Are high-end ultra-portable laptops way overpriced?

By on February 23, 2009, 1:54 PM
Before the Asus Eee came to market or the first Macbook Air appeared in public, those who wanted absolute portability without sacrificing too much on features or performance had only a few highly priced options, many of which still exist today. I was one of those tempted by the 11" Vaio T line a few years back, with a single core low-power Intel CPU, 2GB RAM, built-in DVD recorder, one of the first LED screens that made it to market and a very respectable 7-hour battery uptime. I paid in excess of $2,500 for the little state of the art machine.

Today you can get more or less the same functionality and portability sans the optical drive and A+ quality screen for less than $500 in a netbook.


Nonetheless, the performance ultra-portable segment still exists today. Depending where you look, most manufacturers have followed suit to the MacBook Air proposition, offering screens in the 12-13" range and boasting a very low profile and weight. Again, depending where you look, you will end up paying no less than $1,600 for an ultra-portable that does not belong to the netbook category, and like CNET discovered, most of the time you will pay considerably more and in certain cases it will be for outdated hardware.

Do you think netbooks cannibalized the ultra-portable segment? And have you had any recent buying experiences for either type of machine? It will be interesting to know what was your take on what to buy.




User Comments: 9

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rcballa12 said:
Linux-based netbooks have to shed at least $80-100 off of the price of comparable ultra-portable hardware that have pre-installed Microsoft or Apple OSes. Just on the OS alone. I was looking at some of these (because of the price point), but I think I'll ultimately go with something like the Archos instead.
fastvince said:
They are way over priced ! My friend also bought a Vaio Tline and he is still kicking himself !
captain828 said:
Cannibalized the ultra-portable segment? no; they more opened a new market segment: the netbook.The original ultra-portable concept was viewed as a business oriented laptop. Good performance, small package, high durability, high environment integrability and all with good battery life.But since it's business oriented, it's also niche => high price/high margin.The netbook, while still an ultra-portable, is a low cost one having to trim down on many of the original ultra-portable features to maintain it's low cost.Thus, comparing a netbook to a modern ultra-portable is like comparing a Peugeot with a BMW.Also, I don't get why they just picked the most expensive, high-spec notebooks and compared it to a standard MacBook Air. Doesn't sound very fair...For eg., a [url=http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Prod
ctDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productI
=8198552921665458071]Sony Vaio Z[/url] can be had for ~$1700, while still maintaining 90% of the high-spec's performance (sans SSD, but you can buy that separately).
nazartp said:
[b]Originally posted by captain828:[/b][quote]Cannibalized the ultra-portable segment? no; they more opened a new market segment: the netbook.The original ultra-portable concept was viewed as a business oriented laptop. Good performance, small package, high durability, high environment integrability and all with good battery life.But since it's business oriented, it's also niche => high price/high margin.The netbook, while still an ultra-portable, is a low cost one having to trim down on many of the original ultra-portable features to maintain it's low cost.Thus, comparing a netbook to a modern ultra-portable is like comparing a Peugeot with a BMW.Also, I don't get why they just picked the most expensive, high-spec notebooks and compared it to a standard MacBook Air. Doesn't sound very fair...For eg., a [url=http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Prod
ctDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productI
=8198552921665458071]Sony Vaio Z[/url] can be had for ~$1700, while still maintaining 90% of the high-spec's performance (sans SSD, but you can buy that separately).[/quote]Not sure about high margin on business laptops, ultraportable or not. My company buys about 2,000 notebooks a year and margins on those are very slim. Vendors typically make their margins on services and software, but never on hardware. I agree with you on the level of comparison - business ultraportables are nothing alike (except weight) with the netbooks. On the other hand, it is funny that none of the normal businesses (except graphic and engineering design and the like) really need powerful computers. Bulk of the time I have Excel and Word open. A decent netbook is sufficient.
captain828 said:
[b]Originally posted by nazartp:[/b][quote]Not sure about high margin on business laptops, ultraportable or not. My company buys about 2,000 notebooks a year and margins on those are very slim. Vendors typically make their margins on services and software, but never on hardware. I agree with you on the level of comparison - business ultraportables are nothing alike (except weight) with the netbooks. On the other hand, it is funny that none of the normal businesses (except graphic and engineering design and the like) really need powerful computers. Bulk of the time I have Excel and Word open. A decent netbook is sufficient.[/quote]It depends what kind of laptops your company buys. I was referring to >$2500 notebooks.[quote]A decent netbook is sufficient.[/quote]In my book, current netbook hardware is not decent even for Word, Excel and web browsing. Some might think differently though, but from what I've seen...
DarkCobra said:
Gotta go with the Captain on this one. I'm puzzled by this whole new ultra mini netbook genre in terms of just who is it aimed toward. The processors, ram and drive storage are barely capable of running Vista alone . . . much less any medium load program. What problem are they resolving? I just fail to see just who these things are really aimed at.Yeah, they are cheap in price, diminutive in footprint, but for just a few bucks more you can upgrade to a slightly larger regular slim notebook with a significant boost in processor, ram, storage and capability. The whole point to a computer in the first place is to be able to "DO" things. So I look at these tiny netbooks and ask myself . . . Why?
Philscbx said:
[b]Originally posted by DarkCobra:[/b][quote]Gotta go with the Captain on this one. I'm puzzled by this whole new ultra mini netbook genre in terms of just who is it aimed toward [/quote]I have come to the conclusion the barely legal to call it a laptop series is for the crowd that is let out of class and heads to the coffee shops to access email and chat.I noticed a trend on the higher end compact units to eliminate critical firewire ports. Mini DV video cameras require it. One wire external daisy chained drives.I'm forced to drag the heavy Powerbook with to Europe. It's brutal duty on trains.Omitting the port on the Mac Air killed that option.This would streamline everything. I suspect the makers are forcing us to downgrade our gear to minimal standards.Or cough up major funds ($3000k) for the real gear laptops.So in the end, you need both.
DarkCobra said:
Hmmmm? Well if all one wants to do is head for a coffee shop to access e-mail and chat, play a little music or a few simple games then I've got a much better solution than a netbook. It's called a "Blackberry" . . . plus you get a phone, a GPS device, a camera and it can access Word, Excel and Outlook!
mattfrompa said:
there is a simple answer to this question:Yes.
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