Asus G73SW [Click to Enlarge]  (Source: Notebook Italia)

Asus N73SV [Click to Enlarge]  (Source: Notebook Italia)

Acer Aspire 5742G  (Source: Notebook Journal)

The new notebooks are powered by Sandy Bridge, Intel's latest CPU architecture. The CPUs are built on a 32 nm process.  (Source: Engadget)
Notebooks start as low as $900, go well over $2,000 with gamer-friendly expansions

Sandy Bridge, Intel's successor to Nehalem, has landed and is slowly penetrating the market.  The new processors are built on a 32 nm process and feature a nice performance bump along with other more additions, such as a built-in integrated graphics core.  After popping up in the desktop market, the first four Sandy Bridge notebooks have now have aired in a trio of Notebook Italia [translated -- Italian 1, 2] and Notebook Journal [translated -- German] reports. 

I. Sandy Bridge Naming -- Lots of Names, Lots of Confusion

While the refresh has brought some improvements, one thing that hasn't improved is the naming scheme.  Dual core, dual thread CPUs are in the Pentium family on the desktop side, or in the Celeron family on the mobile side, preserving the budget naming.

The 2 core, 4 thread CPU can be referred to as a Core i3 or Core i5, depending on its part number, on the desktop side; or a Core i5 or Core i7, on the notebook side

Four core, four thread processors fall under the Core i5 distinction on the desktop side, but aren't announced for the notebook side

Four core, eight thread processors are referred to as either Core i7 or Core i7 Extreme on the notebook side, but are referred to as Core i7 only on the desktop side 

There also are expected to be 6 core, 12 thread; and 8 core, 16 thread desktop CPUs in the Core i7 and Core i7 extreme desktop brands. 

II. The Notebooks

i. ASUS G73SW and G53SW

Leading the pack is the ASUS G73SW.  This performance warrior packs a 2630QM, which has a standard clock of 2.0 GHz and a turbo clock of 2.9 GHz.  The chip features a 45 W TDP.

Also inside the G73SW is a high-end GeForce GTX 460M (1.5 GB of memory, 192 unified shaders, 32 texture mapping units, 32 texture address units, 256 texture filtering units, 24 render output units), 8 GB of DDR3-1066 RAM, USB 3.0, dual storage bays (allowing an SSD+HDD configuration), Blu-ray, a webcam with microphone, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and a "Full HD" (1920x1080 pixel) 17.3-inch LCD screen. 

The notebook was not officially announced, but ASUS's website offered a power adapter whose documentation confirmed support for (and the existence of) the model.  The notebook is expected to retail for around $2,500 USD.

Next up is another gaming minded notebook, the ASUS G53SW.  This notebook features the same processor, GPU, and otherwise mostly identical features.  The key differences are that memory in the stock configuration drops to 6 GB, the Blu-Ray drive is replaced with a DVD burner, and the screen size drops to a "HD" (1366x768 pixel) 15.6-inch LCD screen.  Also, the SSD+HDD combo is replaced in the stock configuration with a single 640 GB hard drive. 

An additional SSD or the replacement of the DVD Burner with a full Blu-Ray drive are offered as upgrade options on this smaller model.  The memory on both notebooks can be upgraded to a maximum of 16 GB of DDR3 RAM.  The G53SW is expected to launch at a relatively affordable $1,300 USD.

ii. ASUS N73SV and N53SV

Beneath that, ASUS is launching the N53SV and N73SV series, both of which are available in different configurations.  These lineups are geared more for everyday use, and aren't built with gaming specifically in mind. 

These notebooks will feature the same CPU as their gaming-geared brethren (a 2630QM).  They will trade the GeForce GTX 460M for a weaker GeForce 540M (1 GB of memory, 96 unified shaders, 16 texture address units, 4 render output units).

It's clear that the priciest of the N53SV models will be an LED-backlit "Full HD" (1920x1080 pixel) 17.3-inch screen variant with 8 GB of DDR3 RAM and a TV tuner.  A lower priced variant comes with an "HD" (1366x768 pixel) 15.6-inch screen, with 4 GB of DDR3 RAM (and no tuner).  Both models pack USB 3.0 connectivity, a single 500 or 640 GB hard drive, Bang & Olufsen's ICEpower and SonicFocus sound technologies, VGA out, HDMI out, WiFi 802.11b/g/n.  The battery for the models is a six-cell configuration rated at 4,400 mAh.

The lowest priced model will reportedly start at $1,200 USD. 

There will also be a third intermediate model, with capabilities somewhere between the high and low-end stock configuration.  The memory on all the models is thought to be upgradeable to 16 GB.

Turning next to the N73SV, it has similar specs to the high-end 17.6-inch screen N53SV.  While it only offers 6 GB of DDR3 RAM, it adds a second drive bay, allowing for dual HDD (for a maximum ~1.3 TB capacity) or a hybrid SSD+HDD configuration.  The base price for that model is expected to be $1,600 USD.

iii.  Acer Aspire 5472G

For those looking for an even cheaper Sandy Bridge notebook, don't despair -- Acer reportedly has you covered.  It is reportedly preparing a new Aspire series notebook which will pack a dual-core (4 thread) 2540M, clocked at 2.66 GHz (Turbo speeds of 3.3 GHz).  The notebook will also pack the 540M, which offers similar performance to a GeForce GT 445M or ATI Mobility Radeon HD5730.

The screen size on this model is 15.6-inches and the resolution is 1366x768 pixels.  USB 3.0 is not included, nor is Blu-Ray.  The unit is equipped with Bluetooth and a DVD burner.  A generous 8 GB of DD3 RAM is included.

The battery is identical to the ASUS N53SV's in capacity -- 4,400 mAh.  According to The Notebook Journal, the battery life is around 4 to 5 hours when performing minimally intensive task like playing music and web browsing. 

The notebook will reportedly retail for €700 (around $900 USD).

III. Conclusions

The new notebooks will likely air next week at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which we will be covering live.

Whether you're in the market for a Sandy Bridge notebook or not, these releases could benefit you.  It will likely force Apple to refresh its MacBook Pro lineup, which is still using Nehalem CPUs and the somewhat outdated GeForce 300 mobility series GPUs.  It will also help to drop the prices of Nehalem notebooks, and should offer up plenty of bargains.

For gamers, the best buy might be a price-reduced Nehalem notebook with one or more GeForce GTX 480M or Mobility Radeon HD 5870 GPU.  After all, while these Sandy Bridge notebooks are impressive from a processor standpoint, they are less-than top of the line when it comes to graphics.  And typically mobile gaming suffers more from GPU limitations that CPU ones.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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