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Intel's new notebook chip arrives

Intel's much-anticipated MMX Pentium processor for notebook PCs boosts notebook speeds. IBM, Compaq, NEC and others have new products.

Intel has announced its much-anticipated Tillamook processor for mobile computers.

The Pentium MMX processor contains a number of new features and has already prompted numerous manufacturers to announce products based on the Tillamook chip.

Tillamook advances clock speeds for mobile computers from 166 MHz to 200 and 233 MHz. Later in the year, or early next year, Intel will release a 266-MHz version of the chip.

What's more, the processor comes on a module, a small circuit board that contains other companion chips. This will allow notebook and laptop computer makers to more quickly roll out new models with the latest speedy processors. Because much of the main computer circuitry is already contained on the module, the core electronics come ready-made with the processor, which simplifies manufacturing.

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IBM (IBM) took the wraps off the ThinkPad 770 line, what it calls an "extreme performance" notebook computer with a sleek design that combines a 14.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen, DVD-ROM drive support, 3D surround sound, and Intel's new 233-MHz mobile Pentium MMX Mobile Module microprocessor.

Notebooks in the ThinkPad 770 series range in price between $5,999 and $7,199 and contain the 200-MHz or 233-MHz Tillamook.

Other features include support for the Desktop Manageability Interface and support for Windows NT or Windows 95.

The notebooks will be made through IBM's Authorized Assembly Program, which allows for more flexible configurations. Under this program, various distributors and resellers take IBM subsystems and build the final computer.

(IBM also rolled out the ThinkPad 380E today. The 380E notebooks contain 150-MHz or 166-MHz Pentium MMX microprocessors and 12-inch screens. Prices start at $1,799. IBM further reduced prices on its current 380 ThinkPads.)

Compaq released the Presario 1680, which incorporates a 200-MHz Tillamook, upgradable to a 233-MHz version. The notebook comes with a 56-kbps fax modem, 20X CD-ROM drive, 32MB of high-speed synchronous DRAM, a 2.1GB hard drive, and 128-bit accelerated graphics with integrated 2MB of video memory.

The Presario 1680 also comes equipped with a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen. It is priced at $4,199.

NEC Computer Systems released the Versa 6220 and Versa 6230, two new models, and slashed prices on existing models up to 14 percent as part of the rollout of the new chip from Intel.

The company will also release a thin and light notebook within 30 to 45 days, code-named "Houdini." The notebook will weigh less than 5 pounds but will incorporate manageability software and other features that will make it a desktop equivalent, said Luis Machucva, executive vice president at NEC.

Machucha further indicated that the processor may come in a different style module than the first round of Tillamook processors to accommodate Houdini's thin design. Intel executives and others have said different types of modules, or circuit boards, will appear as time goes on.

The Versa 6220 and 6230 are both available today through NEC's build-to-order program. Base configurations include a 200-MHz or 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor with 512K of level-2 cache, 32MB of memory, and a 13.3-inch active-matrix screen. The systems can accept 3GB, 4GB, and 5GB hard drives. Prices range from $4,299 to $5,799.

Both computers, which are aimed at the corporate market, come in the standard form factor and weigh approximately 7 pounds.

At the same time, the company has cut the price of its current notebooks as part of an overall strategy to gain prominence and market share in notebooks.

Most of the cost reductions, Machucva added, come as a result of NEC's build-to-order program the company initiated last month. Building to order reduces manufacturing costs by cutting inventory.

Under the price cuts, the 6200MX, which contains a 166-MHz Pentium MMX and 13.3-inch screen, is reduced from $4,399 to $3,799.

Long-time notebook market leader Toshiba unveiled its Tecra 750CDT, which utilizes the 233-MHz Tillamook. The standard configuration includes 32MB EDO RAM and a 4.77GB hard drive, as well as a 20X CD-ROM drive.

The Tecra also provides support for an optional DVD-ROM drive, making it one of the first notebooks to do so.

The Tecra will be available this month for an estimated street price of $6,799.

Buil-to-order manufacturer Gateway announced the immediate availability of its Solo series, using 200- and 233-MHz processors.

The Gateway Solo 2300 with a 200-MHz Tillamook includes 32MB of SDRAM, a 3GB hard drive, an 11X CD-ROM drive, and a 12.1-inch screen. It's priced at $4,049.

The companion 9100XL features 64MB SDRAM, a 5GB hard drive, an 11X CD-ROM, and a 13.3-inch screen, plus a 33.6-kbps PC card modem with x2 technology. The 9100XL sells for $5,799.

Digital also announced its HiNotes series of notebooks, the VP and the Ultra 2000 lines, would incorporate the Tillamook chip. Standard configurations and pricing were not immediately available.