Tech Industry

Umax readies Pentium II notebook

Umax is quietly displaying a "thin-and-wide" notebook prototype of its VisualNote 500 series with a 266-MHz Pentium II processor and Windows 98.

LAS VEGAS--Umax is quietly displaying a "thin-and-wide" notebook prototype of the VisualNote 500 series with a 266-MHz Pentium II processor and Windows 98, neither of which are officially shipping yet.

Umax, best known in the United States for its scanners and Macintosh computers, has long made notebooks for other companies but only just released its first branded notebook in Taiwan. The company has a splashy Comdex booth full of NFL cheerleaders, but consumers may get a bigger thrill from chance to look over a notebook with Intel's mobile Pentium II processor, often called by the code name Deschutes.

Currently, the Pentium II is only available in desktop and server computers, where energy consumption and heat dissipation are of little concern. A number of the newest notebooks have 200- and 233-MHz Pentium MMX processors, which are based on Intel?s aging desktop processor line.

Notebook vendors have plenty of concerns about placing the faster processor in upcoming designs, most notably how to deal with the heat generated by the chip. Another concern is managing power consumption so that batteries aren't drained too quickly.

Intel is currently trying to lower the Pentium II's power consumption before the scheduled release of the chip's notebook version in the first half of next year. Intel CEO Andy Grove has shown the Pentium II running on a ThinkPad, but no company has yet released a Pentium II notebook or shown full-scale demos of such products.

Company executives claim that Umax's new notebooks won't have any heat problems with 233- and 266-MHz versions of the mobile Pentium II.

Especially surprising is the notebook?s design--the overall package is about 1.5 inches thick and weighs under 6.5 pounds, in spite of the fact that it comes with a 14.1-inch display. So-called thin-and-wide notebooks are increasingly popular as mobile professionals try and excise some weight and bulk from their luggage, but some vendors have privately worried that notebook cases might not withstand the heat from the Pentium II.

Other features of the notebook include a 4.3GB hard disk drive, 32MB of memory, modular drive bays that can accept a second battery, and TV-out port for presenting information on an external screen.

Executives said the notebook should be available in the United States by April of 1998, which is after the expected official availability of the mobile Pentium from Intel. Intel could not be reached for comment.

In the meanwhile, the company is offering its larger corporate account customers in America a new notebook called the VisualNote Slim with either a 166-MHz or 233-MHz Pentium MMX, 13.3-inch display, 3.2GB hard drive, and 32MB of memory. The notebook is approximately 1.5 inches thick and weighs 5.5 pounds. No information on pricing was given, and information on volume shipments wasn?t available.