Notebooks from Digital, Toshiba feature mobile-ready Pentium IIs

Digital Equipment Corp. and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. are among the 15 laptop vendors announcing their first Pentium II-equipped notebooks following Intel Corp.'s release last week of the highly anticipated chip for the mobile market.

The new Pentium IIs for mobile PCs, running at clock speeds of 233 MHz and 266 MHz, will give laptops a level of performance previously unavailable in the mobile Intel-based PC market and will close the performance gap between desktop and laptop computers, vendors said.

Manufacturers are betting the new machines will attract users who have postponed buying a laptop because of concerns about the performance difference between portables and desktops. Users considering an outright replacement of their desktop PCs also will find the new products enticing, analysts said.

Laptops replacing the desktop is a "pretty standard comment we hear," said Philip Kennett, general manager of Digital's Personal Systems Group in the company's federal organization.

Kennett said Digital's laptop business with the federal government represents less than a third of its overall revenue from government sales, but he said it is growing faster than the desktop or the server segments.

In conjunction with Intel's announcement, Digital introduced the VP 765 equipped with a 266 MHz Pentium II, positioning it at the top of its high-end HiNote line, said Stephen O'Brien, product manager for HiNote VP. The VP 765 with Windows 95, GSA priced at $3,707, will let users take even the most demanding applications on the road, and it is well-suited for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT operating system, O'Brien said.

"The Pentium II increases the performance of the machine and allows users to work at a very high clip," O'Brien said. "Any 16- or 32-bit application is going to run faster."

All Digital laptops are on the General Services Administration schedule and are sold through about 30 partners and systems integrators, Kennett said.

Toshiba, another maker of notebooks that are widely used by federal employees, also jumped on the Pentium II bandwagon last week. Toshiba said it will offer Pentium II processors in its new Satellite Pro 490 series and in the Tecra 780 series.

The Satellite Pro 490CDT equipped with a 233 MHz mobile Pentium II will sell for about $3,549. The Satellite Pro 490 XCDT will feature a 266 MHz mobile Pentium II and will be available this month at a street price of about $4,000. The higher-end Tecra 780 series will feature the 266 MHz processor and up to 8.1G of storage on the hard drive, with street prices range from $5,099 to $5,899.

To fit the notebook form and to ensure it would not overheat, Intel reduced the size, weight and power consumption of the processor and packaged it in a mini-cartridge that contains the processor core and 512K of Level 2 cache. The mini-cartridge is about one-fourth the weight and consumes one-half the power of the Pentium II processor for the desktop, according to Intel.

The Pentium II chips will lengthen the life of notebooks because the higher performance will meet the demands of operating systems and applications for a longer time, said Martin Mortensen, research analyst in the end-user computing service of Gartner Group, Stamford, Conn.

"You extend the life of the box by buying the Pentium II," Mortensen said. "Instead of the normal 24 months you could probably hold it 30 months, and you will get a box that equals what you have on your desktop."

In the government market the laptop install base is expected to grow 12 percent in fiscal 1998 compared with fiscal 1997 and by a compounded annual rate of about 10 percent from 1996 through 2001, said Payton Smith, a research analyst at IDCs Government.

By comparison, the desktop computer installed base among federal employees in both fiscal 1998 and over the five-year span is expected to decline, Smith said.

Late last week, a large number of other notebook vendors also introduced Pentium II models.

Compaq Computer Corp. unveiled a new high-end notebook with a mobile Pentium II processor, saying it is aimed at customers who are looking for the ultimate in notebook performance. The Armada 7800 is powered by a 266 MHz chip and includes an accelerated graphics port, which provides a 66 MHz graphics bus dedicated to video and graphics data. The Armada 7800, priced at about $5,200, will begin shipping this month.

Dell Computer Corp. expanded its Latitude and Inspiron notebook lines with models featuring the new Intel Pentium II processors. The new Dell laptops range in price from about $2,700 for the lower-end Inspiron with a 233 MHz processor to about $3,500 for the higher-performance Latitute with a 266 MHz chip.

Gateway 2000 Inc. introduced the Solo 9100 and Solo 5100 notebooks powered by 266 MHz and 233 MHz mobile Pentium II processors. The new Gateway models start at about $2,900.

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