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NEC to unveil thin notebooks

NEC will announce two notebooks featuring fast processors and big screens in a 5-pound, 1.5-inch-thick package.

Next week, NEC Computer Systems Division will show off for the first time its newest "thin and light" notebooks.

NEC will announce two new notebooks Monday in the Versa 5000 series that will feature a 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor and an extra-large 13.3-inch display in a 5-pound, 1.5-inch-thick package.

The Versa 5080 and the 5080X exemplify trends occurring in the mainstream of the notebook market--high-end features such as 13.3-inch screens and 233-MHz MMX Pentium processors are becoming available at midrange price points.

Other notebooks recently introduced in this category include the Dell Latitude CP. The "midrange" notebooks represent the largest portion of the market in terms of product shipments and now typically include 150-, 166-, and 200-MHz Pentium MMX processors and 12.1-inch displays.

The Versa 5080X features a 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a 13.3-inch active matrix display, 32MB of memory, and a 2.1GB hard drive for a starting price of $3,999. The Versa 5080 will come with a 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor and a 12.1-inch active matrix display for an estimated street price of $3,699.

Additionally, NEC will offer several custom configurations; officials anticipate a 5080X with 48MB of memory and a 3.2GB hard drive for $4,299 to be one of the more popular offerings.

All models, which are expected to start shipping next week, come standard with a 20X CD-ROM drive that fits into a modular bay. The bay allows users to "warm-swap" peripherals, meaning that when a peripheral such as a CD-ROM, floppy disk, or LS-120 drive is removed, the notebook automatically goes into "suspend" mode and returns to normal after the new drive is inserted. Typically, a notebook has to be shut down and then restarted, a process which can take between three to five minutes, say company officials.

NEC is expected to unveil models that are thinner and lighter than the 5080 series Versas which will include the 266-MHz Pentium MMX for notebooks. The the company may also use a different chassis for notebooks with the first low-power versions of the mobile Pentium II, due by March of 1998. The Pentium II processor is currently only available in desktop systems.