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IDF: Intel 'Atom' based laptops set to blow away Eee PC

Thanks to Intel's new low power processor, Asus' popular Eee PC looks to no longer have budget notebook market to itself.

Laptops featuring Intel's new Atom processor have been unveiled at "day zero" of the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, and if the claims over their price are to be believed, Asus' Eee PC is finally set to get some serious competition.

As well as two Intel designs based on a reference chassis, which will be made available to OEMs, a gorgeous-looking laptop with Apple-esque curves and a 10in screen was sitting unobtrusively on one of the showcase shelves.

This is an as-yet unnamed design by MSI, apparently set to launch in the next two months for what an Intel representative claims will be the stunningly low price of "about $370", or around 185.

The Intel rep was cagey about giving out too many details and no MSI employees are at the event, but he claims that variants with a four-cell battery would manage a 6-hour life.

Inside the machine is a full 1GB RAM, a 4GB solid-state flash hard disk and a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor identified as an N270 by the Windows XP installation running on the machine.

The design is worlds away from the toy-like looks of the Eee PC, with the 10in screen looking easily large enough to do serious work on, compared to the 7in affair of Asus' design.

Connection options include three USB ports, network adaptor, SD slot and VGA output. Weight appears to be well under 1kg and the whole thing is about an inch thick when closed.

Atom is Intel's new ultra-low power mobile processor based on its 45nm fabrication process. Formerly codenamed Silverthorne, Intel should be revealing more details when IDF start in earnest tomorrow.

In contrast to the MSI design, there's no sign as yet of an Atom-powered Eee PC, but Intel assures us that they won't be long in coming.

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