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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.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
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."