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Toshiba thinks high-end with notebooks

The company says it will begin shipping five new Satellites by the end of the month that will feature a wireless antennas and combination CD-Rewritable/DVD drives.

Toshiba is on the prowl for more sophisticated notebook buyers.

The manufacturer said Tuesday that it would begin shipping five new Satellite notebooks--ranging from a $1,299 model that emphasizes value to a 2GHz Pentium 4 machine designed to deliver maximum performance--to retailers by the end of June.

For the first time, the company--which in the first quarter took the No. 1 spot in the notebook market--has added a wireless antenna and a combination CD-Rewritable/DVD drive to all of its models. The antenna will allow buyers to add a wireless module at a later date to gain access to 802.11b wireless networks.

The antennas and combination drives, paired with the higher costs for LCD panels, pushed the entry-level Satellite 1405 to $1,299, up from previous entry-level machines that have cost between $1,000 and $1,100. Company executives, however, said they feel that most buyers should be willing to pay extra for the multifaceted drive and wireless capabilities.

Toshiba's five new machines also work to target more specific areas of the retail notebook market, which has become more segmented of late, thanks to an increase in buyers.

The typical notebook buyer "is now a second- or third-generation user who is becoming more sophisticated," said Carl Pinto, Toshiba's director of product marketing.

The Satellite 1405 includes a 1.2GHz Celeron processor from Intel, a 14-inch screen, 256MB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive. It also shares the black-and-silver color scheme of the more up-market Satellite 2400 and 2405, which are also new.

Meanwhile, the Satellite 1905 is meant for buyers who want a high level of processor performance. For $1,899, it boasts a 2GHz Pentium 4 chip, a 15-inch screen, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive.

The machine was designed to appeal to a growing market segment of buyers who want the fastest notebook PC they can afford and are willing to trade off longer battery life or lighter weight, Pinto said. Notebook chips like the Pentium 4-M are designed with lower voltages and other tricks that reduce heat and power consumption.

"A lot of (buyers) have different usage models. Some are looking for performance, but are basically willing to give up (lower) weight," he said.

The 2GHz Pentium 4 was designed for use in desktop PCs. Toshiba was one of the first brand-name companies to put the desktop chip in a notebook, but the practice has been catching on. Hewlett-Packard got into the game last month, announcing a 2GHz or 2.2GHz Pentium 4 Pavilion notebook. Others, such as Gateway, are also considering similar models.

At 8.5 pounds, the 1905 is somewhat larger and more power-hungry than most notebooks. It offers battery life of between 2.5 and 3 hours, about a half-hour to an hour less than most machines.

"It's not going to be as portable as some of the other systems," Pinto added. But Toshiba doesn't expect people who buy the 1905 to spend more than 20 percent of their time using it while mobile.

The company will steer those looking for greater portability toward its lighterweight models 2400, 2405 or 5105 models.

The 2400 will include a 1.7GHz Pentium 4-M chip, with a 15-inch screen, 256MB of RAM, 30GB hard drive and combination CD-RW/DVD drive. The $1,799 machine has also been fitted with a Secure Digital slot for trading files with a PDA or camera. The Satellite 2405 will cost $200 less, with a 1.6GHz Pentium 4 and smaller 14.1-inch screen.

The top-of-the-line Satellite 5105 really wants to be the star of a buyer's home entertainment system. It even comes with a remote control.

Toshiba fitted the $2,299 notebook with a 1.7GHz Pentium 4-M and a 15-inch SXGA+ high-resolution display as well as Nvidia's GeForce 440 Go graphics board. The components allow the machine to show high-quality videos, Pinto said. But buyers can also use a set of ports to connect the machine to a home entertainment center to play DVDs or music.

"You can run this as a notebook or a DVD player or MP3 player," Pinto said.