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10 must-have features in a dream smartbook

These specs will ensure smartbooks succeed

Netbooks may have managed to set the mobile computing market alight, but can smartbooks follow in their footsteps? We look at the 10 must-have features smartbooks need to succeed.

4. Solid-state drive (SSDs)

There's nothing worse than waking up from a good dream, but that's what happens when your netbook battery dies.

SSDs can double battery life, as well as spiff performance by a factor of two or three. And that all-important startup time will always be much shorter when booting from a solid-state device.

(That's why Google's specs for its Chrome OS-based net appliances allow SSDs but not hard drives.)

Fortunately, solid-state technology is improving apace, making SSDs affordable standard equipment for smartbooks.

Security is a natural concern with any portable computer, so the SSD should be combined with whole-drive encryption technology to give users peace of mind about sensitive data that could fall into the hands of criminals.

Even though Google envisions storing user data in the cloud, information is necessarily cached on a smartbook's internal storage - that's what it's there for.

Bonus points accrue for built-in two-factor authentication using biometrics or plug-in tokens.

5. Ubiquitous networking

The 'net' in netbook stands for networking, and no self-respecting dream machine can claim the title unless it has the ability to latch onto any modern network.

This means 10/100 Ethernet (GigE is a bonus), Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), 3G, 4G (WiMax or the forthcoming LTE), and Bluetooth.

Each of these networking technologies has its place: Ethernet for the desk, Wi-Fi for meetings, 3G and 4G for the road, and Bluetooth for tethering devices like phones, headsets, and mice.

A Google smartbook maker gets extra points for upgradeable networking via plug-in modules, which helps future-proof your investment.

6. Variable-speed graphics

Sometimes you want long battery life, sometimes you want to not get killed in Robo Defence.

Apple solved this problem nicely by building dual graphics processors into select MacBook Pro laptops: a reasonably fast processor for utilitarian tasks, and a 2.5x processor for turbocharged performance. You can switch between the processors, trading speed for battery life as needed.

Unless Apple has patented this idea, it seems a great feature for a dream-standard smartbook, especially given Google's penchant for graphic-intensive applications like Google Earth and Street View.

A standard VGA graphics-out port is a given, since you'll want to use your smartbook as a presentation tool (although that may require running Windows - horrors! - in place of Android).

7. Integrated microphone, camera, and audio I/O

Mobile phone multimedia recording has made its mark on society, bringing eyes and ears to all kinds of public, and less than public, venues.

Generally this is a good thing, promoting honesty, particularly in government circles.

Google, being the home of YouTube, could not in good conscience support a mobile device without the ability to record video and audio, and upload it to the web in real time - especially not a device with the 'dream' moniker.

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NEXT PAGE: Built-in accelerometer, GPS and compass

  1. These features will ensure smartbooks succeed
  2. Multiouch and Android buttons
  3. SSDs, networking and graphics
  4. Built-in accelerometer, GPS and compass
  5. What dreams may come


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