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Sharp notebooks get light, bright

One new model is the second lightest in the market, and another has a bright monitor with a wider-than-usual viewing angle, the company says.

With its new notebooks, Sharp is going to extremes.

The Japanese electronics manufacturer will release two new notebooks in the United States on Monday: a 2.1-pound machine that is the one of the lightest notebooks on the market, and a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 laptop that features a brighter-than-normal monitor with a fairly wide viewing angle.

Although not a huge player in the U.S. notebook market, Sharp is trying to carve out a niche through different and unusual designs, according to Greg Nakagawa, senior vice president of Sharp Systems of America. The company's ultimate goal is to sell more flat-panel monitors. By coming out with distinctive notebooks, the company hopes to show how a good screen can change a consumer's computing experience.

Sharp is also working to create a market for 3D monitors.

The Actius MM10--which was shown off at Comdex Fall 2002 under its Japanese name, the Muramasa--is Sharp's take on portability. Measuring 0.54-inches thick, the notebook comes with a 1GHz Crusoe processor from Transmeta, 256MB of memory, a 15GB hard drive and a built-in Wi-Fi module. The notebook can run 2.5 hours on a regular battery.

It also comes with SharpSync, a synchronization technology based on software from Iomega that lets users harmonize data from the MM10 and a desktop unit.

"The software lets it (the notebook) act like an external hard drive," Nakagawa said.

The MM10 is the second lightest notebook in the world, said Nakagawa. Panasonic sells one that weighs a few grams less in Japan, but that notebook is not sold in the United States and doesn't contain the same number of features. The MM10 sells for $1,499.

The Actius RD10, meanwhile, is more like a desktop in drag. The laptop comes with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip, a 60GB hard drive and a 15-inch screen. The screen is roughly 67 percent brighter than standard notebook monitors and comes with a wider viewing angle, Sharp said.

How is that possible? The LCD (liquid-crystal display) is the same one the company integrates into desktop LCD panels, which emphasize brightness and viewing angle. Apple Computer's upcoming 17-inch notebook also uses an LCD panel built for desktops.