PC makers roll out powerful notebooks

Riding Intel's new 'Coppermine' chips, manufacturers introduce a wide range of portables.

PC makers Monday let fly a number of fast notebook computers based on Intel's new Coppermine chips.

The notebooks, from IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HWP), Gateway Inc. (Nasdaq:GTW) and Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq:DELL), have one thing in common: They are all based on mobile Pentium III processors released by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq:INTC) on Monday.

The mobile chips, which are available at 450MHz and 500MHz as well as 400MHz for mini-notebooks, are important to notebook users because they will generally offer greater performance for the same, or even slightly better battery life.

IBM, for example, says its new ThinkPad notebooks based on the chips are realizing 15 percent to 25 percent performance increases over Pentium II-based models, depending on the benchmarks used. At the same time, they offer about the same or even slightly better battery life.

New technology
Performance boosts are helped along by an increase in system bus speed from 66MHz to 100MHz also brought on with the new chips.

Their greater battery life has to do with the construction of the mobile Pentium III chips. The new mobile Pentium III chips are based on Intel's Coppermine design that utilize a 0.18 micron manufacturing process. This process shrinks the distance between transistors, which makes for greater clockspeeds and lower power consumption.

IBM will offer the mobile Pentium III chips at 450MHz and 500MHz in new ThinkPad 390 and 600 models. A ThinkPad 600X model with the 450MHz chip, a 13.3-inch display, 6GB hard drive and 64MB of RAM will sell for about $3,199. A similar model with a 500MHz version of the chip 12GB hard drive and DVD-ROM drive will sell for about $4099.

IBM's all-in-one ThinkPad 390X, which is aimed at offering an affordable desktop replacement for small and medium businesses, will couple the new mobile chips with 14.1 or 15-inch displays. All-in-one, in a notebook, refers to it having non-removable floppy and CD-ROM drives integrated into its chassis.

When configured with a 450MHz mobile Pentium III and a 14.1-inch display, the notebook will cost about $3,099. A model that includes a 15-inch display and 500MHz mobile Pentium III will cost about $500 more, bringing the price up to about $3,599.

Large corporations next
IBM expects sales of the chips to ramp up much more quickly in small and medium business segments of the market -- large corporations are grappling with Y2K issues and may delay large purchases of new equipment until next year.

"We see the majority of the interest this year primarily from small- and medium-size businesses," said Leo Suarez, director of worldwide product marketing for Thinkpad. "Large corporations, what they're after, is an orderly transition, probably into the first quarter of next year."

The company also improved its ThinkPad 240 mini-notebook with a 366MHz mobile Celeron processor from Intel. It is priced at $1,999.

Hewlett-Packard Co. also announced new notebooks utilizing the mobile Pentium III chips. The Palo Alto, Calif., company's OmniBook 4150 notebook, with the 450MHz mobile Pentium III, a 14.1-inch display, 64MB of RAM and a DVD-ROM drive will start at about $3,749. The notebook also offers ATI Graphics Inc.'s latest ATI Rage Mobility 3D graphics accelerator, also announced today. A 500MHz configuration is available as well.

HP will also offer the 450MHz mobile Pentium III in its OmniBook 900 notebook PC. With the 450MHz chip, a 12.1-inch display and 64MB of RAM, the notebook will cost about $2,699.

Dell Computer Corp. announced the new Latitude CPx notebook, which offers the 500MHz mobile Pentium III, along with a 14.1-inch display and 64MB of RAM for a price starting at about $2,999. The notebook offers additional features, including a new dual pointer setup with a touchpad and a track stick, 8MB of video RAM and an $349 option for a CD-Rewritable drive.

The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker is also offering the new mobile chip in its Inspiron 3700 and 7500 models.

The Inspiron 7500, with a 15-inch display and 450MHz mobile Pentium III, will cost about $2,649. A version of the notebook with a 500MHz mobile Pentium III and 15.4-inch display will cost about $3,049, according to Dell's online product configurator. The Inspiron 3700, with a 450MHz mobile Pentium III and 14.1-inch display, starts at about $2,450.

Gateway aims higher
While most vendors are offering high-performance notebooks, Gateway Inc. (NYSE:GTW) is aiming at higher performance coupled with lower cost. The company today announced a new entry-level model, the Solo 2550, which offers a configuration with a 450MHz mobile Pentium III and a 13.3-inch screen for about $1,999.

Compaq Computer Corp. will offer the new chips in several of its notebooks. The Houston, Texas, company added mobile Pentium III processors to three of its notebooks, the high-end Armada E700 and mid-range E500 value notebook will each offer the 450MHz and 500MHz chips. The E500, for example, will offer the 450MHz chip for a price starting at $2,999.

NEC Computer Systems Division also plans to offer a number of new Pentium III notebooks. The company, according to sources familiar with its plans, will announce three Versa notebooks on Nov. 1. They will include a mini-notebook along with two full-size models.


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