Notebook makers want a place in your living room

Move over, small form-factor PCs...

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Computex The notebook, not the desktop, could become the ideal living room PC form-factor if a number of new high-end machines from Asus, Acer and Elitegroup prove to be market leaders.

All three used Computex Taipei this week to demonstrate large-screen, slimline notebooks that are not only styled like consumer electronics hi-fi product - all aluminium, silver paint and black plastic - but are designed to operate as standalone music and video players.

Each machine - Elitegroup's G900, the Asus W1N and Acer's upcoming Aspire 1800 - features a dedicated control panel for playing and pausing discs, skipping backward and forward between different tracks, controlling the volume and so on.

Crucially, each machine's panel operates with the lid closed and without having to boot the computer up first.

Asus' W1N is perhaps the most living-room friendly of the lot, with its own TV tuner, TiVo-like functionality, remote control (which can be neatly stored in the laptop's PC Card slot, itself hinder under a hinged lid on the left-hand side of the unit) and an LCM display on the front of the machine to provide track and TV channel information. A built-in sub-woofer beefs up the sound output by unit's stereo speakers.

The W1N sports a 16:10 ratio 15.4in display driven by an ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 chip with 64MB of VRAM. The computer is powered by an Intel Pentium M, and includes an 802.11b card for Centrino-compatibility.

With its aluminium shell and low-slung screen-hinge, the W1N is decidedly reminiscent of Apple's 15in PowerBook G4, though there's no slot-loading optical drive, alas, just a plain old drawer-mechanism job.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it runs Windows XP Pro or Home Edition. Elitegroup's G900 is a fully-fledged Media Center Edition PC driven by a 3GHz desktop Pentium 4 CPU. It too sports a TV tuner, but offers a larger, 17in, 1440 x 900 display, this time driven by an ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of embedded VRAM. Sound is generated by five built-in speakers: two high-frequency and two mid-frequency cones, and a sub-woofer. It too features a separate remote control unit - in addition to the front-mounted 'Audio DJ' bootless music controls.

These it shares with the Acer Aspire 1800, which like the W1N, will ship in a CE-friendly slimline aluminium casing. Acer is not talking specifications yet, but it did say the machine will feature a 17in display - not that you can't tell from the non-working demo model - and a Pentium 4 "desktop replacement" processor. ®

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