Dell Zino HD

Chip maker AMD previewed some snappy Windows 7 PCs to be shown in January at CES. Specifically, AMD gave a sneak preview of Dell's Inspiron Zino HD portable home theater, set for official announcement this Thursday, while also displaying an 11.6-inch Acer Ferrari One netbook that might cross the Atlantic to US shores in 2010.

Slated for pricing as low as $199 (£120), Dell's cube-shaped Zino is targeted at households wanting a handy and moveable multimedia center low on energy consumption, officials said at a press event on the eve of the larger CES Unveiled event.

Although Dell has shown prototypes of the Zino before, AMD delivered an apparently first time look at the device outfitted in interchangeable "lids," or tops, which will come in an assortment of colors and patterns.

The Zino will use a dual-core AMD chip set especially designed to use only 25 to 35 watts of power, in contrast to an industry average of 65 to 95 watts, I was told during an interview. Other capabilities include HDMI, Blu-ray, and wireless support. But full specs won't be available until Dell releases the Zino on Thursday.

In another corner of a candlelit restaurant in Lower Manhattan, AMD demo'd a bright red Acer Ferrari One 11.6-inch netbook working in conjunction with a box called an external graphics port (XGP) to display 1080p HD video on a large Toshiba display.

Currently available in Europe only, the netbook features a PCI Express card slot aimed at letting users connect to an XGP in order give the gadget the same graphics performance as a desktop system.

Acer Ferrari OneIn one scenario that AMD foresees, a user will unplug the netbook from the XGP to take it along to work, and then plug it back in that night for home viewing of HD DVDs.

AMD is talking with Acer and several other PC vendors about the prospect of releasing a comparable netbook in the US early next year, maybe in time for CES, said John Swinimer, an AMD rep.

AMD also plans to show both the Zino home theater and Ferrari netbook - along with Win 7 netbooks based on the Vision Basic, Premium and Ultimate technologies announced in September - at CES Unveiled in New York later today as well as at the big CES show in Las Vegas in January.

A 17-inch notebook from Toshiba, for example, offers optional support for both standard and 720p HD graphics.

The AMD notebook chips will also support Adobe's 64-bit Flash technology, expected to be announced next week.

New technologies from AMD are also able to offload processing from the CPU to the GPU so as to prolong battery life, according to the AMD executives.

Within the first six months of 2010, AMD and its PC manufacturing partners will roll out new Vision Black technologies for desktop machines, said Bob Brim, AMD's director of client product marketing.