You can significantly improve netbook performance by boosting at least one or more core subsystems: processor, memory and storage. Netbooks currently on sale are tiny laptops designed to run easy tasks and especially with low cost in mind. Unfortunately the three subsystems are often a bit too slow....
What about graphics acceleration? Nvidia Ion platform (GeForce 9400M) and similar chipsets won't help boosting netbook performance, it helps (a bit) in running 3D games and some special applications (e.g. video encoding/decoding). However don't expect desktop level graphics performance! More in a next post...
Update: see posts on Nvidia Ion
Netbook Performance - Processor
- Intel Atom N450 (Pineview) vs Atom N280 vs N270 Benchmarks
- Intel Atom N470 Netbook Expected Benchmarks/Performance
- HD Video for Netbooks: with Atom Nvidia Ion or ARM CPU?
- ARM11 vs Cortex A8 vs Cortex A9 - Netbooks processors
- Nvidia Tegra 2 for Dual Core Netbooks/Smartbooks in 2010
Intel Atom N270 CPU is current market leader. Especially if compared to "normal" laptop processors, Intel's Atom N270 isn't really a benchmark champion, nevertheless Intel engineers reached a good balance between the three P: Power Performance and Price, especially if the netbook runs Windows XP or Linux. The Atom N270 is a bit too slow for Vista, on the other hand it seems that Atom N270 systems will be ok for the upcoming Windows 7.
VIA C7 and current MIPS based processors do not reach Atom N270 performance levels.
A higher processor clock and especially the first dual core CPUs can definetly boost netbook performance. Intel already announced netbook dual core Atom CPUs for end of 2009 and I'm pretty sure that we'll see soon a single core Atom processor clocked at higher frequency. The Atom N270 clock of 1.6GHz is well below the maximum clock frequency allowed by the technology, a realistic maximum value should be slightly above 2GHz. Intel's competitors don't sleep... in 2009 we'll probably see a handful new netbook processors platforms from VIA, Qualcomm, Nvidia and AMD. More in a next post...
Netbook Performance - Memory
Many netbooks are still sold with only 512MByte DDR memory, this is the biggest performance bottleneck, especially for netbooks running Windows XP. Linux netbooks run a bit faster with half GByte memory.
No question: at least 1GByte is required for acceptable performance, 2GBytes are required to boot Vista.
Netbook Performance - Storage
The storage subsystem has also a major impact in overall netbook performance. Many netbooks are sold with cheap SSD disk, this can be really a pain. Although the low access time, the transfer rate of cheap SSD drives can kill overall system performance. I guess that in two-three years max we'll get affordable and quick SDD drives, in the meantime the best solution is a quick 5400 2.5-inch hard disk.
UPDATE: SSD Disks for Netbooks?
You can use the netbook bestseller database to find the perfect netbook ;-)