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Notebook PC makers latch onto new chip

New products will arrive in conjunction with Intel's debuting a faster Celeron and a new chipset that displaces the need for modem and audio hardware.

Notebook makers are releasing new models this week in conjunction with Intel's introduction of a faster Celeron chip for portables and a new chipset that displaces the need for modem and audio hardware.

Compaq also took the opportunity to cut prices.

Many will emphasize size and cost. For instance, Sony will add two new Vaio notebooks to its popular lineup: the Vaio Z505, a magnesium-encased superslim notebook with a 12-inch screen; and the Vaio F250, which will come with a 13-inch screen, measure approximately 1.7 inches thick, and start at $1,699, according to the company.

Other notebooks will start in the $1,499 range and go up, said an Intel spokesman.

Some of the size- and cost-cutting is accomplished through the new components. Intel's 366-MHz Celeron, unveiled today, is essentially made for budget notebooks. It costs $170 in volume quantities, which is relatively low for a notebook processor.

On the space side of the equation, the chip will be available in a new "Micro PGA" package, which takes up less space than Intel's other notebook packaging systems.

In addition, the chipmaking giant released two new chipsets for portables, the 440ZX and 440MX. The 440MX in particular could be effective in reducing cost and size because it allows a notebook to handle modem functions and audio in software.

As a result, computer makers don't have to include a separate modem or an audio chip. Not only does this make the computer's circuit board smaller, it cuts the bottom-line price.

Micron, Dell and others will release notebooks utilizing these products as well, according to industry sources.

Today, Compaq added a new Armada 1500c model with the faster Celeron 366-MHz processor and a new Armada 1750 Series model. The 1500c with a 4GB hard drive and 12-inch active-matrix LCD screen is priced at $1,700, while the 333-MHz 1750, with a similar set of features, is priced at $1,999.

Compaq also cut prices. The 1500c with a 266-MHz Intel Celeron processor and a color passive-matrix screen was reduced to $1,399 and the Armada 1500c with the 300-MHz Intel Celeron processor and color active-martix screen was reduced to $1,599.

The company also continues to promote its lightweight Armada 3500 Series, offering buyers of models with either a 266- or 300-MHz Pentium II processor a free Mobile Expansion Unit. This is usually priced at $199. This unit can use a CD-ROM or DVD drive and can also take an optional second hard drive, SuperDisk LS-120 or Iomega ZIP Drive.

Fujitsu also upgraded its LifeBook line with new C series models with a 333-MHz Celeron chip. One model comes with a 4GB hard drive and 12-inch active-martix screen for $1,499.