PC makers bet on super-sized laptops

Dell, Acer and Samsung have all announced plans to test the waters with mega-laptops.

Who says smaller is better in the on-the-go world of laptop computing?

Clearly not some of the world's top PC makers, who are testing the waters for super-sized laptop computers that look more like briefcases than notebooks.

The trend is being driven as much by technology as demand, fueled by 19- and 20-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors now starting to enter the market and upping the ante on the previous biggest models at 17 inches.

But in a mobility-driven segment where smaller and lighter are generally considered better, the question of who might want to buy such big models remains to be seen.

The new super-sized laptops are most likely to find an audience with high-performance buffs like gamers, as well as people who want large screens and limited mobility that allows them, for example, to move the computer around the office or home, said Kitty Fok, an analyst at International Data Corp.

"There's a market for this, but as to actual response, we don't have any data for it yet," she said.

Dell, the world's top PC maker, along with Taiwan's Acer and South Korea's Samsung Electronics, have all announced plans for or begun selling mega-laptops with screens of 19 and 20 inches.

Acer was displaying its 20-inch mega-model this week in Taipei at Computex, the world's second largest computer show.

The model, Acer's biggest laptop ever, is meant to function less as an on-the-go device and more for use within the home as a portable entertainment center in conjunction with other devices like game consoles and TVs, said Trisha Pan of Acer's product marketing division.

"We're building this as a desktop alternative," she said, adding that the model retails for about $2,700.

Dell was also targeting high-performance aficionados when it announced the release of its 20-inch laptop model last week.

In keeping with its high-end target audience, the model--which starts at $3,500--comes with a slew of bells and whistles, including eight speakers plus a subwoofer, detachable wireless keyboard and a gyroscope-enabled remote.

Samsung's model, which sells for more than $5,000, is also targeted at the high-end, and comes with a detachable screen so users can hook it up to their desktop monitors.

While some are embracing the super-sized laptops, Taiwan's Asustek Computer, located in a booth across the aisle at Computex from Acer, scoffed at the idea.

Asustek's biggest laptop now on the market carries a 17-inch screen, and the company has no plans to go any bigger, said Vicki Hsiao of the sales and marketing department.

"The advantage of notebooks are their lightness and slimness," she said, "so that will be our focus for now."

Story Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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