Compaq sails new notebook in Armada line

Compaq Computer Corp. last week released the next generation of its Armada series of notebook computers, upgrading several features but retaining backward and forward compatibility with the rest of the line.

The Armada 7400 is close in size and weight to the 7300 line, but it comes with a larger screen, new casing and a newer processor.

"You'll find the government buyer will go with the highest speed, biggest screen and best processor they can find" so that a system will last longer before a refresh, said Gary Newgaard, director of Compaq's federal sales and marketing. Compaq has a large number of earlier Armadas in the federal market, giving the company a good base for upgrades, he added.

The 7400 includes Intel Corp.'s 266 MHz Pentium II processor and support for Accelerated Graphics Port 3-D graphics— the next step up from the 7300, which came with a 266 MHz Pentium with MMX technology. "And we will be migrating to faster Intel CPUs in the not-too-distant future," said Mark Vena, director of mobile product marketing for Compaq.

The new system is fully compatible with past Armadas' docking stations, responding to customer demand for a longer life cycle in their systems. "If you bought an ArmadaStation last year, you can still use it with the 7400," Vena said. The 7400 is actually compatible with all Armada docking stations, including the ArmadaStation II and the MiniStation E, the company said.

"It's sort of a new theme lately," said Katrina Dahlquist, mobile computing analyst with International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. "All of the vendors are trying to see that their products are compatible," especially in the corporate and federal markets because those customers do not want to have to buy a new docking station every time they buy a new system.

The casing is a magnesium alloy, following a trend in design that analysts have seen appearing in several notebook vendors' top lines. The magnesium makes the entire notebook stronger and able to stand up to more abuse, Vena said, and it also lets the system run at a cooler temperature, dispersing heat more than the standard plastic casing.

The new Armada comes with a larger 13.3-inch thin-film transfer display, a 4G removable secure hard drive and integrated 16-bit stereo sound to work with the AGP graphics for presentations.

The notebook also features three-spindle support for simultaneous use of the 24X CD-ROM drive, the floppy drive and the hard drive. Also, the full-size keyboard has been moved back toward the screen to provide room for a new wrist pad— another in-demand feature, Vena said.

General pricing for the 7400 starts at $3,999, and it soon will be available on the General Services Administration schedule, Newgaard said.

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