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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.



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Still no progress on screens, I see
By corduroygt on 12/28/2010 5:34:36 PM , Rating: 5
It's criminal to have a 15.6" screen with 1366x768p resolution. That's the same resolution as 11.6" notebooks, and should only be reserved for the legally blind. It should be 1080p all around for these notebooks.




RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By FaceMaster on 12/28/2010 6:40:27 PM , Rating: 2
...and I guess that 20" monitors should be 2560 x 1440?


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By Lonyo on 12/28/2010 8:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
1440x900? 1680x1050?

The reason everything uses 768p is because they are cheap.
That doesn't mean they are good or that you suddenly need a massively high resolution instead, but you can certainly do better than 768p.

Try being less stupid.


By Etern205 on 12/29/2010 5:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
768P don't exist. Most will say it as 1366x768 not 1366x768P.
The "P" stands for progressive, a term used for HDTVs or other HD devices and since consumers are mostly uneducated, they think a 1280x720P or 1920x1080P is the best because they're both categorized as "HD" (High Definition).

Try being less stupid.


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By ebaycj on 12/28/2010 6:43:15 PM , Rating: 5
Seriously.

I have a 17" 1920 x 1200 display on my Dell E1705. That was from 4+ years ago.

Now, outside of a super-expensive "mobile workstation" (with complementary super-expensive "workstation class" graphics card), the best I can get is 1920 x 1080. That is just unacceptable.

Hell, if I had it my way, it'd be a 17" 2560 x 1600. I want my vertical resolution dammit !!!!


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By Drag0nFire on 12/29/2010 11:43:55 AM , Rating: 1
+1 for vertical resolution. I've come to realize that all the small bumps in horizontal resolution are in no way worthwhile when your total vertical resolution is less than that of an iPhone.


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By omnicronx on 12/29/2010 12:43:48 PM , Rating: 2
The iPhone 4 has a resolution of 960x640, thats somewhere between SVGA and XVGA, so I'm not too sure what you are talking about there.

As for the vertical resolution, I'm not too sure what you gripe is here either. We now live in a world of 16:9, it is the standard, you have no choice but to go up resolutions in that ratio. i.e 16 horizontal pixels for every 9 vertical pixels when increasing screen resolution.

2560 x 1600 is still 16:9, so its not like you are just getting a vertical resolution increase. Items on screen appear smaller in all directions.

That said, resolutions that high are a complete waste on sub 20 in monitors.. (and expensive and power hungry) Which is why you don't see them very often aside from those who truly need it. (graphics design, high end laptops which are essentially desktops etc)


By UNHchabo on 12/29/2010 4:42:15 PM , Rating: 2
I think he was referring to vertical resolution on the iPhone when you're using it in portrait mode. In that case, the iPhone's 960 vertical pixels is much more than that of 768p.

In any case, even if you're comparing 768p to the iPhones 640 pixel vertical resolution in landscape mode, that means the average 15.6" laptop has only barely higher resolution than a 3.5" iPhone screen.


By darklight0tr on 12/31/2010 1:20:32 AM , Rating: 2
2560 x 1600 is 16:10, not 16:9. 2560 x 1440 is 16:9.

The native res for my 17" Alienware laptop is 1920 x 1200, and I wouldn't want it to be any higher or I might need a magnifying glass for the text.


By dananski on 1/2/2011 9:23:23 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was a bit miffed about the transition to widescreens everywhere. I have a thin strip of DailyTech down the middle of my monitor with huge grey sides taking up about 60% of the screen. At least Win7 lets me snap a browser window to each side, but I'd still prefer to just see more webpage vertically.


By Taft12 on 12/30/2010 12:13:58 PM , Rating: 3
That Dell E1705 cost a hell of a lot more than this laptop with a 1366x768 resolution. Consumers have voted with their wallets.


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By damianrobertjones on 12/28/2010 7:09:09 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but no.

The general 'consumer', ie not you and I, don't really care that much about resolution, but, what they DO care about is seeing the damn screen. 1080p on 15.6" screen is murder. On a 17" screen it's fine but 'still' too much for the older folk and blind people.

Think about it for a second....


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By MindParadox on 12/28/2010 9:17:38 PM , Rating: 3
this is where technology comes into play, my 23 inch sp2309sw monitor runnin at 2048x1152 has icons and text that is exactly the same size as my wifes sp2409w(24 inch) runnin at 1080x1920

resolution doesnt really mean much when your OS can resize things either automatically, or with a few clicks


By Taft12 on 12/30/2010 12:15:17 PM , Rating: 2
Very few applications play nicely with Windows font resizing. It is not an adequate solution.


By StevoLincolnite on 12/28/2010 9:28:59 PM , Rating: 2
I have a 1366x768 resolution on my 10.1" screen on my Netbook, I thought that was murder! Alas adjusting DPI settings helps. :)


By ayori on 12/29/2010 12:38:37 PM , Rating: 2
You think that "older folk and blind people" would get a laptop that costs $1300++++ USD?

If I know my shit then of course I'd complain.

Think about it for a second....


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By RussianSensation on 12/30/2010 12:19:11 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. For 2 years at work I had to a use a 12 inch laptop with a "low" 1280x800 resolution. It was absolute torture (and my vision is 20/20)!! I bet the high resolution freaks would want that screen to be 1080P as well.

I am almost 100% certain no one who actually uses their computer for 10+ hours a day for work uses a 17 inch 1080P screen (and if they do, I feel sorry for them). Most people serious enough about using a computer for work are using at least a 24 inch monitor or even a 30 inch 2560x1600 one. Right now, I run a 37 inch 1080P monitor and love it. I would never switch to anything less than 24 inches even if it was 10 billion x 9 billion pixels.


