Netbooks: R.I.P. 2007-2013

The netbook trend in PCs started in 2007 when Asus launched their Eee model. These small, low powered and relatively cheap notebooks got off to a fast sales start and soon most of the major PC makers such as Dell, Acer, and HP (shown above with one of their Mini PC netbooks) joined the trend. Microsoft was also a big supporter of netbooks and predicted big things for netbooks in 2009 running on Windows 7. Intel's Atom processor line was made in part to support netbooks.

That was then. Today, it's a different PC hardware landscape as the rise of the touch screen notebook and tablet has proven to be more attractive to PC makers and to consumers. Sales of netbooks started to fall in 2010 and in 2011 it seems like the writing was on the wall. PC makers started to abandon making new netbooks.

Today, Business Insider reports that the final two PC hardware companies that were still making netbooks, Asus and Acer, have confirmed that they won't be making any more netbook models and will allow the rest of their netbook inventory to be sold off. Intel continues to offer up versions of its Atom processor for Windows 8-based notebooks and tablets.

Source: Business Insider | Image via HP

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This is a case of "X is dead. Long live X". The "Netbook" term might die, but I predict we'll see Z2760-based Ultrabooks (and hopefully some competing designs from AMD, if they live) for less than $500. Just give it time, and the Netbook will be resurrected.

FWIW, I think netbooks didn't die because everyone went to go buy tablets. I think they died because hardware makers shifted their attention to making (failed) tablets and ceased development on making netbooks thinner and faster.

Hello,

Lenovo is still selling their X131e system, which is *arguably* a netbook. It pretty much exceeds the specs for a netbook (11.6" LCD, nearly full-size keyboard, AMD Vision E2 or Intel i3 CPU, AMD version upgradable to 16GB of RAM, etc.) and is priced accordingly (starts around $550) but if you need a small notebook computer that runs Windows and handles basic office and home productivity tasks, it's hard to beat.

I have a previous generation model, the X120e, and it is great for those situations where I need to take a small computer with me for taking notes, or even to write on. I have written a couple of dozen page whitepapers on mine, which is something I couldn't do on a device with a smaller screen or keyboard.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

I am doing my post graduate studies on computer science and university gave us students netbooks from HP.It is one of the latest netbooks with Dual Core Intel Atom, 2GB ram, 320GB hd and an Intel HD gpu. I didnt use to like these things but i have to say, that this one has decent performance in daily tasks and so far i am satisfied with it. It even has a touchpad that supports gestures and of course big battery life. I still prefer it over tablets for the simple fact it runs applications and not apps.

I remember almost buying one for 200 dollars. I instead found a laptop that had gone off the market just a month before.. premium quality for 220 dollars. I guess some folks found that for the same price of a netbook, you could get a high quality laptop that's no longer sold mainstream, but on places like ebay.

Funny how originally Netbooks shipped with Linux in order to keep costs as dirt cheap as possible. The public completely rejected them and they didn't start selling until they finally sold them with Windows.

Am I one of the only people who've never owned a portable device?

I've never even owned a cell phone!

All I see is them being a complete waste of money (smartphones especially, with all the ridiculous plans you have to subscribe to). Why spend money on a portable device that's 1/10th the power of my desktop?

I'm sure things will change if I ever live a portable life; but I haven't, and I don't foresee any change coming soon either.

DAOWAce said,
Am I one of the only people who've never owned a portable device?

I've never even owned a cell phone!

All I see is them being a complete waste of money (smartphones especially, with all the ridiculous plans you have to subscribe to). Why spend money on a portable device that's 1/10th the power of my desktop?

I'm sure things will change if I ever live a portable life; but I haven't, and I don't foresee any change coming soon either.

I don't own a smartphone myself. I have one, courtesy of my work place, but it's for work and not for (as most folks use it for who post here) dinking about and playing games. Besides, cellphones and smartphones have become (in my mind) the albatross around most people's necks now, with the irrational need to be in contact with someone at all time, be it talking on the phone, texting or email. Remember when we went to places like a restaurant and everyone was talking to the person they were with instead of texting or talking to someone who wasn't even in the same city?

