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Mini-notebook uses new Intel chip

Toshiba's Libretto has been updated with a faster Intel chip built specifically for mini-notebooks.

Toshiba will chime in on Monday with a new version of its diminutive mini-notebook which uses Intel?s newest processor for these ultrasmall computers.

Last week, Intel quietly released a new 120-MHz mobile MMX Pentium for mini-notebooks which uses less power and generates less heat than the mobile Pentium commonly found in notebook PCs.

The updated 1.8-pound Libretto will pack the 120-MHz processor, a significant jump from the aging 75-MHz Pentium chip the Libretto currently uses. The Libretto will also come with a larger 1.6GB hard drive, according to Toshiba. The current Libretto uses a 800MB hard drive.

The price will remain at $1,999, according to Toshiba.

Other vendors are using the new Intel chip too. NEC has released MobioNX mini-notebook in Japan with the processor for about $2,000. The company did not indicate if it would release this model in the U.S. Fujitsu is already selling a mini-notebook in Japan.

The Mitsubishi Amity mini-notebook, interestingly, uses a 133-MHz chip, not the special ultra-low-power chip which NEC and Toshiba use.

These tiny machines, usually well under three pounds, offer some of the advantages of a six-pound notebook: They run a full-fledged version of Windows 95--allowing users to run all their usual software--and come with relatively large hard drives. Typically, they also boast high-quality active-matrix LCD screens.

This contrasts with Windows CE handheld computers, which run a stripped-down version of Windows, have no hard drive, and are really only meant as an ancillary device to a desktop PC. While they are cramped, mini-notebook keyboards, like the one on the Libretto, are also more useable than Windows CE computer keyboards.

The mini-notebook market appears to have come out of left field and is principally driven by notebook makers' innovations--not Microsoft or Intel, which typically engineer new markets.

Interestingly, the new Intel chip could bring the chip giant into a market where it has been virtually absent. Competing handheld PCs which use the Windows CE operating system run on processors such as Hitachi's SH-3 processor, MIPS processors from Silicon Graphics, and the ARM processor from Advanced RISC Machines--but none currently use Intel processors.