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NEC's new portables to hit stores soon

NEC today announces three new notebook computers, reflecting the growing industry segmentation between small-and-light ultra-portables and large desktop-replacement systems.

    NEC today announced three new notebook computers, reflecting the growing industry segmentation between small-and-light ultra-portables and large desktop-replacement systems.

    NEC today announced the Versa FX, Versa VX, and LXi notebooks with Intel Pentium III processors.

    Originally expected to appear in September, Intel's new mobile Pentium III processors will run at speeds of 400, 450, and 500 MHz when they are introduced today. For the first time, notebook computers are beginning to approach desktop levels of performance, albeit at about three times the price.

    The new systems are designed to boost the company's global and domestic market share with large corporate and institutional customers as well as small and medium-sized businesses. The company is ranked No. 5 in worldwide notebook sales and seventh in the United States, according to Mike DeNeffe, vice president of product marketing at NEC.

    The new notebooks--which come in small, medium, and large sizes--reflect the growing segmentation in the notebook market between heavier notebooks with large displays and small ultra-portables. Users do not have to accept the significant trade-offs in performance or price with the smallest systems that they used to with early ultra-portables like the Toshiba Portege or Sony Vaio.

    The new LXi, which offers displays up to 15 inches and runs on the Pentium III mobile processor at 500MHz, weighs about 9 pounds and is much larger than the Versa Fx, which weighs only 3.5 pounds. With its 15-inch display, the Lxi is targeted at telecommuters and engineers who will not be travelling with the large notebook excessively.

    Priced starting at $2,999, the Lxi can be considered almost a "mobile workstation," DeNeffe said. The ultra-portable Fx, priced starting at $2,499, now offers more compelling technology than previous attempts at the ultra-portable because of advances in motherboard and processor technology by Intel, he said.

    "There's less trade-offs," he said, noting that the Fx has almost a full-sized keyboard, unlike early cramped keyboards on early ultra-portables. In addition, some customers may opt for a less-expensive NEC device based on Windows CE, Microsoft's scaled-down operating system which offers longer battery life and shorter boot-up than the desktop version of Windows.

    The mid-size notebook, which DeNeffe expects will also be the highest-volume seller, is the Versa VX. Weighing 6.4 pounds with a 12.1 or 14.1-inch display, the notebook is priced from $1,699 to $3,599, depending on the display and processor included.

    The new notebooks will be widely available through NEC's retail and distributor partners in November.