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Dell's notebook: Small things considered

The computer maker is going smaller than it ever has with a new mini-notebook. The Latitude, Dell's X200, features a 12.1-inch screen and is just under an inch thick.

Dell Computer is going smaller than it ever has with a new mini-notebook it launched Monday.

The Latitude mini-notebook, Dell's X200, features a 12.1-inch screen, but weighs only 2.8 pounds and is just under an inch thick.

It's a first for Dell, which had previously looked upon the mini-notebook segment of the notebook market, populated by machines weighing 3 pounds or less, as being too limited. Now, however, with the rise in popularity of notebooks and the debut of larger screens and keyboards, as well as faster processors that make the tiny notebooks more usable, Dell is taking the plunge.

The X200 will sell for $1,899. Dell includes the 12.1-inch screen and 800MHz ultra-low voltage Pentium III-M processor from Intel, 128MB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive.

The machine also includes a keyboard that is 98 percent of the size of a standard notebook keyboard. Keyboard size is an important measure for usability; analysts have said that cramped keyboards lead to slow sales for mini-notebooks.

Dell also will offer the new X200 with an expansion device, the X200 Media Base, which includes ports for devices like a keyboard, a floppy drive and optical drive.

The notebook snaps into the top of the base, which starts at $299 with a CD-ROM. Otherwise, a user can purchase external drives, which can connect to the X200 via its IEEE 1394 port.

The X200 will also offer wireless networking. Buyers can opt to have an internal wireless LAN card, priced at $149, installed in the machine, which already includes a wireless antenna.

While the X200 is new from Dell, it's not new to the market. Gateway offers a similar version of the notebook designed by Samsung, a long-time Dell partner.

Gateway's version of the notebook, its Gateway 200, weighs 3 pounds and includes a 933MHz Pentium III-M processor, 256MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. It sells for $1999, including the expansion base.