I made this comment elsewhere, and I'll make it here. I have a nice Samsung N110 that I've upgraded and still does a better job at what I want it to do (web browsing, writing, quick photo touch-ups) than any tablet out there on the market. I have a tablet running Android, but to me it's more of a toy than a productivity device. Since I have a trip starting at the end of this week, the netbook will be in its pack, while the tablet sits collecting dust on the desk.

It's a question of what you're using it for. My needs cannot be met with a tablet, but the Samsung N110 has met all my requirements for a few years now, and likely will continue to do so long after the tablet craze finally ends.

Tal Greywolf said,
I have a nice Samsung N110 that I've upgraded and still does a better job at what I want it to do (web browsing, writing, quick photo touch-ups) than any tablet out there on the market.

N110 specs:
Old first gen single core Atom CPU
2GB maximum RAM
Intel GMA950 Graphics
1024x600 resolution

What do you use it for, solitaire and checkers?

Sonne said,

N110 specs:
Old first gen single core Atom CPU
2GB maximum RAM
Intel GMA950 Graphics
1024x600 resolution

What do you use it for, solitaire and checkers?

Let's see:

Microsoft Office
Paint.Net
VLC
Firefox
Thunderbird

That's about all I need it for. Now, why do you automatically assume it's for game playing? Oh, that's right, that's all most folks care about here, playing games. Not doing real work.

Still use my netbook for trouble calls where I have to crawl into a teeny-weeny communication closet. The battery life really helps esp. if I have to keep the netbook up for hours on end. Has all the power and connectivity I need.

The thing I hated about netbooks the most was the Atom CPU from Intel, awful. To me Atom is a toxic brand like Celeron, they need to be ditched.

I became interested in them when I didn't need a full laptop but it was only possible to find decent ones at prices higher than normal laptops. I think that's what really killed them.

Netbooks were great for their time. I had very little money a couple years ago, the laptop that had been given me was dying, and I was able to pick up a second hand netbook that met my needs for a couple hundred dollars.

Obviously, now I could get a tablet that generally serves the same function for the same price, and I'd have much more affordable software, as well as much greater game suitability. A tablet can for the most part do everything a netbook does, and more. (Obviously, certain requirements for software could change this, but that's more a niche case where a Netbook is sufficient but a tablet isn't).

I guess we'll see if they get made past 2013. Even the Samsung ARM Chromebook has some pretty serious drawbacks. I don't really see a situation in which it is good, but a tablet isn't.

Yes, they sucked as a computer, but did give people the chance to get a mobile PC for a very low price, and for some people - that was very important, and opened a window for future computer usage skills.

As others said, with the advent of Tablets with detachable keyboards and convertibles, the netbook is no longer needed. Of course you can still give them to the younger ones for them to play around with. They can run music and skype just fine.
Typing this from an Asus 1000HD running Mint 14.

I think people thought Netbooks were a good idea at first, but then they realised that the performance was not there and they may as well get a full laptop for a similar price.

I never understood the need for a netbook, so I'm fine with this. That said, they're only being replaced by Ultrabooks, another idea that I don't understand. I either get laptops or desktops, my smartphone does everything else.

Intrinsica said,
I never understood the need for a netbook, so I'm fine with this. That said, they're only being replaced by Ultrabooks, another idea that I don't understand. I either get laptops or desktops, my smartphone does everything else.

I dont know your situation but not everyone is able to carry a laptop with them or find a Phone suitable for their mobile needs. Students, business man and other travelers for example. A full laptop is often too big or too heavy. Netbooks were a good alternative for these groups. However between tablets and ultrabooks there are now even better alternatives.

Ultrabooks are slim but unlike netbooks they meet performance requirements. For lite-productive needs a tablet is much easier to use than a netbook. In case you do need to type every now and then, a tablet-PC such as the Surface is perfect.

