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Sony touts a big-screen notebook

The company introduces a new Vaio GRX that sports a 16.1-inch display. The system's flat-panel display offers about the same viewing area as a 17-inch CRT monitor.

Sony claims it has developed the biggest notebook display in the land.

The company on Monday introduced a new Vaio GRX notebook that sports a 16.1-inch display. Sony says it's the first PC maker to offer a display of that expanse in a notebook. The display offers about the same viewing area as a 17-inch CRT monitor.

The new Vaio GRX series, which is also outfitted with Intel's new Pentium 4-M chip for notebooks, high-end graphics and large hard drives, is designed to appeal to buyers who want to view or edit video and use other multimedia-oriented applications, but who also want to take their gigahertz on the road, the company said.

Many notebook makers have beefed up their high-end models with the introduction of the Pentium 4-M processor and new, speedier graphics chips. However, notebooks in this category generally offer 14.1-inch displays, with the option to upgrade to a 15-inch display. Gateway does offer a 15.7-inch display on its Solo 9550 notebook.

Sony is bringing three Vaio GRX models to market. The base model, the GRX550, offers a 15-inch display. The $2,099 machine also offers a 1.6GHz Pentium 4-M, 512MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a combination CD-Rewritable/DVD drive, along with ATI Technologies' new Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics chip.

Stepping up to a 16.1-inch display will add $400 to the price. But with that jump, to the $2,499 GRX570 model, Sony also increases the size of the hard drive to 40GB.

Sony's top-of-the-line GRX590, priced at $2,999, pairs a 1.7GHz Pentium 4-M with the 16.1-inch screen, and includes a 40GB hard drive and other features, the company said.

All three notebooks are expected to ship later this month.

Sony increased the size of its displays without raising the price much above competitors' offerings. Dell Computer's Inspiron 8200, for example, with a 15-inch display and configured to match the GRX570, sells for about $2,477. A higher-resolution 15-inch display adds about $100 to that price.