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Dell watches energy for notebook update

The PC maker revamps its wide-screen Inspiron notebook with expanded graphics and with Intel's Pentium M chip, which promises to use less battery power.

Dell has revamped its wide-screen Inspiron notebook with a chip that's designed to appeal to power-conscious consumers.

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The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker began taking orders Thursday for the Inspiron 8600, which has the same chassis and 15.4-inch wide-angle display as the Inspiron 8500 but switches out that model's Pentium 4-M chip for a more energy-efficient Pentium M. The updated model also comes with expanded graphics options.

Moving to the newer Intel processor gives the Inspiron 8600 a 30 percent improvement in battery life over the previous model, according to Dell, boosting its duration to about 4.5 hours. The Pentium M also allowed the PC maker to add a higher-performance graphics card option, the Nvidia GeForce FX Go5650 with 128MB of memory, the company said.

The Inspiron 8600's opening price will be $1,699, Dell said. Its most basic configuration includes a 1.3GHz Pentium M, a 15.4-inch WXGA (1,280-by-800-pixel) screen, 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a combination CD-burner/DVD-ROM drive.

However, the price to the consumer could be reduced or the configuration of the 8600 notebook augmented if special incentives offered by Dell are taken up. A $250 instant rebate is available for purchases of the machine made online through Dell's Web site, for example.

The wide-screen, or wide-aspect-ratio, notebook display the Inspiron notebook uses allows a person to easily view two documents or Web pages that are arranged side by side or watch a DVD movie formatted for a wide screen, Dell has said.

The Inspiron 8500 and Inspiron 8600 models are among only a handful of 15.4-inch wide-screen notebooks available from brand-name manufacturers. HP's Presario x1000 offers similar choices of feature, starting at $1,399. For its part, eMachines pairs a similar screen with an AMD Athlon XP-M processor in its M5310 notebook, which sells for $1,199.

Dell will continue taking orders on the Intel Pentium 4-M based Inspiron 8500 for about two more months, the company said, but will eventually phase it out in favor of the 8600 model.