Tiny notebooks back in vogue at Gateway

Two years after letting development of ultraportable notebooks lapse, Gateway is coming out with a new 3-pound system.

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Gateway is returning to the ultraportable notebook market after a two-year absence, with a 12.1-inch notebook that weighs a little more than 3 pounds.

The company is expected to unveil the E-100M and NX100X on Thursday. The notebooks are almost identical, but the E-100M targets business customers, while the NX100X will be aimed at home users.

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Video: Gateway NX100 ultraportable
CNET Reviews' Michelle Thatcher takes a look at the company's first new ultraportable in four years.

Ultraportable notebooks are defined as systems that weigh no more than 4 pounds and feature a 12-inch display, said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. This year IDC expects 8.7 percent of all notebooks to fall into this category, up from 7.9 percent last year. Gateway cited that modest increase in demand as one of the reasons it's returning to this market.

However, these notebooks are also important for PC companies looking to boost their margins, Shim said. Ultraportable notebooks usually command a premium price because of the engineering needed to extend battery life and cram performance into such a small package, he said.

Traveling executives have traditionally been the main customers for these small notebooks in the U.S. But as the premium for an ultraportable grows smaller, U.S. consumers are joining their counterparts around the world by taking another look at small PCs, Shim said.

Gateway's new ultraportable
Credit: Gateway
Gateway's new ultraportable will be
called the NX100X for consumers, and
the E-100M for business customers.

Both the NX100X and the E-100M will start at $1,399, but the NX100X comes with an external multiformat DVD-R/RW drive that costs $199 extra for business customers of the E-100M. However, business customers tend to purchase new notebooks in large quantities and will likely receive discounts on their E-100M purchases, a Gateway representative said.

Both notebooks come with Intel's U1300 Ultra Low Voltage Core Solo processor, which was previously unannounced by the chip company. The notebooks will be available for order at Gateway's Web site Thursday, but they aren't expected to ship until the end of April.