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Acer upgrades its tablet PC

The PC manufacturer is expected to begin shipping the new version of its tablet PC, with Intel's 900MHz ultra-low-voltage version of the Pentium M.

Acer plans to hit the road Thursday with a new TravelMate tablet PC.

The most notable change in the new TravelMate C110 tablet will be a new processor. Acer has incorporated Intel's new 900MHz ultra-low-voltage version of the Pentium M into the tablet, which uses Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Acer is the first among the many tablet makers to make the expected switch to the Pentium M, which is the processor behind Intel's Centrino bundle of chips for wireless notebooks. The Pentium M promises improved performance and longer battery life, Intel has said. The TravelMate previously used the 900MHz ultra-low-voltage Pentium III-M.

Another tablet maker, Motion Computing, plans next week to launch a new version of its tablet PC, the M1300, with the 900MHz ultra-low-voltage Pentium M.

Acer's new TravelMate C110 will pair the Pentium M with a 10.4-inch display, the same size as its earlier TravelMate tablet models. And like its predecessors, the 3.2-pound C110 is also a convertible. That means it opens and closes like a typical notebook PC. However, its screen can rotate 180 degrees and fold back down, covering the keyboard, to create a slate-style writing surface.

The C110 is expected to start at $1,899.

Meanwhile, a version of the machine configured with 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, wireless networking and an external CD burner/DVD-ROM combination drive will sell for about $2,200, according to estimates published in a report by market researcher ARS.

"The shift to the Pentium M processor is likely to draw considerable interest from notebook users that were put off with the poor performance of Tablet PCs running older processor technology," Matt Sargent, an analyst with ARS, said in the report.

Although the 933MHz ultra-low-volage Pentium III-M--the fastest of its kind--offers higher clock speed, a slower, ultra-low-voltage Pentium M still offers better performance. Motion Computing said its new model with the 900MHz Pentium M offers about a 25 percent boost in performance over the Pentium III-M, company CEO Scott Eckert said in a recent interview.

Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Motion Computing and Toshiba were among the first companies to adopt the Microsoft Tablet PC software.