Of course, I was only talking about my experience and views on netbooks and ultrabooks. It doesn't apply to everyone.

Intrinsica said,
Of course, I was only talking about my experience and views on netbooks and ultrabooks. It doesn't apply to everyone.

It doesn't have to apply to your own situation but you said you never understood the need for a netbook. So I provided inside in my own personal usage of netbooks and tablets. Did I take you too literally?

Ronnet said,
Did I take you too literally?

Possibly, although that's more my fault than yours. I should have worded it better and said something like, "I would never own a netbook or an ultrabook because I find them to be unnecessary for my situation." The same applies to tablets, but that's taking us off-course.

I personally cannot stand them anyway. My sister has one that I have to fix every once in a while...and I absolutely hate, with a passion, typing on that thing and staring at that tiny screen!

My netbook's still going strong.

I needed to read an ~80 page PDF just yesterday. I started doing that with my tablet (7" Acer Iconia--not that it matters which). I was in bed, holding the tablet in front of me...within 10 minutes, I had to switch to my laptop to finish reading the document before my arms were getting tired. How anyone can use a tablet for more than a few minutes at a time is beyond me.

I don't know about the Iconia, but the Kindle Fire is also 7" and doesn't seem that bad to hold and read with. It feels like holding a paperback book to me.

_dandy_ said,
My netbook's still going strong.

I needed to read an ~80 page PDF just yesterday. I started doing that with my tablet (7" Acer Iconia--not that it matters which). I was in bed, holding the tablet in front of me...within 10 minutes, I had to switch to my laptop to finish reading the document before my arms were getting tired. How anyone can use a tablet for more than a few minutes at a time is beyond me.

I've carried around a tablet-PC (Fujitsu P1610) which was much more heavy then a tablet but I didn't have much of a problem with it. 7'' tablets cn easily be held with one hand, hold a tablet with both and I wouldnt even notice I was carrying something.

It's not really about weight, but more about having to keep my arms (or at least one arm) stretched out in front of me to hold the tablet, while I'd rather have my arms on either side of me or folded across my chest as I read in bed.

Of course some will argue that I have to do the same anyway with books, but I'm not trying to compare books--I'm trying to find an advantage for tablets over laptops (or rather, cheap netbooks in this case), which can provide plenty of usability standing up on their own for hours at a time. Same with reading with my netbook sitting on my lap while sitting on the couch.

My step-kids still use my old blue Samsung NC10. Man, these things look dated now.

I think that most people who purchased netbooks were looking for a coffee table PC, and that is why tablets are doing better in the market. Also, tablets and smartphones have opened up a whole segment of new entertainment oriented apps...again more appropriate for the coffee table one could say. It really doesn't surprise me that tablets have seemingly done better than netbooks.

Desktop Linux was actually gaining some ground when netbooks were first introduced, but it was apparent the Microsoft nipped that in the bud by selling XP licenses to netbook OEMS for ridiculously cheep. If you count Android as Linux, Linux is doing pretty good these days.

Netbooks were killed by evolution, they never even had enough performance for anything. Even basic web browsing was choppy, and the advent of HD video was one of the many nails on its coffin.

Jose_49 said,
Netbooks were killed with Windows 8: they don't meet the minimum screen resolution requirements.

Not all of them, some had 1366x768. Intel's new 64bit Atom that can't boot in 64bit mode and comes with 32bit/windows7-only drivers on the other hand... (yes, you can't install Windows 8 on hardware that is still on sale, thanks Intel! Windows 8 on all older Atoms works though)

@gonchuki:
That's true. Very very true. Multi-tab browsing sucks with a netbook.

Fortunately, that wasn't the audience which it was aimed.

@francescob:
The screen res. yes, but only those 11+ inch screens. No 10 inch screen (AFAIK) had 1366x768.
Regarding the ATOM part...
WTF?!

