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Small PCs make big splash with corporate users

November 19, 1998
Web posted at: 6:58 PM ET

by Mary Lisbeth D'Amico and Terho Uimonen

(IDG) -- LAS VEGAS -- Ultraportable notebooks -- and especially a new crop of superslim models -- promise a new era of true portability for road warriors are were among the big attractions here at Comdex/Fall '98.

Several vendors unveiled new notebooks, which, although only around 1 inch thick and weighing less than 3 pounds, often offer performance similar to full-size portable PCs.

New entrants in the ultrathin notebook arena may present strong competition to mininotebook offerings, such as Toshiba Corp.'s Libretto series, analysts and users said, because they provide better keyboards and displays.

And judging from user reaction at the show here, the new ultralight notebooks will also find homes in corporate environments.

"I think this is fantastic," said Gail Burex, executive director at Macquerie Bank in Sydney, Australia, who said she was ready to discard her Toshiba Libretto and upgrade to a new, ultralight Portege 3010C. Powered by Intel Corp.'s 266-MHz Pentium MMX processor, the unit weighs just under 3 pounds and starts at $1,999.

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Currently, executives at the bank use Libretto mininotebooks on the road, said Burex, who together with a colleague had stopped at the Toshiba booth to check out the next generation of Toshiba products for the bank.

Although the Libretto has proved popular among the bank's employees, Burex thinks the mininotebook's screen and keyboard are simply too small.

While Japanese vendors have been among the first to roll out ultraportables, other top-tier vendors, such as Compaq Computer Corp. and IBM, are likely to offer similar products soon, said Randy Giusto, director of mobile technology research at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., a sister company to Computerworld.

Similar in appearance to Sony Corp.'s groundbreaking Vaio 505 series, Sharp Corp.'s new Actius A150 UltraLite Notebook, featuring an Intel 266-MHz Pentium MMX , 64M bytes of memory and a 4.3G byte hard drive, also won accolades for its crisp 11.3-in. active-matrix display.

The Sharp notebook, which features proprietary transflective technology, has the best screen of any portable computer on the market today, said Tim Bajarin, president of San Jose, Calif.-based consultancy Creative Strategies Inc.

Other Actius A150 features include a built-in 56K bit/sec. modem and 2M bytes of video memory, enabling it to display 16.7 million colors. It also has a built-in Universal Serial Bus port, one Type II PC Card slot and a VGA external monitor port. Available immediately, the 3.1-pound, 10.2-by-8.3-by-1.1 inch notebook costs $2,299.

Twinhead International Corp., based in Hsintien, Taiwan, showed off its new Power Slim line of notebooks scheduled to ship in the U.S. early next year. The 1-inch high, 3.7-pound notebook is powered by a 233-MHz or 266-MHz Pentium MMX processor and features a 12.1-in. active-matrix screen. Other features include 32M bytes of memory, 512K bytes of Level 2 cache and 3G-byte or larger hard drives. Pricing will start at around $1,500, officials said.

Umax Technologies Inc. in Fremont, Calif., announced an addition to its ActionBook family, the ActionBook 333T, which will be in stores next month. Powered by a 333-MHz Advanced Micro Devices Inc. K6-2 processor, it also features a 12.1-in. active-matrix display, 32M bytes of main memory and a 3.2G-byte hard drive, as well as 512K bytes of Level 2 cache. The hard drive, floppy drive and CD-ROM drive are all built in. Other features include 4M bytes of video RAM and 64-bit 3-D graphics accelerator. Pricing in the U.S. starts at $1,599.

Mustek Inc., a computer peripherals company in Irvine, Calif., launched its first notebook computers, the IntelliNote 110 and the TwinView 210, featuring Pentium II processors at 233 MHz or 266 MHz or AMD K6-2 processors at 266 MHz, 300 MHz or 333 MHz. Other features include 32M bytes of memory and 512K bytes of Level 2 cache. Both notebooks run Windows 98 and weigh 7 pounds. The IntelliNote features a 13.3-in. active-matrix screen, while the TwinView 210 features a 14.1-in. display. Both computers will cost between $1,599 and $1,799.

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