Updated at 11:05 p.m. PST with additional information throughout.
Another Netbook? No, not exactly. Hewlett-Packard's new Pavilion dv2 is an ultraportable, thank you. And the new Athlon Neo silicon inside from Advanced Micro Devices will try to prove that point.
AMD is introducing new chips at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that target the no-man's land between Netbooks and notebooks. Typically, these designs are referred to as ultraportables--the most salient examples being Apple's MacBook Air, the Toshiba Portege, and the Sony Vaio TT series.
So what makes AMD's platform different? In one word, price. Ultraportables fall into the boutique category of laptops: very stylish, very slim, very light--and very expensive. Usually ranging between $1,500 and $3,000. HP's notebook with Athlon Neo silicon cuts the price in half. The Pavilion dv2 will start at $699 and top out at $899 for standard configurations.
The dv2, at 3.8 pounds, is slightly heavier than ultraportables that typically weigh between 2.5 and 3 pounds. It is 0.9-inches thick, slightly thicker than more expensive ultraportables like the MacBook Air.
But the Pavilion dv2 will pack features such as an AMD-ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3410 separate (discrete) graphics chip, a relatively large hard disk drive (HP lists drives up to 500GB), and a 12.1-inch LED screen. Features that differentiate it from Netbooks and put it squarely into ultraportable territory.
The dv2 will also come with WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network) options as well as standard Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Bahr Mahony, AMD's manager of mobile products, said in an interview that one of the few ultraportables available today with discrete graphics is the MacBook Air, but this starts at a whopping $1,800. (The Air uses Nvidia's GeForce 9400M graphics and Intel's Core 2 Duo low-voltage processors.)
The Athlon Neo platform can handle 1080p HD playback and a "casual" gaming experience with realistic 3D graphics, using the optional ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3410 graphics chip.
AMD's Athlon Neo processor--formerly code-named "Huron" under the platform codename "Yukon"--runs at 1.6GHz and has a power envelope of 15 watts, comparable to Intel ULV (Ultra Low Voltage) Core 2 Duo processors that power ultraportables today.
AMD's Neo does fall short in one respect, however. Currently it is only single-core, whereas Intel ULV processors are dual-core at a comparable power envelope, and, moreover, typically integrate 6MB level-2 cache memory to boost performance. AMD's Neo has only 512K of cache memory.
A dual-core chip, code-named "Conesus," will come in the second half of this year, according to AMD's Mahoney.
The first HP Pavilion dv2 ultrathin notebook is expected to be available from HP in the second quarter.