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Support lukewarm for Mobile Pentium

IBM will support the 150-MHz Mobile Pentium but will not rush systems to market.

IBM will announce support for the 150-MHz Mobile Pentium processor when it is rolled out next week by Intel but, like other companies, will not rush systems to market.

IBM is planning to use the 150-MHz Pentium this fall when it ships its high-end 760 ThinkPads, a source close to the company said. Other vendors, such as Hitachi, will also hold fire for now and announce systems around that time.

The companies are not hurrying to build new lines because the 150-MHz chip will not offer a terribly compelling performance advantage over the current 133-MHz Pentium, according to some industry analysts. The 133-MHz Pentium actually has a faster external bus speed than the 150-MHz chip.

"There's reasonably broad support [for the processor], though I don't think many vendors are going to raise their trumpets to the heavens glorifying the processor," said Bruce Stephens, a vice president at International Data Group, a market research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.

All current Pentium processors run faster internally (the advertised megahertz rating) than they run externally to wring as much performance out of the chip as possible. So, for example, while the upcoming mobile Pentium has a fast internal speed of 150 MHz, its external speed--the rate at which it talks to the rest of the PC--is only 60 MHz. Oddly, the 133-MHz mobile Pentium has a faster external speed of 66 MHz.

Nevertheless, one vendor, Digital Equipment, took the unusual step of marketing a new notebook line based on the 150-MHz Pentium even before Intel announced the processor. So far, however, the vendor remains the exception. "[Digital] has a heck of a lot to prove," Stephens said, referring to the company's supply and time-to-market travails of the past.

But Stephens was quick to add that Digital and other vendors have improved performance by tweaking systems. Eventually, many will offer more than lukewarm support because they do not want to get caught without a notebook that carries the fastest mobile Pentium processor on the market.

IBM's 760 line offers high-end features such as an NTSC video-in and video-out port, a 64-bit graphics processor, 2MB of video RAM, an integrated 28.8-kbps modem, and a 12.1-inch SVGA active-matrix LCD screen. The systems are expected to be in the same price range as its current high-end 760s, which are street-priced above $4,000 with active-matrix LCDs.

Related story:
Digital first to get 150-MHz notebook
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Pentium dilemma: to buy or not to buy
Vendors line up for 200-MHz Pentium