15.4-inch notebooks dominate the full-size laptop market now, but there is a growing trend toward smaller screens with powerful guts. Many manufacturers are easing on down to 14 or 13-inch screens, but it looks like the not-horrendously-priced 12-inch is gaining ground.
There's the Dell Inspiron Mini 12, which, yes, is technically a netbook, but does show that it's possible to make something decent in that size for under $600. Then there's the ASUS N20A, a new 12.1-inch ultraportable laptop with Intel Centrino 2 technology. The ASUS site claims it's built for heavy usage, so obviously they feel that a 12-inch screen will work as a primary business or travel notebook at least.
Part of the reason why people love netbooks is not just that they're lighter and less expensive, but also that they're smaller. The 7-inch models may be a bit too small, but there are plenty of decent 9 and 10-inch netbooks out there. Is 12 inches the happy medium between portable and powerful? Or is it too small for a notebook and too big for a netbook?
One thing is certain: with the ASUS coming in at $999, it looks like the days of ultra-expensive 12-inch laptops are over. And if consumers can get a great, lightweight laptop that slides easily into a bag or briefcase, will 15.4-inch models become "big screens" like the 17-inch ones?