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HP: Thin is no longer in

The company is aiming its new Pavilion ze5100 at buyers who look for the fastest, lowest-priced notebooks they can find, giving little consideration to weight or battery life.

Hewlett-Packard topped the 2GHz mark for notebook computers with a new Pavilion model introduced Wednesday.

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The company's new Pavilion ze5100, due next month, will let consumers choose between Intel's 2GHz and 2.2GHz desktop Pentium 4 processors, in a bid to offer buyers the most bang for their buck when shopping for a new notebook.

Lower-priced notebook PCs have been selling very well at retail, with a year-over-year unit sales growth of as much as 32 percent in recent months. Meanwhile, buyers have grown more savvy about purchasing computers and have sought the fastest, lowest-priced notebooks they can find, giving little consideration to weight or battery life.

This new customer "likes the idea of a notebook, and they like the idea of desktop performance. But they're not as concerned with portability," said Nancy Boaman, product marketing manager for HP's Mobile Computing Division.

The company designed the new Pavilion to tackle this trend, Boaman said. The ze5100 offers a faster processor and a lower price than previous high-end HP notebooks. The machine will start at $1,699 with the 2GHz desktop Pentium 4, a 15-inch screen, and a combination CD-rewritable/DVD drive. The 2.2GHz version will cost from $1,900 to $2,299, depending on configuration.

A similar machine with Intel's fastest dedicated mobile processor, the 1.8GHz Pentium 4-M, might cost $2,000 to $2,500.

As previously reported, it's common to see notebook makers use desktop chips from time to time to gain a performance edge or hit a lower price. But recently, top-tier manufacturers such as HP have been looking more seriously at Pentium 4 desktop chips as a workable alternative to Pentium 4-M mobile chips, designed specifically for notebooks.

Intel's desktop Pentium 4 includes a number of manufacturing and technology tweaks aimed at reducing power consumption. As a result, the chip costs hundreds less and at the same time offers clock speeds as much as 733MHz faster than those of the 4-M mobile processor. But to gain the lower price tag and higher speed, HP had to make the trade-offs involved in using a desktop chip inside the tight confines of a notebook.

Desktop chips consume more power and produce more heat than their notebook-oriented counterparts

Fitting a hotter-running desktop chip inside a notebook requires a larger chassis and often additional fans, which add weight. The power-hungry chips also shorten battery life significantly.

The Pavilion ze5100 weighs close to 7 pounds and manages two hours of battery life. To date, most Pentium 4-M notebooks have weighed in at between 5.5 pounds to 6.5 pounds and have offered at least three hours of battery life.

But HP says that with its relatively low price and better performance, the new Pavilion does its job of meeting the current notebook consumer's requirements. Whereas a corporate road warrior would likely spend more money to gain a thinner, lighter notebook with decent battery life, the typical buyer doesn't share those concerns.

The Pavilion ze5100 "is for the person who is not frequently mobile," Boaman said. "They aren't necessarily concerned with being able to fly from San Francisco to Asia and have the battery life" for the whole trip.

Among other companies considering desktop chips for use in notebooks, Gateway has been looking at the desktop Pentium 4, and Compaq Computer had a product in the works before its merger with Hewlett-Packard. That product may appear later this year.