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IBM unveils new ThinkPads

IBM releases a slew of new Pentium II-based notebooks, including several models from the all-new "thin and light" 600 series.

IBM released a slew of new Pentium II-based notebooks, including several models from the all-new "thin and light" 600 series.

The ThinkPad 600 series come in a design that's nearly

IBM's Pentium II ThinkPad 600
IBM's Pentium II ThinkPad 600
as thin as the ultra-portable 560 notebooks while boasting added features such a CD-ROM drive and extra-large 13.3-inch screens, as previously reported in February.

IBM said the 600 series notebooks are not intended as a replacement to the ultraportable 560 series. Instead, they are aimed mainly at corporations that are automating their sales force operations, said Adalio Sanchez, general manager for IBM's ThinkPad product line.

IBM's new ThinkPads
Model Pentium II screen hard drive price
600 233 MHz 13.3 inch 3.2GB $3,999
600 266 MHz 13.3 inch 4.0GB $4,599
380XD 266 MHz 12.1 inch 5.1GB $3,899
770ED 266 MHz 14.1 inch 8.1GB $5,799
All displays listed are active matrix

Sanchez considers the 600 models "the closest a mainstream notebook has ever come to being an ultraportable." But the 560 series will continue on in production through 1999, he noted.

On the ThinkPad 600's incorporation of the CD-ROM and other features into a thin-and-light form factor, "This definitely comes across to experienced mobile users as 'How in the world have they done this?'" said Dr. Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights, a market research firm.

Prices for the ThinkPad 600s range from $4,599 for a system with a 13.3-inch display and 266-MHz Pentium II processor to $2,799 for a system with a 233-MHz Pentium MMX and 12.1-inch active-matrix display.

IBM also upgraded the high-end 770 series and the entry-level 380 series notebooks with the Pentium II processors for mobile computers. Prices range from $2,799 to $3,199 for the 380 ThinkPads and from $4,499 to $5,799 for the 770 ThinkPad notebooks.

Overall, the new notebooks show a shift in IBM's portable strategy, said Purdy. "They're moving their center of gravity from high-end products priced at $5,000 and above to the $3,000 to $3,500 segment where most corporate buyers are going to buy units," Purdy said.

One major issue with the new Pentium II processors for notebooks is battery life. Most vendors say the new processors will offer a ten percent performance gain, but the gain typically comes at the expense of the battery's longevity.

Sanchez claims that with special power management software and battery technology, all of IBM's new Pentium II-based notebooks have between three and four hours of battery life compared to the two hours that some competitors are getting.