New notebooks reach 300MHz, but is it speed that counts?

New notebooks reach 300MHz, but is it speed that counts?

While Australia's prominent notebook vendors have paraded their respective model upgrades featuring the new capabilities of Intel's latest Pentium II processor, their quest for speed and time to market might not be the biggest selling point for potential customers, according to industry watchers.

According to Acer notebook specialist Antonio Leone, while processor speed attracts the most attention and focus, new models coinciding with the faster chip releases are incorporating many other technical advances. While the latest model in the 710 series includes the 300MHz PII, Leone said it also incorporates the latest developments in power management, active display and thermal dissipation. Leone added that volume quantities of the new Acer model will be available by the end of September.

Compaq's newly released Armada range includes 300MHz PII processors in every segment. It also announced features such as standard DVD drive for its top-of-the-range 7800 series and 14.1in TFT display for the 1700, as well as price cuts of up to 17 per cent across the current range.

According to Chee-Mei Gan, Compaq Australia's portables product marketing manager: "The Armada range demonstrates Compaq's commitment to the mobile business market, providing the broadest array of notebook products in the industry and the addition of the latest processor enhancements."

She said that the early channel reaction appeared to be more about price and extra options in the range than the incorporation of the latest hike in processor speed.

Reacting to the Compaq notebook announcements, Fiona Dicker, general manager of specialist notebook distributor Dicker Data, said: "I'm particularly impressed by the shift in emphasis from the passive to active TFT display, even at the entry level."

Meanwhile, NEC has unleashed its Versa LX, an extension to the range released in June which now sports the 300MHz PII.

According to NEC product manager Arno Lenior, while NEC declared at the time that chassis would be consistent for 12 months, reseller reaction to the new Versa line quickly changed. He said the reaction from the majority of resellers to the Versa LX has been "ecstatic" and added that superior graphics performance was the key to its success.

Lenior pointed to the pharmaceutical and banking and finance sectors as the key targets for NEC's high performance range.

As well as including the ATI 3D Rage LT Pro graphics card with 4MB of video RAM, the Versa LX series' 300MHz model comes with a 6.4GB hard disk drive (up from 5GB), and importantly, according to Lenior, it is available in volume now.

He added that NEC's strategy has been to provide a global product while the engineering and production capacity in Japan for the Versa has been increased 400 per cent.

Video performance

Harry Snow, managing director of value-added solutions provider and notebook specialist Commercial Solutions, commented that the video performance of the Versa LX is the best currently available in the market. He said that the series has been well received in the corporate and medium business sectors. He added that the Versa's range of configurations provide options on display size, hard drive capacity and processor speeds.

The Versa LX series ranges from $5958 to $10,277 RRP.

Meanwhile, Gateway has announced new versions of its Solo 2500, 5150 and 9100 which feature the 300MHz Pentium II. According to marketing manager Michelle Vanzella: "We are continuing to respond to client demand for desktop-level performance in a mobile platform."

Toshiba's Tecra 8000 has also joined the 300 club with a 14.1in TFT display, 8.1GB hard drive, and 64MB SDRAM memory.

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