Jose_49 said,

Regarding the ATOM part...
WTF?!

http://www.neowin.net/news/som...nt-handle-windows-8-upgrade here's the article regarding that N2800 mess, for anybody wondering. Intel went as far as having the netbook manufacturers disable the 64bit support in the BIOS since they rushed the driver certification and released only the 32bit version (not that it would have been of any use though since netbooks are limited to a retardedly small amount of ram, the same old 2Gb limit).

When netbooks came around a few people started using them during lectures. I remember one guy sitting beside me pointed out how long people had to sit there and wait just for the thing boot up.

My MSI Wind with Windows 7 on it remains unused since I got a Nexus 7, but have thought about breathing some new life back into it with a lighter alternative, heard Crunchbang is very fast on it due to its minimalistic design. Just for fun really.

Good riddance. It's pain in the arse to fix them, to just open most of them. At least with schmablets we won't have to bother, because for the most part only an authorized service is authorized to do so, and we aren't one.

How is that even an advantage for a tablet? The fact that netbooks are even serviceable by end users is a great thing, whereas with tablets, that's even more difficult. Also, you could just as easily bring a netbook to an authorized service center. The netbook I have has been perfectly fine - the only thing I need to get to RAM/SSD (HDD bay) are extremely easy to access (remove 1 screw).

From the end user's perspective it certainly isn't. Though only for us - minds technically inclined. I'll die with an LGA motherboard clenched firmly in my hands. But Average Joe doesn't care in the slighest that ten years down the line all computers will have to be opened with the help of a large axe, and then forever remain opened.

Your netbook must be one of the few models for which one does not have to take out the keyboard (or take everything apart) - just to clean the furballs out of the CPU fan.

So, from my point of view it is, because, admiteddly, I'm quite a lazybum who isn't willing to work for my money. Easier to confirm that it's indeed somewhat broke, slap a sticker of from/to/date on it and then it's somebody else's problem. One's who is willing to put up with all that.

Netbooks were nice for the convenience but tablets are sufficiently powerful now for basic computing tasks (e.g. email and web browsing). I actually considered buying a Nexus 7 tablet for note-taking at school. It's lightweight and has a screen that isn't too small or too large.

Meh tablets still suck. For me, it isn't a 'true' computer without a physical keyboard. Tablets are just entertainment devices - good for really email, browsing, apps/games, quick movie/music during travel.

I wouldn't say they are just "entertainment" devices, but "consumption" rather then "creation" devices, like a full desktop/laptop can be

The Surface and some Android tablets with keyboards (like the Asus Transformer) looks evolutionary compared to older netbooks.

tsupersonic said,
Meh tablets still suck. For me, it isn't a 'true' computer without a physical keyboard. Tablets are just entertainment devices - good for really email, browsing, apps/games, quick movie/music during travel.

Unless it's a full size AT keyboard it's not anyhow better than virtual on-screen keyboard. Some tablet virtual keyboards gives you much faster, much more precise, much more comfortable typing than any physical netbook keyboard. The only problem is that they waste screen space. But it's a problem only when you work a lot with documents. But, yet again in this case you need a full size AT keyboard.

Still this happens rarely, so it much better just to have a separated bluetooth or USB keyboard that you can connect only when needed. You don't even need to limit yourself to Surface or EeePad Transformer. You can connect any bluetooth keyboard to any bluetooth-supported tablet - iPad, Android, Windows.

sorry docking keyboards are better. most have USB ports, HDMI, Full SD card, and batteries in them and if 11.6 inches or bigger that means it is a full size keyboard.

Ezekiel Carsella said,
sorry docking keyboards are better. most have USB ports, HDMI, Full SD card, and batteries in them and if 11.6 inches or bigger that means it is a full size keyboard.

You don't have full size AT keyboard even on 15'' notebooks.

And there are many bluetooth and USB docks with keyboards.

I loved netbooks back in their time- had a couple. They still have a place in my world, but with the advent of iPads and other tablets, and Macbook Airs or Ultrabooks, Like many things, they were a good idea at the time for certain uses, but have no longer got a place. Mine will still be used on occasion.