Toshiba unveils notebook offerings

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. last week revamped its notebook computer offerings by adding a new model to each of its product lines, including a highly configurable version of the Tecra.

The new models include the Tecra 8000 at the high end, the Satellite 4000 at the midrange and the Portege 7000CT at the low end.

The Tecra 8000 is the most exciting of the three new notebooks, offering buyers an extremely wide range of possible configurations directly from Toshiba, analysts said.

"The [Tecra] 8000 represents a simpler picture from the purchaser's standpoint," said Mike McGuire, an analyst at Dataquest, San Jose, Calif. "It is one product that spans the entire spectrum from mid- to high-range offerings."

Always at the top of Toshiba's offerings, the new Tecra combines past configurations of both the Satellite Pro and Tecra lines, and it can be used as either a companion portable or as a desktop replacement, according to Toshiba.

Possible configurations include either Intel Corp.'s 233 MHz or 266 MHz Pentium II processors (and the 300 MHz when available), 12.1- to 14.1-inch displays, a 4.0G to 8.1G hard drive and, by September, either DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drives. Also, drives, batteries and docking stations from previous versions can be used in the 8000.

This range of choices available in one product— with a standard architecture throughout—will make it much easier for an administrator to buy and manage an entire department's systems, McGuire said.

"The Tecra is not only for performance users, now it's also mainstream," said Jeffrey Friederichs, vice president of marketing for Toshiba's Computer Systems Division. Pricing ranges from $2,799 to more than $4,500 for the anticipated DVD configuration.

For those looking for a more value-priced notebook, the Satellite 4000 series provides a 233 MHz Pentium processor starting at $1,999. "It is only recently that we have been able to bring a [thin-film transistor (TFT)] display to the sub-$2,000 notebooks," said Terrence Cronin, notebook senior product manager for Toshiba's Computer Systems Division.

The Satellite also features an "all-in-one design" with the CD-ROM drive, diskette drive and hard drive all internal "so you do not have to protect anything," Cronin said. "This also eliminates extra parts [to hold the drives in place] so nothing is rattling around inside."

The Satellite and Tecra lines are the most popular with federal buyers, Friederichs said. He expects that trend to continue with the new offerings because "the Satellite is good for base requirements with the best combination of price and performance, while the Tecra is for higher-level technology requirements."

However, Cronin said the Portege may have a bigger presence. The new Portege 7000CT, part of Toshiba's lightweight series, takes advantage of a new magnesium casing that lowers the weight to 4.1 pounds and can stretch farther than the old casing while maintaining its integrity.

For the first time this allows space for a 12.1-inch TFT display, a full-size keyboard and a full-size hard drive. The magnesium casing also dissipates heat, "which is especially important in a thin portable," Cronin said.

The larger screen, keyboard and other improvements "take away the compromises that people have made in the past" in making lightweight computers, Cronin said.

Starting at $2,999, the Portege, while the same size as the Satellite or Tecra, is about half the width and at least 2 pounds lighter. Even with the network dock it is still narrower than the Satellite. The lithium-ion battery provides more than two and a half hours of power, and an optional stacked battery extends that to at least five hours.

"That type of magnesium is stiffer [and] stronger than the plastic they've been using," but it is the same as what other notebook manufacturers are moving to, said Katrina Dahlquist, mobile computing analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. "We're going to see a lot of that super-slim magnesium notebook."

"None of these particular products is enough to change the market," McGuire said. "More important is the way they've reworked the form factors to become as efficient as possible in their offerings."

All three notebooks come with either Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0 and are available this month.

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