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Toshiba embraces new Intel chips in tablet PC

Tablet PC with Core Duo chip takes aim at business users rather than home consumers courted by early Core Duo PCs. Photos: Toshiba debuts new notebooks

Toshiba plans to use Intel's Core Duo processor in a tablet PC, hoping to provide a boost to a product category that has fallen far short of early expectations.

The company on Tuesday unveiled the Portege M400, along with three other notebooks that feature Intel's newest dual-core mobile processor. The 12.1-inch M400 weighs 4.5 pounds and features a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive as a standard option.


Tablet PCs were once heralded as the future of mobile computing by Microsoft. The company's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, launched in 2002, allows consumers to take handwritten notes on documents or applications through a pressure-sensitive screen and sophisticated stylus. Despite a dedicated niche of educators, scientists and creative professionals who enjoy the freedom of entering data with a pen, tablet PCs have not caught on with the mainstream computer user, even though overall notebook shipments have surged over the last three years.

PC vendors ship two main types of tablet PCs: a "convertible," a traditional-looking notebook with a rotating screen that covers the keyboard when used in tablet mode, and a "slate," which doesn't have a keyboard attached to the main unit. Toshiba's M400 is a convertible device, which has proven to be the more popular of the two designs.

Because of the thermal constraints of building a PC that is designed to rest on a person's arm for extended periods of time, most early tablet PC designers opted for low-power versions of Intel's Pentium M processor or Transmeta's Crusoe chips. The $1,699 M400 comes standard with Intel's Core Solo processor, a single-core version of the Core Duo processor, but it can be configured with the more powerful Core Duo chip. PCs with the Core Solo chip need to be designed around a processor with maximum power consumption of 27 watts, while the Core Duo chip consumes a maximum of 31 watts of power.

Several PC makers also have opted to use external CD-RW/DVD-ROM drives in order to reduce the weight of the tablet PCs and extend their battery life. The CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive on the M400 fits into a removable bay that can also accommodate a second hard drive.

Toshiba also on Tuesday launched three new business notebooks with Intel's Core Duo chip. Most PC vendors have chosen to include the new chip in consumer notebooks, but Toshiba is going after business customers with its new Tecra models by highlighting security features like a Trusted Platform Module and a fingerprint reader.

The Tecra A6 and A7 notebooks come with widescreen displays, while the Tecra M5 is designed for travelers with a 14-inch regular display. Prices for the A6 start at $1,149, while the M5 starts at $1,699. The notebooks are available immediately from resellers and on Toshiba's Web site, where detailed configurations can be found.