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6 PC leaders preview notebooks

IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others introduce new notebook PCs, a preview to a parade of products at Comdex.

Hewlett-Packard (HWP), Dell Computer (DELL), IBM (IBM), Digital (DEC), NEC, and Toshiba are announcing new notebook PCs today, paving the way for a high-profile exhibition of these products at Comdex in November.

The models from Dell and HP demonstrate the two companies' newfound prowess in this critical computer market. Meanwhile, market leader Toshiba will aim to stave off competition not only introducing a new model but also by cutting prices.

HP unveils its first mobile 233-MHz Pentium "Tillamook"-based notebooks in a design that is both slimmer and lighter than HP's mainstay 5000 and 2000 series of OmniBook models.

Dell is announcing the Latitude CP line, Dell's first slim design in its well-received Latitude series, accommodating processors as fast as 233 MHz and extra-large 13.3-inch active-matrix LCD screens. The line will be targeted at the corporate market.

Among Toshiba's new models are a 233-MHz Tecra 750DVD with a DVD-ROM drive, a 13.3-inch screen, and improved sound. Toshiba has also released new Satellite Pro models with 166- and 233-MHz MMX Pentium processors.

IBM is releasing new models in its wildly popular, ultraslim 560 line and new models for retail.

Digital, for its part, is introducing new HiNote VP notebooks. The VP line is less expensive and has a more conservative design than Digital's cutting-edge HiNote Ultra 2000 notebooks, which were also announced recently.

NEC today introduced the Versa 2780MT, the newest addition to the Versa 2700 Series based on the 233-MHz chip.

Notebooks due this fall
display size hard disk CD-ROM
HP OmniBook
3000 CTX
233 MHz 13.3 inch 4.0 GB optional $4,500
Latitude CP
233 MHz 13.3 inch 2.1 GB yes $4,699
Thinkpad 560
233 MHz
12.1 inch 4.0 GB no $4,200
Thinkpad 310
133 MHz 11.3 inch 1.6 GB yes $1,999
HiNote VP 735
233 MHz 13.3 inch 4.0 GB yes $4,999

The new HP notebooks are part of a massive effort on HP's part to refashion its place in the portable arena. Since the beginning of the year, HP has been redesigning its products and taking a more aggressive stance on product pricing to gain market share.

The OmniBook 3000 CTX series notebooks come with a mobile Pentium MMX processor running at 200 MHz or 233 MHz. The 233-MHz model will come with a 4.0GB hard drive, 32MB of memory, and an optional CD-ROM drive. It will cost approximately $4500. The 200-MHz version will come with a 2.1GB hard drive and cost approximately $3,700, according to sources in the computer reselling channel.

The OmniBook 3000 models are slightly lighter and smaller than current high-end HP notebooks, among other design changes. The new machines will weigh approximately 6.8 pounds with a CD-ROM drive, rather than 7.7 pounds, and measure close to 2 inches thick.

HP showed a prototype of the computer on September 8 at Intel's coming out party for the 200-MHz and 233-MHz Pentium MMX processors for mobile computers.

Besides running at higher clock speeds than previous Intel mobile processors, the new chips consume less power and are sold on a modular unit that allows users to upgrade processors without changing machines.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the company's effort to build sales and brand awareness around its notebooks appears to be paying off. A number of resellers told NEWS.COM in June that HP had not been a major brand for them in the past, but that sales were picking up. Price cuts during the summer and fall have helped fuel sales since.

"HP notebooks have grown pretty extensively," said Steve Cohan, president of Entre Computer Center, a Denver reseller, after a recent price cut. "They've always been behind other vendors in bringing new features and prices."

In the first quarter of 1998, HP will release its version of the ultraslim notebook designed in tandem with Mitsubishi. The 3.1-pound notebook will be approximately 18.4 millimeters thick and contain 200-MHz and 233-MHz processors. The notebook sports a magnesium shell.

Mitsubishi will release its version of the ultraslim notebook, called the Pediom, in Japan next month and showcase the machine at Comdex in Las Vegas. The Pediom will start at roughly $4,900.

Meanwhile, Dell too is coming on strong in the notebook market. The new Latitude CP line comes with all the latest and greatest notebook technology as well as some subtle yet compelling design tweaks.

The new Dell notebooks come in a slim 1.5-inch design, similar to Compaq's 7300 series of thin notebooks.

Both the Dell Latitude CP notebooks and the Compaq 7300 series are targeted at the large corporate buyer and both feature a highly modular design, where CD-ROM drives can be swapped out for floppy drives. Dell goes this one step further, however, making available both "bays" for batteries, allowing 6-8 hours of use without recharging.

A nice touch to the Dell notebooks is two speakers mounted toward the front of the notebook on the sides, so audio can be heard even when the screen is closed.

Prices will start at $3,499 for a system with a 166-MHz MMX Pentium, a CD-ROM drive, a 2.1GB hard drive, and a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen.

Dell also recently introduced the Inspiron line of notebooks, targeted mostly at individuals looking for the latest and greatest multimedia and high-end computing features in a notebook.

Meanwhile, IBM introduces, an updated "thin and wide" ThinkPad 560 with a 233-MHz MMX Pentium and 12.1-inch display for around $4,200, according to industry sources.

IBM is also rolling out a sub-$2,000 ThinkPad for availability only in retail stores. The ThinkPad 310 will include a 133-MHz MMX Pentium, 11.3-inch dual scan display, a 1.6GB hard disk drive, a CD-ROM drive and 16MB of memory in its standard configuration.

Digital, for its part, is introducing a new line of notebooks sporting the 233-MHz MMX Pentium called the HiNote VP 700 series. The VP 735 will have a 13.3-inch display, a 4GB hard disk drive, and a combination 20X CD-ROM and floppy drive.

The VP 735 is expected to sell for under $5000. The VP 715 will offer the 166-MHz MMX Pentium and 2.1GB hard disk drive in the same form factor for an estimated $3,799. The VP 710 will ship to European and Asian markets with a 13.3-inch dual-scan display instead of the 715's active matrix screen for a price of $2,799.

Meanwhile, Digital is cutting prices on the HiNote VP 500 line of notebooks which have up to 12.1-inch displays and 166-MHz MMX Pentium processors. For example, the HiNote VP 565 will be priced at $2,299, down from $2,699 and the VP 575 will be reduced in price from $3,499 to $2,999, a reduction of 14 percent.

Toshiba is adding DVD-ROM drives, video playback, and improved sound to its Tecras. The Tecra 750DVD and 750CDM integrate DVD video playback based on MPEG-2 video playback technology and also add surround-sound support and 3D graphics.

Available in two configurations, the Tecra 750DVD ships with a DVD-ROM drive while the 750CDM includes a CD-ROM drive.

The estimated price for the Tecra 750DVD is $5,799 while the Tecra 750CDM is priced at $5,399.

Toshiba has also updated the Satellite Pro series. Priced at less than $4,000, the Toshiba Satellite Pro 480CDT comes with Intel's 233-MHz MMX Pentium processor, a 12.1-inch active-matrix display, a CD-ROM drive, Zoomed Video port technology, and two stereo speakers.

Toshiba also announced a 166-MHz Pentium MMX model for less than $2,500, the Toshiba Satellite Pro 460CDX. This model comes with a 12.1-inch "FastScan" dual-scan LCD screen.

NEC today introduced the Versa 2780MT, the newest addition to the Versa 2700 Series. The Versa 2780MT integrates Intel's 233-MHz MMX Pentium Processor, a CD-ROM drive, a built-in floppy disk drive, and a 56Kbps modem, starting at $3,299.