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Comdex: loaded but cheap notebooks

Umax and MAG Portable Technologies unveil notebooks with big screens and fast processors priced well under the $2,000 mark.

Umax and MAG Portable Technologies both chose the Comdex trade show as the venue to unveil notebooks with big screens and fast processors priced well under the $2,000 mark.

Umax, which has not made much headway in the desktop PC market, is seeking to solidify its toehold in the notebook market by offering the first notebook with the 333-MHz K6-2 processor from AMD, a 12.1-inch active matrix display, 3.2GB hard disk drive, modem, and 32MB of memory for $1,599.

The pricing of the company's notebooks has helped the company gain sales momentum--in September, the company was the fourth largest vendor of notebooks in retail stores, according to ZD Market Intelligence, a research firm. Umax held a 4.5 percent share, compared to third place IBM's 8.8 percent.

While Umax has placed its early bets with chips from AMD, Intel will pursue a market segmentation strategy in the mobile market--just as it has done in the desktop market--in order to increase its presence at the low end of the market. Intel will release 266-MHz and 300-MHz versions of its low-budget Celeron chips for notebooks in the first half of 1999. This will result in more notebooks in the sub-$1,500 range and notebooks that approach the $999 price point.

Meanwhile, MAG Portable Technologies, a unit of a company best known for its monitors, is emphasizing big screens in its notebooks.

At Comdex, the company rolled out two new notebooks. At the high end, MAG is offering the Verity 8426CDT with 266-MHz Pentium II processor, CD-ROM, and 14.1-inch active matrix display for $2699. A system with a 300-MHz Pentium II, larger hard disk drive, and DVD-ROM drive is priced at $3,099.

MAG is targeting its new 4000-series Verity notebooks at businesses on a budget. Among four new models, the 4223VLT starts at $1,399 for a system with a 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor and 12.1-inch active matrix display and goes up to $1,899 for a system with 13.3-inch active matrix display, additional memory, and a larger hard disk drive. A built-in modem is available as an option.

The ActionBook 333T notebook computer is expected to be available in early December 1998, the company said. MAG's notebooks are currently available through selected resellers and mail order companies.