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Speed-dreams come true for notebooks

In what was the most dazzling product roll-outs of the year, several major notebook vendors announced new 133-MHz Pentium notebooks today and others stated they intend to ship systems by spring.

In what was the most dazzling product roll-outs of the year, several major notebook vendors announced new 133-MHz Pentium notebooks today and others stated they intend to ship systems by spring.

This new crop of high-powered notebooks feature exciting new technologies such as 12.1-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, desktop-class-performance PCI buses, a faster 66-MHz CPU bus, speedy graphics and video, and built-in quad-speed CD-ROM drives. Prices ranged from around $3,500 to as high as $7,500.

Vendors formally announcing on Monday included Texas Instruments AST Research, Hewlett-Packard, and Toshiba.

Meanwhile, IBM, Compaq Computer, Digital Equipment, NEC, and Dell Computer released statements supporting the 133-MHz Pentium and indicating intent to ship systems by spring.

Vendors timed their announcements with Intel's Monday unveiling of the 133-MHz Pentium for notebook PCs. HP unveiled its new HP OmniBook 5500 notebook PC, featuring, for the first time on an HP notebook, a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD. The system will also come with an integrated quad-speed CD-ROM drive, a PCI bus, a 1.35GB hard disk drive, 16MB of RAM, and a new 4 megabit-per-second (Mbps) infrared port. Infrared ports to date have had data rates of only 115 kilobits per second, said HP.

The system will boast a modular bay design allowing users to interchangeably plug in a CD-ROM, hard disk drive, floppy disk drive, or large battery into either of the two bays.

HP also provides a PCI docking station which includes one full-length ISA slot and one full-length ISA/PCI slot.

Shipments of the 5500 will not begin until early May, the company said. HP has not yet announced pricing for the systems. However, it's top-of-the-line OmniBook 5000 is currently priced between $6,000 and $6,500.

AST announced its new 133-MHz Ascentia J series and Ascentia P series notebooks on Monday. The two notebook lines incorporate a PCI local bus architecture based on Intel's mobile 82430MX chip set.

The high-end Ascentia P series includes a modular peripheral bay -- similar to the HP 5500 -- which can support a CD-ROM drive, floppy drive or second battery. The P series also has an 11.3-inch active-matrix LCD.

Both series incorporate SVGA LCDs (800 x 600), 256KB of level 2 cache, integrated audio support and infrared communications.

The Ascentia P50 will be priced from $4,599 to $4,999 and the J series will be start at $3,599 up to $3,999.

TI introduced a TravelMate 5300 notebook based on the 133-MHz Mobile Pentium processor on Monday. The new TravelMate will feature a 1.2 gigabyte hard disk drive, 11.3-inch 800 x 600 resolution active-matrix liquid crystal display screen, and a newly designed, PCI-architecture-based motherboard, sources close to TI said. Prices will range between $5300 and $5700.

Toshiba rolled out a new Tecra with a 12.1-inch active matrix LCD and Zoom video, a high performance architecture for playing back video on a notebook. The new Tecra is priced at about $7,500.

IBM will join the fray in late April with a 133-MHz 760 notebook based on a redesigned PCI motherboard. This will be the first time for IBM to use a PCI bus in a ThinkPad.

The 760 will sport a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD, a 1.2GB hard disk drive, support for MPEG 2 video playback, and an IBM "Mwave" media processor subsystem that provides a 28.8-kbps fax-modem, answering machine capabilities, and 16-bit sound. When the new 760 is announced, IBM is also expected to cut prices on its current 90-MHz and 120-MHz 760 models, said the sources.

Pricing for the 133-MHz 760, including a built-in 4X CD-ROM drive, should come in at about $6,800, the sources added. This will bump the 120-MHz 760 down "a couple of hundred dollars" added the sources.