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Raft of portables released

Toshiba, Dell, IBM, and NEC each unveiled new models, as competition in the portable market remains tight.

Toshiba, Dell Computer, and NEC each unveiled new notebook PCs today, underlining tight competition in the portable market.

Toshiba announced three new systems, refreshing existing product lines, while Dell introduced a thinner, faster model that's aimed at home and small business users. IBM, which also is targeting small business and home office customers, will introduce a new ThinkPad line tomorrow.

Locked in an intense battle with Compaq Computer, Toshiba hopes that the new systems will reestablish the company as the top notebook manufacturer. The Japanese company, which had perennially ruled the market, slipped last year.

While those companies vie for the biggest market share, Dell is trying to improve on its rating as the best all-around notebook maker, according to a recent study by Technology Business Research.

For the high-end market, Toshiba introduced the new Portege 3010 CT, a system that weighs under 3 pounds and measures under 1 inch thick. Interestingly, Toshiba is offering models with venerable Pentium MMX chip rather than the newer, faster Pentium II. But the Pentium II also runs relatively hot and uses up battery power more quickly than the Pentium MMX.

The model will include a 266-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a 4.3GB hard drive, and a 56-kbps modem for $1,999, according to Chris Pollitt, group manager for Toshiba's portable product marketing.

Customer satisfaction scores
Notebooks Q2 Score Q3 Score % Change
Dell 84.05 84.71 0.8
IBM 77.14 82.82 7.4
Compaq 71.68 79.09 10.3
Toshiba 72.79 76.37 4.9
Source: TBR

Toshiba's new Satellite 2515CDS, which has a rounder, sleeker casing, comes with a 266-MHz Pentium MMX chip and is priced at $1,399. The new tiny Libretto 110CT, about the size of a videotape and weighing around 2 pounds, features a 7.1-inch screen and goes for $1,799.

Equipped with a Pentium II processor and weighing 6 pounds, Dell's Inspiron 3500 is the lightest in that line, which to date has been relatively bulky.

The new Inspiron also comes in at 1.5 inches thick, the same as Dell's higher-end Latitude line and on par with other thin notebooks on the market such as the Compaq Armada 6500.

Prices start at $2,000, industry sources said, but more expensive models will include roomy 6.4GB hard disks and 14.1-inch displays.

IBM tomorrow is expected to roll out a new 390 ThinkPad series, which would replace its successful low-end offering, the 380XD. IBM claims it has shipped one million 380 models to date.

The launch follows Big Blue's early October unveiling of a consumer-centric "I" series of ThinkPads. Prices will start at $1,499 for systems with active-matrix screens. The company may offer systems in the same general $1,500-to-$2,500 price range but with the different features desired by business customers, according to sources.

In conjunction with a strong push for the small business segment, IBM too could pose a serious challenge to Toshiba's lead in the notebook market.

NEC Computer Systems Division today extended its NEC Versa brand of notebook computers into small business, corporate, and government markets with the introduction of the Versa Note notebook computer.

The Versa Note is available now as a built-to-order model, starting at $1,699 for a system with a 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, 12.1-inch display, and a 3.2GB hard drive.