Notebook makers prep for year's end

Sony and Toshiba follow HP's lead and take the wraps off a multitude of models, as the companies hope for a strong fourth quarter.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Notebook makers are releasing a slew of new models in an effort to keep sales strong through the end of the year.

Toshiba on Tuesday launched four Satellite notebook models, just a day after Sony said it will refresh four of its Vaio notebooks.

The multitude of new models, which include machines aimed at consumers and at small and medium-size businesses, come right behind the announcement of new systems from notebook giant Hewlett-Packard.

Collectively, the three manufacturers are getting ready for what they hope will be a strong fourth quarter, thanks to high demand for notebooks from consumers and improving sales to businesses.

Notebook sales have been strong at retail in the United States all year. Notebook unit sales posted a 55 percent year-over-year gain in August, according to market researcher NPD Group. At the same time, notebooks have helped boost overall PC shipments worldwide. Market researcher IDC recently raised its PC shipment forecast for 2003, citing stronger notebook sales.

Toshiba is aiming for consumers purchasing at retail with two of its Satellite notebooks. Its Satellite A15-S129 pairs a 2.4GHz Intel Celeron chip with a 15-inch screen, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a combination CD burner/DVD-ROM drive. It will list for $1,049, according to Toshiba.

The machine aims for the bulk of the retail notebook market--the lower price bands. Almost half of notebooks sold at retail cost less than $1,000, according to NPD. But there, Toshiba will find fierce competition from the likes of HP.

HP's Pavilion ze4540US, for example, offers the same hardware for a starting price of $1,099. With $250 in mail-in rebates from HP and retailer Circuit City, the machine was advertised for $849 in a Circuit City flier earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Toshiba's new Satellite A25-S279 offers a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4, along with a 15-inch display, 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. The machine, which also comes with a combination CD burner/DVD-ROM and built-in wireless, will sell for $1,549. It is designed for consumers who are looking for a notebook to replace a desktop PC.

Toshiba, which is releasing two similarly configured Satellites for small and medium-size businesses, will come up against revised notebook models from Sony.

Sony's latest Vaio notebooks announced Monday, including its GRT200G, offer new processors and other upgraded features. The Pentium 4-based GRT200G notebooks will come with several screen sizes and include Sony's Giga Pocket digital video recorder to pause and record live TV onto the hard drive for future playback. The notebook starts at about $2,100, according to Sony.

The company will also refresh its lightweight Vaio V505DX notebook, shifting the machine from a Pentium 4 to Intel's new Pentium M processor. The new version, which will come with wireless, will start at about $1,750, Sony said.

Sony also added the Vaio TR2A, a version of its lightweight, camera-equipped laptop that will come with a 1GHz Pentium M processor.

Finally, the company added Bluetooth, the short-range wireless technology for sharing files, to its Vaio PCG-Z1VA notebook. The machine comes with a 1.6GHz Pentium M, a 14.1-inch display and starts at about $2,200, Sony said.

Through it Web site, Sony began taking orders Monday for several of the new machines.

The models will come up against some of HP's latest products, including its 17-inch screen zd7000, which debuted last week and features Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 operating system.

HP also introduced a Pavilion zt3000, which comes with a Pentium M processor and a 15.4-inch wide-viewing screen for a starting price of $1,299. HP said the machine will hit stories Oct. 19.