Latest Mini-Notebooks Too Pricey For You? Quit Your Whinin’

I have to admit that I was a bit shocked when I saw the tentative price for the Asus Eee PC 1000H. And sure enough a lot of people agreed with me. If you looked at comments made by our readers and elsewhere across the Web there was a similar refrain: “$649?! For that kind of money I could get a real notebook.” This kind of response is to be expected when you can nab a Dell Inspiron with a Pentium dual-core processor, 15.4-inch widescreen, 120GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, and a DVD burner for $100 less. Or for the same price as the Eee PC 1000H you could pick up a 15.4-inch HP Pavilion notebook with an AMD Turion 64 X2 processor, 3GB of RAM, a DVD burner, and a whopping 250GB hard drive. The problem with this line of thinking is that it completely ignores what makes mini-notebooks compelling–the “mini” part. There’s no denying that the $649 Eee PC 1000H and other mini-notebooks like the $729 HP 2133 Mini-Note (XP) don’t measure up to traditional mainstream laptops when it comes to specs and performance. They don’t have optical drives, they have limited storage space, and their processors are not really made for multitasking or heavy multimedia–although the Intel Atom inside the Eee PC and the $499 MSI Wind NB is certainly faster than the VIA chip inside the HP. But no one in their right mind would want to carry that Inspiron (6.2 pounds) or Pavilion (6.1 pounds) everywhere. The appeal of mini-notebooks is that they’re light and compact enough to slip in a backpack or purse without a second thought. The real comparison that makes sense to me is how these minis stack up against ultraportable notebooks, those that typically weigh less than four pounds. One of the most affordable ultraportables right now is the Lenovo X61, with a current sale price of $1,020 (not bad, actually). For that kind of cash you get a “real” 3.1-pound, 12.1-inch notebook with a 2.1-GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM, and a skimpy 80GB hard drive. However, we’re still talking about a $371 premium, or nearly the cost of an Asus Eee PC 4G running XP. And this ultraportable is a rare exception to the rule that ultraportables cost a pretty penny. HP’s 12.1-inch Compaq 2510p business notebook(1.2-GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive) weighs in at 2.8 pounds and starts at $1,499. But most other ultraportables cost between $1,700 and $3,000. Toshiba’s svelte Portege R500 starts at $1,699. Apple’s groundbreakingly-thin MacBook Air starts at $1,799. And ASUS’s leather clad U2E starts at $2,049. Want a solid state drive? The cost of these systems go all the way up to $2,999, $3,098, and $2,699, respectively. In other words, for the cost of the MacBook Air you could pick up two Asus Eee PC 1000Hs for $649 a piece and still have enough money left over for an MSI Wind NB. So while you certainly could buy a “real” notebook for the same cost as the latest mini-notebooks with larger displays and keyboards, you’re still getting a lot for your money versus a traditional ultraportable laptop. The real question is whether anyone should charge more than $500 for a mini-notebook regardless of the screen size given that these systems were designed to be secondary PCs. I would say a qualified “yes.” If you want to surf the Web, check e-mail, do word processing, and perform other other basic computing tasks on the go, then the premium being charged for 9- and 10-inch mini-notebooks versus previous models with 7-inch displays and cramped keyboards is worth it. If extreme mobility isn’t a selling point for you, you shouldn’t even be looking at mini-notebooks, never mind taking the time to complain about their prices.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Marc Says:

    The real prices may change once these units actually hit the market. Competition may drop pirces when all three mini’s drop to the market. Then there’s Dell – with spies seeing a Dell mini, who knows where things go next. Just wish the supplies were out there already.

  2. Jake Says:

    No, the input cost of making the netbooks are lower than traditional netbooks, or the cost will soon be. There is no reason to charge so high.

  3. epik_x Says:

    Size and price is going to set netbook manufactures apart. With most current and upcoming netbooks using the Atom, performance and battery life will be almost identical between them. Besides from more RAM, SSD, and some other features like bluetooth, HSDPA, or WiMAX.

