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Laptops

Toshiba launches lightweight laptops

The company releases a pair of Portege models based on Intel's Pentium M processor, with one machine tipping the scales at just 2.4 pounds.

Toshiba is tuning up its smallest portables.

The computer manufacturer on Tuesday launched two new Portege notebooks based on Intel's Pentium M processor.

The lightest new Portege, the 2.4-pound R100 model, will become Toshiba's new flagship product, showing off the company's ability to create an extremely small and lightweight notebook that still offers features, such as a keyboard, that are similar to those in full-size notebooks.

The R100 was designed to cater to corporate executives and others who travel frequently and thus desire the smallest and lightest notebook that can run basic Windows applications.

The notebook's design runs counter to the current trend in the consumer notebook market, where many models are growing in size as manufacturers pack them with faster processors and larger screens with the aim of displacing desktop PCs. Last week, Toshiba launched such a desktop replacement, its Satellite P25. The P25 weighs almost 10 pounds, but offers a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 and a 17-inch screen.

The $2,299 Portege R100 includes a 12.1-inch display, along with a 1GHz Pentium M and a 40GB hard drive. The drive is an updated version of Toshiba's 1.8-inch mobile hard drive, the smallest such drive currently on the market. The new notebook also comes with an Intel 802.11b wireless module and 256MB of RAM. It does not include a built-in floppy or an optical drive, though the drives can be purchased separately and attached via a USB (universal serial bus) port.

Because companies are likely to purchase the Portege R100 in smaller numbers, Toshiba also launched a new Portege M100 model that aims to mix light weight and practicality by including a bay for an optical drive. The machine is somewhat thicker and heavier than an R100, but it still comes in at 4.4 pounds with a DVD drive installed.

The $2,199 Portege M100 includes a 1.2GHz Pentium M processor, a 12.1-inch display, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, an Intel 802.11b module and a DVD-ROM drive.

While the new Toshiba notebooks offer faster processors, built-in wireless and larger hard drives than their predecessors, they are facing a fairly crowded market for ultraportable notebooks.

Ultraportables, which typically weigh 4 pounds or less, get a lot of attention for their design, but their actual shipments represent less than 10 percent of the overall market for notebooks, analysts have said.

Top manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer and IBM, have recently released a number of new ultraportable notebook models based on the Pentium M.

Among them are Dell's 3.7-pound Latitude D400, Hewlett-Packard's 3.5-pound HP Compaq Business Notebook nc4000 and IBM's 3.6-pound ThinkPad X31. All three notebooks, sold in the United States, have 12.1-inch screens and Pentium M processors, but no built-in optical drive bay.

Dell is also expected to launch the Pentium M-based Latitude X300 model, a replacement for its current Latitude X200, later this summer. The machine is expected to weigh less than the Latitude D400, but still sport a 12.1-inch display.