason why most netbook displays have been in the 8.9″ to 10″ range. Much beyond that and you run into full-sized notebook territory. Furthermore, the HP dv2’s 12″ display is surrounded by an absolutely giant bezel, pushing the overall footprint of the notebook to 11.5″ x 9.5″, which is only 1″ narrower than my XPS M1330. In terms of portability, absolutely nothing is gained by dropping down to less than half the performance of just about any regular dual core 13.3″ laptop. Even weight is only down by 0.5lb, nearly negligible in the overall scheme of things. Plus, you’re losing the optical drive.
Although AMD is showing higher performance for its Neo processor than Atom, that only means it’s only faster than slow. Tech Report did some tests on an Atom, Nano and Pentium M processor a while ago, and results showed the Pentium M 760 to be at least twice as fast as a 1.6GHz Atom overall. Expect the Neo processor in the Yukon platform to be at most as fast as the single core Pentium M.
In the end, dropping down 1″ in width and 0.5lbs for the dv2 nets you a dramatic drop in performance (and an optical bay) from a regular 13.3″ laptop. Perhaps the only thing that could save it at this point is price, which brings me to my next point.
HP announced a $699 entry price point for its dv2, but that’s for the integrated graphics version with only 1GB RAM. Factoring in the exchange rate and you’re looking at the $800-900 range in Canada. In comparison, at the $999 price point, you can get a Dell XPS M1330 with a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, a 320GB 5400RPM HDD, and a DVD+/-RW. That thing offers 3 hours+ battery life, a footprint barely larger than the dv2, an optical drive and performance that is way out of the dv2’s league. It’s a no-brainer which option I’d go with. Even HP’s own dv3 comes in at only $799US, but gives a dual core 2.0GHz AMD CPU, 2GB RAM, and an optical drive. Again, barely larger or heavier than the dv2. Pricing simply doesn’t make any sense when portability is no longer a major advantage with the dv2.
There absolutely is a place for a higher performing, small, cheap, and portable laptop that AMD is targeting. However, with the HP dv2, it has missed the mark. It’s too large. It doesn’t perform well enough for the price, and battery life is at best normal for a full-sized laptop. I think there’s a higher probability that Atom will scale up to this market than an AMD K8 derivative can scale down to it.