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Notebook makers prepare 1GHz blitz

Intel plans to launch its 1GHz mobile Pentium III chip for notebooks Monday, along with a 900MHz mobile Pentium III and a 750MHz mobile Celeron chip, sources say.

Several major notebook makers will break the gigahertz barrier next week.

Intel plans on Monday to release its 1GHz mobile Pentium III chip for notebooks, along with a 900MHz mobile Pentium III and a 750MHz mobile Celeron chip, sources familiar with the chipmaker's plans said.

A number of top PC makers will release notebooks on Monday to coincide with the chipmaker's announcement. But Hewlett-Packard apparently doesn't want to wait and intends to launch a full-on mobile 1GHz blitz Sunday. The PC maker will run ads in Sunday circulars and offer the notebooks at CompUSA and Fry's Electronics stores, sources said.

HP will use the new chip to launch its newest consumer model, the Pavilion N6395, sources said. The notebook will come with the 1GHz mobile Pentium III, a 15-inch display, 256MB of RAM, 30GB hard drive and 8x DVD drive for $3,199. The new Pavilion weighs in at 5.8 pounds and is about 1-inch thick.

The new 1GHz mobile chip hits the market just about a year after Intel and Advanced Micro Devices first introduced their 1GHz desktop chips. Notebooks from major manufacturers featuring AMD's Athlon chip are expected toward June.

The 1GHz notebook chip comes at a time when notebooks are becoming increasingly important to PC makers and Intel alike as the portables sales are generally growing more quickly than desktop PCs.

The need for speed
Analysts say the speed boost for notebooks is needed in more ways than one.

"Once consumers see the 1GHz, hopefully it'll be a stimulus for unit growth," IDC analyst Alan Promisel said. It's important for notebooks not to lag too far behind desktop PCs in terms of performance, he added.

Notebooks catch up to desktops
A number of PC makers will be releasing 1GHz notebooks.

What's the news?
New 1GHz mobile Pentium III from Intel.

What's it mean?
New, faster notebook computers.

What's the average price?
Prices will range from $2,500 to $4,500.

What's a typical configuration?
15-inch screen, 128MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive, and CD-rewritable or DVD drive.

When will they start to hit stores?
Monday--or in Hewlett-Packard's case, Sunday.

Who will offer them?
Compaq Computer, HP, Toshiba, IBM, Micron Electronics, Dell Computer, Gateway and Winbook, among others.

"We still expect (notebooks) to offer higher growth rates in the future (than desktops)--and ultra-portables even more so," Promisel said.

As a result, the 1GHz Pentium III will receive a groundswell of support from PC makers.

In addition to HP, a number of PC makers plan to support Intel's announcement with new notebook models, priced from $2,500 to $4,500.

Most new 1GHz Pentium III notebooks will be full-size models. These machines generally offer large 15-inch screens, lots of RAM and hard drive capacity, and space for extras, such as DVD or CD-rewritable drives. Models will be coming for both the consumer and corporate markets.

PC makers glom on
Toshiba will announce on Monday a new Satellite Pro 4600 for consumers, sources said. It will sport the 1GHz chip, a 15-inch screen and 128MB of RAM for a price north of $3,000. In addition, the company's Tecra 8200 series for the corporate market will offer the 1GHz chip in a 5.5 pound notebook with a 14-inch screen, 256MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive and a combination DVD/CD-RW drive for about $4500, sources said.

HP also will beef up its corporate OmniBook 6000 notebook. It will sell for $4,199 with the 1GHz chip, 15-inch display and 256MB of RAM, sources said.

Compaq Computer is expected to offer on Monday three new notebook models--the Armada E500 and M700 and Presario 1800--with the 1GHz processor, sources said.

The Armada E500 will feature a 15-inch display, 128 MB of memory, 30GB hard drive, CD-RW drive and network card for $3,699. The M700 packs a smaller 14-inch display, 128 MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive, DVD drive and network card for $3,599, sources said.

IBM also plans to launch two new models, the ThinkPad A22 and A22p, which are expected to go on sale in mid-April, sources said. Prices range from $1,999 to $3,099 for the ThinkPad A22m, and $3,899 to $4,169 for the A22p.

The $3,899 ThinkPad A22p will pack a 1GHz mobile Pentium III, 15-inch display, 32GB hard drive and CD-RW drive.

Dell Computer also plans to join Monday's blitz, offering a Latitude C800 with the 1GHz chip and a high-resolution 15-inch screen, as well as a 1GHz Inspiron 8000 series notebook with a 14.1-inch screen, sources said. Both will sell for under $2,500.

Voltage reduction
The new 1GHz chip will use Intel's SpeedStep technology, which reduces clock speed and voltage when a notebook switches to battery power in order to maintain battery life. On batteries, the chip will drop automatically to 700MHz. However, notebook owners can override the function and run the chip at 1GHz on battery power.

Sources close to several manufacturers said they expect little, if no demand for 900MHz models that will also come out Monday. But some see value in the processor. HP and Dell and Toshiba will offer the chip.

Micron Electronics will likely be the sole PC maker to initially offer only the 900MHz mobile Pentium III. It will add the chip to its TransPort GX+ line, starting Monday, sources said. The TransPort GX+ notebook with the 900MHz chip, 15-inch display, 30GB hard drive, 8x DVD drive and network card will sell for about $3,440, sources said.

A 1GHz model is expected sometime soon from Micron. However, most other notebook configurations will emphasize the 1GHz chip, due to consumer interest.

Sony also plans on Monday to introduce a notebook with a new Intel processor, sources said, although they wouldn't specify which chip. Code-named Viper, the model is the next-generation mini-notebook, a category that Sony pioneered with its Vaio PCG-505. Viper will be introduced in the United States before it hits Japanese shores, a practice uncommon for Sony given the greater popularity of mini-notebooks in Japan than in the United States.

Staff writer Richard Shim contributed to this report.