By erple2 on 12/30/2010 12:03:56 PM , Rating: 2
This comment is so full of wackiness, I don't know where to begin.

What I hate (and why I think that the iPhone's "retina display is such a great thing) about low resolution displays is primarily the cheap, blockiness of the display. In this day and age where each OS has the capability to automatically adjust for DPI settings of the monitor, it is (nearly) inexcusable to have a low resolution display. 16 billion by 9 billion (to keep the 16x9 aspect ratio) displays would be AWESOME, if for no reason, there would be no visible blocks. Though according to Apple, we really only need ~326 dpi on the display to be essentially "perfect" (that's about 6800x3825 for a good 16x9 24" display), or even better, 6800x4250 for a good 16x10 24" display).

With the DPI scaling that exist in every modern OS, that would be nearly ideal.


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By Taft12 on 12/30/2010 12:18:30 PM , Rating: 2
Why didn't you connect that laptop to an external display???


By dananski on 1/2/2011 9:18:56 AM , Rating: 2
Presumably he was travelling with the laptop a lot or they would've given him a desktop.


By Flunk on 12/29/2010 10:10:44 AM , Rating: 2
The $350 HP notebook I bought 4 years ago when I was in University is 1280x800 on a 14inch screen.

1366x768 on a 15inch screen is lower pixel density than that on a "high end" system. This should have at least a 1080p screen and the 17 inch should be higher.


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By omnicronx on 12/29/2010 11:13:26 AM , Rating: 2
While a resolution of 1366x768 is too small in my opinion for a 15" screen, I don't feel the same about your 1920x1080 comment.

It has been shown that 20"+ is the sweet spot for that resolution. At that point your eyes can barely perceive the pixels from the average seating distance from your screen. Anything less and the pixels are packed so tightly together that most won't be able to tell the difference between 1920x1080 and lower resolutions.

Also at only 15-16 inches, objects may appear too small for many.

So how about you don't project your personal feelings on others, as even 1366x768 is more than enough for many, especially the casual users that merely want to search the net play videos and read email.


RE: Still no progress on screens, I see
By B3an on 12/29/2010 3:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
You fail to realise that DPI and other settings in the OS can easily be adjusted to compensate for the high res/smaller pixels.
The manufacturer could do this themselves and ship laptops like it. Doing this and combining it with very small pixel densities would actually help people with poor eyesight as the display would be super sharp and clear.

These pathetically low resolutions were unacceptable years ago, let alone in 2011.


By Taft12 on 12/30/2010 12:21:12 PM , Rating: 2
It's not that easy, many apps do not respect non-default OS display settings (on Windows, Linux or OSX) and you end up with some huge fonts and others tiny and scroll bars everywhere.


By FlyBri on 12/30/2010 12:03:55 AM , Rating: 2
It really is personal preference, but I specifically bought a 1080p laptop for work purposes -- I can actually put two windows side by side since there's more screen real estate, and I'm way more productive as a result.

Also, while it may seem to some people that 1080p resolution is to small for laptops, especially when you compare them to desktop monitors, you also have to take into consideration that you are closer to a laptop screen than a desktop monitor, so the high res screens aren't as much overkill as some may initially think.

Finally, most of the text in browsers and in Windows can be made larger to be more readable (as well as icons), so someone who doesn't have the best eyesight can still take advantage of the increase in screen real estate.

Again, in the end, it's totally personal preference, but my hopes are that in the near future many more 15.6" laptops will have an option for a 1080p screen.


Stupid intel CPU names & models
By Belard on 12/29/2010 7:59:43 AM , Rating: 3
There is no understandable standard that Intel is using for their CPUs... the model numbers don't match the feature set. There is no "pentium or celeron" tech in the Sandy Bridges. The model numbers are longer than ever. Geez.

Intel should just name them.

cheap
semi cheap
moderate
Expensive
kinda expensive
and Fracking costing bling!

That would make more sense.

Yeah, get me that ASUS with the dual-core moderate intel CPU.




RE: Stupid intel CPU names & models
By omnicronx on 12/29/2010 11:20:00 AM , Rating: 2
cheap - Atom
semi cheap - Pentium (low end 2 core models only)
moderate - Core i3
expensive - Core i5
kinda expensive - Core i7
fracking costing bling! -Core i7 Extreme

Boom! ;)


By dananski on 1/2/2011 9:26:29 AM , Rating: 2
I would've thought kinda expensive is i5 and expensive is i7? Or has kinda been redefined to mean very?


IGP performance
By therealnickdanger on 12/29/2010 10:04:08 AM , Rating: 2
$900 is a decent price for a new CPU with dedicated GPU, but I'd like to see the performance of the new IGP. The current Arrandale IGP is strong enough to play a lot of games at low-to-medium settings at playable frame rates (Crysis notwithstanding). Anand's early tests indicated that Sandy Bridge offerred a 2x improvement over Clarkdale. How this translates to low-end mobile parts is yet to be seen, but if my Core i3UM can get 50fps in WoW and 25fps in L4D, the boost for Sandy Bridge should satisfy a LOT of mobile gamers. Netbooks and tablets with balls.




RE: IGP performance
By Taft12 on 12/30/2010 12:24:10 PM , Rating: 3
The AMD offerings that are right around the corner will be an even better option for low-end mobile options that are gaming-capable. This is going to be a good year in hardware tech!


The G73SW...
By teng029 on 12/29/2010 1:05:02 AM , Rating: 1
reminds me of the dell/alienware mx series. it's just as ugly too..




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