    Considering the Atom platform is very cheap to make, whoever makes the smallest and cheapest netbook wins. So far I vote for Dell at $299 for the “E”

    Since ASUS/MSI are some of the first to bring the Atom to market they can charge more just because its “new” technology. Just like every new technology it has to be more expensive then its predecessor(Intel Celeron-M ULV) . At least until more manufactures release netbooks, and Nvidia’s Tegra and VIA’s Nano chips…


  4. Rob Says:

    The glaring fallacy here is that the $1500+ mini-notebooks are really $1500+ of function. They sell that high only partially because of build quality and partially because…they had NO competitors to prevent the outrageous pricing. You pay for the arranged components AND the name and admiration of owning the product of Company X. The future will likely force Apple Airs and Lenova X61s to be cheaper or they will find their cozy $ niches to continue to dwindle.

  5. Nova Says:

    Asus makes no sense, asking $650 – $700 for the 1000 series.

    MSI Wind IMO is the best deal these days for $400 – $500.

    Dell, Acer etc. all look like they will be good deals too.

    It just seems to be Asus that’s completely lost perspective on prices – perhaps they’re not aware they have competition now? Or perhaps they’ve confused themselves with Apple? Consumers won’t.

  6. Daniel Says:

    I’ve been waiting for someone to finally realize the difference between charing a premium for these notebooks and buying a notebook. If you would rather buy a powerful UMPC, then pay the $2000 difference and stop whinin. If you want ultimate mobility for a fraction of the cost, save up a couple more pennies than you originally planned and dive in. Buy some RAM and a possibly a bigger hard drive for a couple more pennies and you’re basically set.

  7. Neil Says:

    Don’t you think though that these initial high prices will drop once they’ve made their top profit off the desperate to buy people and then as the competition kicks in they’ll drop their prices to win the market?
    Just hold on and lateryou’ll get a bigger bang for your buck!

  8. Mike Cane Says:

    As someone else pointed out, the main objection to the $649 Asus price is not the price in a vacuum — it’s against the $499 MSI Wind!

  9. wayne Says:

    You’re just SO wrong. The reason why this kind of price increase works is because of people like you all who believe it’s a good idea. If we all said, “No, we won’t pay that much of an uphike in price” then the market would show this. We have the power to change this, but we don’t because we’re sheep who don’t demand more from the powers in control.
    And don’t give me that bullsh*t about how “They can’t sell these for free” because that’s the OLD corporate model. Look at, the HIGHEST IPO in history and learn a lesson or two about giving things away. Just because a company thinks it can steal from the masses using the old capitalist model doesn’t make it the CORRECT approach. One possible approach would be to sell these mininotes for the base cost of manufacturing and find a way to sell adspace on them. Then you’d be rolling in the dough because these would fly off like hotcakes. Perhaps not the most solid model, but definitely an option that isn’t being considered, and that tells me that corporations aren’t even trying to make a difference — they’re just trying to push the market to the limits of profitability by taking from our pocketbooks.

  10. wayne Says:

    And I really hate it when people say “in the future you’ll get more bang for your buck.” Do you know how long I’ve heard that? The past 15 years. Everytime there is an upgrade, all the computers get the upgrade hike as well, the chip manufacturers stop making the cheaper product and the price stays the same. Don’t delude yourself into thinking “the price will come down.” It won’t. Ever.

  11. yuar Says:

    and we thought Asus has taken the pc market trend to the completely opposite (more consumer friendly) direction: smaller and more chic doesn’t need to be pricey anymore.
    I thought that though Apple, Sony, and Toshiba with their Macbook air, Vaio, and Portégé (latest) respectively were keeping the poor consumer masses locked in an unfair setup that can be summed up as: “there’s no way to get elegance, portability, and cool X-factor to ur notebooks other than shelling out at least $1,500″; AsusTek would be the Knight in shining armor to save the day “or go with my EeePC and get all that jazz for just $399″
    Oh well, we’re heading off, at the rate, back to the old friggin trend: “smaller is, and will remain, NOT cheaper”

  12. dazzy Says:

    by the time these units hit the big retail stores their sale price can be expected to drop by 30% of the msrp. $400 is still a bit pricey to me.

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