Asus hits CES with innovative netbook and laptop designs

Asustek Computer used the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Tuesday to debut a number of new laptop and netbook designs, including an ultra-thin netbook, a keyboard with a built-in computer and a touchscreen version of its Eee PC.

The Taiwanese PC vendor debuted an ultra-thin, light netbook called the S121 with two new technologies, Microsoft’s yet-to-be released Windows 7 OS and the world’s largest solid state drive (SSD) at 512GB.

The S121 is just under an inch thick and is 11.7-inches by 8.3-inches, weighs about 3 lbs and carries a touchscreen that runs specialized software Asustek developed for easy touch navigation.

The use of Asus’s touch mode software on Microsoft’s Windows 7 OS shows how closely the two companies are working together.

“We’re deeply partnered with Asus on Windows 7,” said David Fester, general marketing manager at Microsoft’s OEM division, at a news conference ahead of CES.

And although the S121 will be available about a month from now, it probably won’t come with Windows 7. The new OS isn’t slated to hit markets until next year, although some pundits say it could be released as early as mid-2009.

The new netbook will also “cost quite a bit,” said Jonney Shih, chairman of Asus, around US$1,649 due to the 512GB SSD on board. He said Asus used its own technology to build the SSD.

SSD technology generally promises speedier software loading than HDDs (hard disk drives) and better power efficiency. But SSDs are far more expensive than HDDs and they don’t last as long.

Asustek’s 512GB SSD announcement comes just a few weeks after Toshiba revealed its own 512GB SSD for laptops. Few other companies have announced SSDs with such large storage capacity.

The S121 will come with a 1.33GHz Intel Atom microprocessor. Few other details about the device were immediately available.

Expanding the Eee family

Asustek also revealed two new devices with small screens, a keyboard with a built-in computer and 5-inch touchscreen, and a new version of its M50 laptop PC with a 4.3-inch touchscreen display located below the keypad.

The Eee Keyboard was made to connect to any device with a display screen, from a monitor or an LCD TV to a digital projector. But in case nothing larger is available, it has its own 5-inch screen to the right of the keypad.

The goal is to make any screen or projector into a potential Internet device via the Eee Keyboard. A user will only have to carry around the 2 lb (0.95-kilogram) keyboard to find the Internet just about anywhere.

The device runs Microsoft Windows XP Home, has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom microprocessor, 1GB of DDR2 (double data rate, second generation) DRAM and an onboard 16GB or 32GB SSD (solid state drive) to store data.

It makes use of a host of wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.0 and Ultra Wideband HDMI (high definition multimedia interface), in addition to ports for a number of connections, including USB 2.0, a VGA port, HDMI ports, and connections for headphones and microphones.

The Eee Keyboard and M50 notebook will both likely be available within the next three to six months, according to Shih.

The special M50 notebook actually comes with two separate computers onboard. The laptop has its own computer and the 4.3-inch screen isn’t just an additional screen, it’s designed to be a window into information stored on the laptop as well as a separate computer that can, among other things, let you run movies on the M50’s main display screen using the small amount of energy from the mini-computer instead of the main laptop computer.

The power savings involved could allow users to go 12-hours without a battery recharge, Shih said.

Further details about the M50 were not immediately available.

A touch-screen Eee

Finally Tuesday, Austek also unveiled its latest Eee PC netbook, with an 8.9-inch touchscreen that swivels and can even fold down to convert the device into a tablet PC.The new touchscreen Eee PC, the T91, is similar to a netbook Giga-byte Technology launched earlier this year, the M912, which also boasts an 8.9-inch touchscreen that swivels.

The two devices run Microsoft’s Windows XP OS, have Intel Atom microprocessors inside, and have the same size swivel touchscreens.

The M912 differs slightly in using a more powerful 1.6GHz Intel Atom microprocessor, while the Eee PC T91 carries a 1.33GHz Atom that has slightly better power savings and includes support for a few technologies such as Intel Virtualization.

In the T91, Asus goes a step further on the software side to make touch navigation a little easier.

The company developed its own touch mode software at research and development centers in Taiwan and China, said Shih.

The T91 also comes with a TV tuner so people can watch their favorite shows on the road, and GPS (global positioning system) technology to transform the netbook into a navigation device.

Shih said the Eee PC T91 will be on the market within the next three to six months. Pricing information was not immediately available.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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