Makers match trends for greater functionality and portability to compete with popular tablet rival.
The rising popularity of tablet PCs is driving China suppliers of laptops to enhance their selections with emphasis on high performance in a compact and lightweight form factor. The first trend applies particularly to gaming or multimedia variants. Units in 15 or 17in configurations adopt the latest Intel or AMD CPUs, including the former’s second-generation Core i versions, and Nvidia GeForce GT Series discrete graphics cards. Some integrate solid state disks as storage option.
|Shenzhen Gold-East's L003-3 model has a 10.1in screen, Intel N455 1.66GHz CPU and 160, 250 or 320GB SATA HDD.|
Consumer ultralow voltage or CULV types represent the second development. With an ultrathin profile and improved portability yet powerful system, these combine the attributes of a regular laptop and a netbook.
To expand their catalogs, makers are looking to adopt Intel’s upcoming processor models in the Sandy Bridge ULV line. These are the Core i5-2557M, Core i7-2637M and Core i7-2677M. The first two have a 1.7GHz clock speed, and the last 1.8GHz. All three dual-core CPUs will have a thermal design power of 17W, ensuring low consumption. In addition, these will adopt Hyper-Threading technology and integrate 350MHz Intel GMA 3000 HD graphics cards. Local manufacturers believe the marketing efforts of CPU providers will ensure the stable growth of the CULV notebook PC category this year.
Makers are also riding the trend for further feature and function enhancements. Companies project LED backlight adoption will reach 100 percent by year-end from 91 percent in 2010. WLAN connectivity and optional Bluetooth are now common value additions, while DDR3 memory is becoming mainstream.
Overall, the domestic industry is banking on upbeat forecasts for the line despite the encroaching presence of tablet PCs. Global shipments of notebook computers, including netbooks, are estimated to rise by nearly 7 percent or hit 206.5 million units by year-end, according to DRAMeXchange. This is fueled by steadily climbing demand from emerging export markets and the commercial sector.
China is the world’s largest production base for laptops, accounting for more than 60 percent of total output. Its export volume and value will breach 200 million units and touch $100 billion by end-2011, from 193.8 million and $95.3 billion last year. By 2014, the former will reach 328 million units, broadening the country’s global yield share further to 80 percent.
The notebook PC line in China comprises 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17in units, with 14in leading output and representing about 60 percent. Widescreens, 320GB HDD, 2GB DDR3 SDRAM, integrated or discrete graphics card, DVD-RW drive and Li-ion battery are the typical specifications. Apart from 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth capability, the common add-ons include memory card readers and webcams. TV tuners are usually incorporated only on request.
The category is dominated by entry-level and midrange models. The first adopts an Intel Pentium dual-core processor, 250 or 320GB hard drive, 1 or 2GB DDR2 or DDR3 SDRAM, DVD-RW drive and a 300,000-pixel or 1.3MP webcam. Units in this segment support 802.11b/g/n connection.
Midrange varieties differ with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, and upscale types Intel second-generation Core i. The latter kind boasts 500GB HDD, 2 or 4GB DDR3 RAM and 1GB discrete graphics card. High-end models run on a 9-cell Li-ion battery, which can provide up to 4hr operating time.
The key components used in the production of laptops are CPUs, HDDs and LCD panels. China suppliers turn mainly to Intel and AMD for the first, and Western Digital and Seagate for the storage media. LCDs come mostly from Samsung, LG Display, Chimei and AU Optronics.
Price projections this year point to a downward trend, but the reduction will be limited to 5 percent. This is because manufacturers continue to face the rising cost of components and labor, while the appreciating yuan remains a key challenge.
In 2010, the average export quote of notebook PCs was $491.82, which was lower by nearly 8 percent from the previous year.
Competition from tablet PCs and netbooks is encouraging laptop makers in Taiwan to continue introducing models with higher aesthetic and features value to suit evolving market requirements. The latest releases, for one, come in slimmer and lighter designs to remain a better alternative to these rival devices. AsusTek Computer Inc.’s Asus UX series measures 3 to 17mm in thickness and integrates a solid state disk.
Variants targeted at the gaming segment, meanwhile, boast 3D displays. These adopt auto- and stereoscopic technologies, with the second being the mainstream because of its lower cost. Upscale versions such as AsusTek’s 15.6 and 17.3in notebook computers are based on the naked-eye or the first method.
Nvidia active shutter or Wistron polarizer solutions are typically used in Taiwan’s 3D category. The type, however, remains in the high end with a market base constituting hard-core gaming users.
In terms of processors, new models run on Intel Core mobile CPUs such as i7, i5 and i3. Some, especially 3D and multimedia varieties, can be equipped with a second-generation quadcore Intel Core i7 2630QM 2 to 2.9GHz unit.
The latest laptops also have a SATA III SSD, an HD webcam delivering 30fps at 720p, Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity and USB 3.0 interface. Some use 802.11b/g/n and 10/100/1,000Mbps Ethernet LAN. HDMI 1.4 is adopted to support 3D TV output, while ultrathin varieties have Mini DisplayPort and Mini HDMI.
The selections from Taiwan companies consist of 11.6, 12.1, 13.3, 13.4, 14, 15.6 and 17.3in models, with the majority having LED-backlit screens. Those in the 15in and smaller segment feature superslim designs. Larger units are mostly gaming or multimedia configurations supporting 1080p display. As a viewing enhancement, Micro-Star Intl Co. Ltd has added a light sensor that adjusts screen brightness and power levels automatically to suit indoor and outdoor lighting conditions.
Across types, DVD-Super Multi Double layer drives are common, while Blu-ray is an option, mainly in the high end. In terms of capacity, 2.5in SATA HDD choices cover 250, 320, 500 and 750GB.
Giga-Byte Technology Co. Ltd has developed a model with a bay for a second HDD or battery, extending storage or power depending on the requirement. The maker also offers the Booktop M2432 model, which has a dock and an Nvidia GT 440 GPU, combining the lightweight and powerful attributes of notebook and desktop PCs.
AsusTek Computer Inc.
Giga-Byte Technology Co. Ltd
Guangzhou Yihai Trading Co. Ltd
Micro-Star Intl Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Steed Technology Co. Ltd
Note: This article "Lighter, more powerful units keep laptop line dynamic" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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