The S12 is further probing that very fuzzy region between full-on laptop PC and low-capability netbook. Its powered by an Intel Atom chip, for sure, and has a chunky six-hour battery, just 1GB of memory and a diminutive 160GB hard drive. It’s also compact, weighing just three pounds, and costs around $450…all of which makes it look like a netbook.
Then you discover it has a 100% full-size keyboard, versus the cramped offerings of nearly every other netbook, and comes with 3G broadband as well as standard Wi-fi. Most shocking of all it has a 12-inch screen (versus 10 inches on the biggest netbooks to date). That exceeds Microsoft’s restrictive definitions of what constitutes a netbook for Windows licensing reasons.
But what really makes this machine stand out is its use of Nvidia’s Ion graphics core in partnership with Intel’s Atom CPU. The Ion effortlessly outclasses the graphics offerings Intel usually packages with the Atom, since it’s based on a proper GPU chip, the 9400M. And that means that the S12 can easily cope with HD video, and even graphics-rich games–Nvidia suggests it’ll enable you to play Spore, for example.
The S12 is almost a next-gen re-creation of an absolute classic notebook PC: Apple’s 12-inch PowerBook. Like that old Mac, the S12 seems a perfect combination of compact but useful size, and reasonable power. And at that low price, it’s likely to make a big splash in the market.