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Fastest Pentium notebooks here

Major notebook manufacturers announce the fastest portable PCs yet based on Intel's new Pentium chip.

Intel (INTC) is announcing the fastest Pentium chip yet for notebook PCs today, and major manufacturers are chiming in with new systems.

The new Pentium MMX chip, code-named Tillamook, runs at

Compaq Armada 7300
Compaq Armada 7300
266 MHz and appears prominently in new notebook PCs from such companies as Dell Computer, Gateway 2000, Digital Equipment, Compaq Computer, and Toshiba, which have or will announce new systems based on the chip.

The fastest mobile Pentium chip to date runs at 233 MHz and is used in high-end notebooks and low-end desktops.

This may be the end of the line for the Pentium processor, as Intel has not indicated that it plans any further speed upgrades for the chip, say analysts. Accordingly, the company will now stake its future on the Pentium II processor.

Most notebook models with this chip are expected to be priced above $3,000 and feature 12.1- or 13.3-inch active-matrix LCD screens and large hard drives.

Notebooks with 266-MHz Pentium processor
Company HD Screen Price
Compaq
Armada 7792
5GB 13.3" $5,699
Compaq
Armada 7380
4GB 12.1" $4,999
Digital
HiNote 2000
4GB 14.1" $5,699
Digital
HiNote 745
4GB 13.3" $4,599
Gateway
Solo 5100
4GB 14.1" $4,399
Gateway
Solo 2300
3GB 13.3" $3,699
HP
OmniBook 3000
4GB 13.3" $3,999
Toshiba
550CDT
4GB 12.1" $3,999
Dell
Inspiron 3000M266XT
2.1GB 13.3" $3,299

The Compaq Armada 7380DMT, for instance, is priced at just under $5,000 with a 266-MHz chip, 13.3-inch active-matrix display, a 4GB hard drive, a modem, a CD-ROM drive, and 32MB of memory. It comes in a thin, light design and weighs about 5.6 pounds.

Compaq also debuted a new series of 4200 Armada notebooks today, including models with the 266-MHz chip. Also a slim design, the Armada 4220T is priced at $3,999 with a 4GB hard drive and the 4210T at $3,499 with a 3GB drive. These come with 12.1-inch displays.

Gateway has new models with 13.3-inch LCD screens. The Gateway Solo 2300XL comes with 32MB memory, a 13.3-inch active-matrix 1,024-by-768 dot display, a 3GB hard disk, CD-ROM drive, 56-kbps modem, Microsoft Office 97, and a carrying case for $3,699.

Toshiba has announced the Tecra 550CDT, which features a 12.1-inch 1,024-by-768 dot display, an advanced graphics subsystem based on S3's ViRGE/MX 3D graphics chip. It also includes a 4GB hard drive and CD-ROM drive.

The Tecra model with the 266-MHz chip will be available early February, with an estimated price of $3,999.

Boise, Idaho-based Micron is shipping the $4,599 Transport XKE notebook with advanced 3D graphics, a CD-ROM drive, modem, 64MB of memory, 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen (upgradeable to a 13.3-inch display), and Microsoft Office 97.

"I would say this is the end of line [for Pentium speed upgrades]," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Dataquest, a major marketing research firm. "Intel will put all of its wood behind the Pentium II now," he said.

The new Tillamook chip comes just as Intel is running up against its first real competition in the notebook segment. As of this week, both Advanced Micro Devices and Cyrix are for the first time shipping processors for notebooks. Both companies' chips are featured in new notebooks announced by Compaq this week. (See related story)

AMD recently switched over to a new manufacturing process for its chips, allowing it to make smaller, faster processors that are suitable for notebook PCs.

The presence of low-cost suppliers such as AMD and Cyrix is likely to begin to drive down prices in the notebook market, shadowing what has occurred in the last 12 months in the desktop market. Notebooks have typically been priced at a large premium over desktops, but the cost of components, including screens and chips, have been plunging.

Toshiba recently indicated it will come out with a low-cost notebook this year priced around $1,000 in Japan. Notebooks typically start at around $1,500, and most are priced between $2,000 and $3,500.

But today's unveiling is also shaping up to be a prelude to a more seminal event in the first half of this year, when Intel will announce the first Pentium II processor for notebooks. Top manufacturers such as Toshiba are expected to bring out completely redesigned, next-generation machines that offer the muscle of today's Pentium II desktops.

Intel's ultimate goal is to move all PCs to the Pentium II chip and drive down its price, so that it appears in even the lowest-priced boxes. The chip giant is also planning to come out with a special version of the Pentium II that will not be on a cartridge and incorporate high-speed memory directly on to the chip.