Notebook PC Vendors Roll Out Their Sonoma Models

IBM, Dell, Toshiba, and Acer are among those who introduced new versions of their notebook PCs featuring Sonoma technology on Wednesday, and Gateway is expected to follow some time next month.

With Sonoma, Intel is increasing the graphics performance by incorporating the new Graphics Media Accelerator 900 graphics core, a 533MHz front-side bus, and dual-channel DDR2 memory support with the new PCI Express graphics interface.

Also new are a number of enhanced technologies to improve battery life, and support for 802.11i, which adds increased security to wireless access, according to Intel officials.

Stephen Allen, president of Integrated Technology Systems, a New York-based solution provider, said he expects customers to welcome the new models, especially those looking to use their notebook PCs for more than just work.

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The new high-performance graphics capabilities are especially welcome, said Allen.

"Notebook PCs have always lacked good graphics," he said. "Recently, clients have started to use their laptops when traveling to watch movies or play games. But they get stops in the graphics because of the poor graphics capabilities. (Sonoma) means a big leap in graphics, and will make users very happy."

Improved graphics performance will become a key sales point, said Allen. "People notice the difference," he said. "Things like DDR2 memory, unless someone has a huge application requiring tons of memory, are not really noticeable."

As far as improved battery performance, Allen said he will hold judgment until he see the new systems in action.

"Intel is really responsible for the motherboard," he said. "It's not responsible for the light inside the screen, or for the hard drive or DVD drive. You need to look at the overall design of the PC. . . . Now you have laptops with 17-inch screens. They chew up more power. But that's not Intel's problem."

Vendors, as one might expect, are promising a revolution in portable computing with the new Sonoma technology.

IBM on Wednesday unveiled a number of new models in its ThinkPad T43 family with an emphasis on security.

They include the company's Rescue and Recovery 2.0 technology which includes an embedded, pre-boot emergency system for one-button recovery from problems such as worms or viruses, as well as Antidote Delivery Manager for easy deployment of security updates throughout a company, IBM officials said.

The T43 family notebook PCs are about 1-inch thick, and weigh about 4.5 pounds. They can be ordered with an optional fingerprint reader.

Next month, IBM plans to start shipping solution providers five models based on the Pentium M 740 processor, with processor speeds ranging from 1.7GHz to 2.1GHz and screen size ranging from 14.1 inches to 15 inches.

List prices are expected to start at $1,499 for a unit with a 1.7GHz processor, 14.1-inch XGA screen, 40-Gbyte hard drive, 256 Mbytes of memory, and a DVD drive. At the upper end, IBM expects a unit with 2.1GHz processor, 15-inch UXGA screen, a 60-Gbyte hard drive, and 1 Gbyte of memory to list at $3,979.

Dell on Wednesday introduced its new Inspiron 6000 family with 15.4-inch screens and four interchangeable personalization covers in cherry burlwood, carbon fiber, Mediterranean blue, and charcoal leather colors.

The new Inspirons will be available with choice of 1.3GHz, 1.5GHz, and 1.6GHz processor, up to 2 Gbytes of memory, and six-cell or nine-cell Lithium Ion batteries. List price for the notebook PCs, which are already available in limited quantities, starts at under $1,000, Dell officials said.

Toshiba's Digital Products Division unveiled two new Sonoma-based notebook PCs on Wednesday expected to be available this month via the company's solution providers and through Toshiba direct.

The Toshiba Tecra A3 includes a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, 15.0-inch XGA display, a 40-Gbyte hard drive, and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combination drive, and lists for $1,099. The Tecra A4, which is similar to the A3 except for its 15.4-inch WXGA screen, lists for $1,229.

Acer America on Wednesday introduced several models of its TravelMate 8100 notebook PC. They offer processors with performance of up to 2.0GHz, a hot-swappable DVD double-layer recordable drive, up to 2 Gbytes of memory, and a hard drive of up to 100 Gbytes in capacity. They are available to solution providers with list prices starting at about $1,999.

Gateway officials said that company expects to unveil its Sonoma-based models starting in February.