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Compaq unveils new Armada

The move to a magnesium case marks a long-awaited push into slimmer notebooks for the Houston-based vendor.

Compaq today introduced a new series of slim notebooks, the Armada 7400 line, the latest in a wave of portable announcements expected to continue through September.

The PC maker, which switched places with Toshiba to take the number one position last quarter, follows its rival in announcing new Pentium II systems in a magnesium case. Other top vendors, such as Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell are expected to introduce new notebooks as well in the coming weeks. Toshiba announced its new notebook line last week.

The move to magnesium marks a long-awaited push into slimmer notebooks for the Houston-based vendor. Although a sales leader, Compaq has not been among the leaders for design innovation, which is crucial in the portable market.

"Until this go-around, Compaq and Dell have been boring, and that's been working," said David Thor, mobile computing analyst for Sherwood Research, noting that innovative form factors can help sway large corporate customers. "When it gets down to a tie-breaker, there will be something that has to break the tie, and typically it's not price. Ergonomics can help."

The new Armada 7400 offers a 13.3 inch active matrix display, 4GB hard drive, and 32MB of memory, for $3,999.

"The 7400 is evolutionary over the 7300," said Randy Giusto, an International Data Corporation analyst. "The primary difference is that they're supporting Pentium II and a larger display."

Compaq will likely make the new 300-MHz Pentium II processor available in their new lines when Intel makes the new mobile processor available on September 9, Giusto said.

"A lot of vendors make a conscious decision not to wait every time Intel has an announcement about a new processor. They would rather roll a product out on time and announce support for the processor down the line," Giusto explained. "Why wait until September? It's expensive to hold back based Intel, especially if the product is only going to represent the high-end."

Compaq also introduced two new Armada SB series notebooks today, the Armada SB 6233/12T and the Armada SB 5266/12S. The 6233/12T features a Pentium II processor running at 233 MHz, a 3.2GB hard drive, and a 12.1 inch SVGA display for $2,499. The 5266/12S includes a 266 Pentium MMX processor, a 3.2GB hard drive and a 12.1 inch dual scan display for $1,999.

"I think those are expensive," said Thor. "The problem is that a number of other manufacturers will release $2,000 machines," with higher quality displays, Thor said.

To make way for the new notebooks, Compaq discounted other Armadas, by up to 20 percent.

Compaq slashed prices on 19 of its Armada notebooks. For example, the Compaq Armada 1592, with a 200-MHz Pentium MMX processor, 32MB of memory and a 3.2GB hard drive was cut by 20 percent to $1,999.