Intel's New 300 Mhz PII:

Due to tight agency budgets, most state and local workers in the market for a notebook computer are not looking for a second system but a workhorse replacement for their desktop PC. Intel Corp.'s new 300 MHz Pentium II processor for mobile computers has now dangled that option within reach.

"In general, our public-sector customers don't have the same luxury as corporate customers who can buy a portable as their second system. What you are going to see here with the 300 MHz processor is a really fast computer by desktop or portable standards," said Harry B. Heisler, vice president and general manager of Micron Government Systems.

Micron Electronics Inc. is one of several PC giants that have cranked out products based on Intel's new processor for the portable market. Many analysts predict the new processor will finally make it possible for buyers to purchase true "desktop replacement" systems.

"The entry-level desktop, for all intents and purposes, is a 300 MHz Pentium II...and that was not at all available in the mobile market, but now [portables have] closed the gap," said Nathan Brookwood, microprocessor analyst at Dataquest, San Jose, Calif. "For somebody who is torn between desktop and mobile environments, this spans both nicely."

Vendors are sure the 300 MHz notebooks will sell. In fact, "we were seeing requests for [300 MHz notebooks] prior to Intel's announcement," said Steve Gilbert, notebook product line manager for Dell Computer Corp.

The 300 MHz processor is based on the same architecture as the 233 MHz and 266 MHz Pentium II processors. This includes the same thermal specifications and Quick Start technology, which brings down power consumption when the notebook is idle to conserve battery power-an important feature in a portable system. State and local customers looking to purchase the faster breed of notebooks before the end of the year have many options. Compaq Computer Corp. added the new processor to every notebook in its Armada line, from the high-end 7000 series to the 1500 and 1700 "value" systems and the new ultra-thin 3500 and 6500 systems, said Mark Vena, director of mobile products at Compaq in Houston. In addition to the processor, Compaq also added a standard Digital Video Disc (DVD) drive model to the Armada 7800 series and a 14.1-inch screen to the Armada 1700. Pricing on the Armada line ranged from just less than $4,000 for a low-end model to $5,500 for a 7800 with 64M of synchronous dynamic RAM (SDRAM), an integrated modem and Microsoft Corp. Windows 95.

Micron and Dell, on the other hand, have aimed at the sub-$3,000 price for their new 300 MHz systems. General pricing for Micron's two notebooks, the TransPort Trek2 and GoBook2, starts at $2,999.

The Trek2 is the first of Micron's notebooks to use the "three-spindle" technology, which allows the system to support a disk drive, a CD-ROM drive and a hard drive simultaneously. It also includes a 14.1-inch display, built-in stereo speakers and a microphone. The GoBook2 is Micron's ultra-portable notebook, weighing 4.5 pounds and measuring only 1.35 inches high. It includes a 12.1-inch display and a base battery that attaches to the system like a multimedia slice, giving users up to 11 hours of battery life.

One of Dell's 300 MHz offering on its Inspiron line, the Inspiron 7000GT-with a 14.1-inch display, 64M of SDRAM, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a disk drive and an optional DVD drive-also starts at $2,999. That notebook is available and shipping. The other Dell Inspiron 300 MHz notebook, the Inspiron 7000LT, will not be available until Oct. 5. It includes a 15-inch display, the largest of any notebook display in the market and almost the same viewing area as a 17-inch desktop monitor, Gilbert said. Dell also will incorporate the new Intel processor in its Latitude line of notebooks. The Lattitude CPi 300XT will cost about $3,199.Other vendors introducing 300 MHz notebooks include Hewlett-Packard Co., which announced new systems in its OmniBook 2100 line. Toshiba Computer Systems Division announced 300 MHz systems in its Protege 7000CT, 7010CT and Tecra 8000 series, while Gateway Inc. added the new processors to its entire Solo line, and NEC Computer Systems Division enhanced its new Versa SX and Versa LX notebooks.


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