Tech Industry

Low-cost laptops ride the P4 bandwagon

Gateway and Micron PC take the wraps off budget notebooks with Pentium 4 desktop chips, becoming the latest PC makers to favor powerful processors over portable ones.

Gateway and Micron PC unveiled Monday low-priced notebooks that incorporate Pentium 4 desktop chips, becoming the latest companies to forgo portable processors in favor of more powerful but power-hungry chips.

The Gateway 400 notebook, priced at $1,499 before rebates, includes a 2GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip, a 14.1-inch screen, 256MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a DVD drive. Micron's Transport V1000 comes with a 1.7GHz Celeron desktop processor, a 14.1-inch screen, 128MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive for $1,199, the company said.

Although initially controversial, using desktop processors in notebooks has become more popular as PC makers keep an eye on costs. Desktop chips are less expensive; for example, the 2GHz desktop Pentium 4 costs $193, while the mobile 2GHz Pentium 4-M costs $637. Lower component prices means a lower overall selling price--and this has been good news for consumers.

Buyers who choose the lower-priced notebooks with desktop processors will, however, have to make a few trade-offs. These machines typically weigh more and offer much shorter battery life than their counterparts built with the Pentium 4-M.

A typical Pentium 4-M notebook will weigh 5 to 6 pounds and gets more than 3 hours of battery life. The Gateway 400 ranges between 7.2 and 7.5 pounds and racks up about 3 hours of battery life, the company said.

A price comparison shows the potential savings. Gateway's 400XL notebook, with a 2GHz Pentium 4, a 15-inch screen, 40GB hard drive and CD-R/DVD drive, sells for $1,799 before a $100 rebate. A Gateway 450XL, however, with a standard 1.7GHz Pentium 4 notebook chip and similar features sells for $1,958.

The new 400 notebook "rounds out Gateway's overall product lineup," said Paul Torres, Gateway product manager. "We're able to achieve an entry-level price point with a Pentium 4 processor."

Nearly every major PC maker has come out with notebooks that incorporate a desktop Pentium 4 processor. Hewlett-Packard's Presario 1500 includes a 14.1-inch screen, 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive for $1,364. Dell's new SmartStep 200N comes with a 2GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip, a 15-inch display, 256MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a DVD drive. It sells for $1,499.

Toshiba's latest in the category, the Satellite 1955-S801, weighs 9.6 pounds, sports a 2.2GHz Pentium 4 desktop processor, a 16-inch display and a removable wireless keyboard. It is priced at $2,499.

"We're seeing a new market segment emerge. It's cannibalizing the desktop market, but it's not affecting the mobile market," said Dean McCarron, analyst at Mercury Research. "We're seeing a piece of the desktop market become mobile desktops moving with LCDs, moving from plug to plug."