CES - Innovative dual-core notebooks debut

CES - Innovative dual-core notebooks debut

Hard on the heels of Intel's unveiling at CES of its Centrino Duo mobile technology platform (previously code-named Napa), came a slew of notebook makers' announcements of hardware making use of the new technology.

Centrino Duo technology boasts a faster frontside bus (now at 667MHz, up from 533MHz), memory that matches the frontside bus speed, a new chip set (the 945 GM/PM), and Intel's new wireless 802.11 a/b/g technology. But the centerpiece of the platform is Intel's new Core Duo dual-core mobile processors, formerly dubbed Yonah.

More duo specs

The processors come in two main lines: the T line for mainstream notebooks, and the L line of low-voltage models intended for ultralight laptops. The T line will range from the 1.66-GHz T2300 to the 2.16-GHz T2600; the L line will initially have two variants, the 1.5-GHz L2300 and the 1.66-GHz L2400.

Like the Pentium M line, Intel's previous generation of mobile processors, all of the new chips also offer a 2MB cache. In addition, the systems feature Intel power-management technology that can shut down one of the processor cores if the application workload is light, thereby improving notebook battery life.

Before we discuss these new laptops, take a look at our exclusive tests of dual-core notebooks from HP and Dell that show the models tested to be multitasking powerhouses.

Acer introduced two new notebook products equipped with Intel's new Centrino Duo platform.

The Aspire 5670 will be available in a few different configurations starting at US$1,499, but the flagship model will feature 2GB of DDR2 memory, a 120GB hard disk, and an ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 graphics controller pushing a maximum resolution of 1200 by 800 to the 15.4-inch display.

An adjustable 1.3-megapixel CMOS camera is built into the lid just above the display and works with Acer's bundled face tracking and video conferencing software. Acer also includes its own easy-to-use software that can encrypt confidential files, backup, recover and optimize the hard disk, and adjust system settings in just a few clicks.

Included Aspire Arcade software brings together multimedia viewing and authoring tools which work with the unit's double layer DVD writer and media card reader.

Acer also showcased its dual-core TravelMate 8200 notebook. It offers similar specifications to the Aspire 5650, including the same new camera functionality and system tools, but ships with superior 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics delivering a resolution of 1680 by 1050 to its 15.4-inch screen.

The TravelMate 8200 also seems more focused on durability than the Aspire range. It includes a rigid carbon-fiber cover (until now only seen on Acer's Ferrari notebooks), in addition to hard disk anti-shock protection, and a motion sensor that can protect the hard disk given sudden movement--like being dropped--and function as an anti-theft alarm. A SmartCard reader also works with Acer software to provide one-click file encryption and authorization.

Configurations of the dual-core TravelMate 8200 are expected to start at $1,999.

Dell is now offering Intel's Centrino Duo mobile technology with up to 2GB of 667MHz dual-channel DDR2 memory in its new Inspiron E1705 entertainment notebook.

The notebook features high-end components and is available now from Dell's Web site starting at $1,999.

Customers can opt for either an Intel Core Duo processor T2500 (2GHz) or a T2400 processor running at 1.83GHz. The unit's 17-inch widescreen display has a standard maximum resolution of 1400 by 1050 but a 1600-by-1200 UXGA option also is available.

The Inspiron E1705 features NVidia's latest 256MB GeForce Go 7800 graphics controller, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, a 60-100GB 7200-rpm SATA hard disk, and an optional USB 2.0 TV tuner that is compatible with its Windows Media Center Edition 2005 operating system.

The E1705 also has better-than-average notebook sound, including a subwoofer. Front media buttons let you pop in a DVD or CD, or even manage the digital photos on your hard drive, without booting up the notebook itself. The unit replaces the Inspiron 9300 series, which will gradually disappear this quarter.

Gateway offers models for home and business users

Gateway launched two new Centrino Duo-equipped notebook models, each with variants geared towards business and home users.

The corporate-focused Gateway M685-E is a 7.7-pound, 17-inch widescreen mobile workstation with full size keyboard and dedicated number pad. The unit's base price is US$1,699 but customizable options from Gateway go right up to a 2GHz Intel Core Duo processor T2500, 2GB DDR memory, 100GB hard disk, dual layer DVD writer, and a 256MB NVdia GeForce Go 7800 graphics controller.

The home-oriented version of the M685-E is called the NX860 and uses the same chassis design, so it outwardly looks identical. Both should be shipping by the end of January.

Meanwhile, the M465-E is the next generation of Gateway's E-series professional notebooks. This model will target IT departments seeking a long product lifecycle and standardized design for fleet deployments.

This model will start at US$1,399 and will be available with a 15-inch or 15.4-inch widescreen display. Customizable options from Gateway go right up to a 2GHz Intel Core Duo processor T2500, 2GB DDR memory, 100GB hard disk, dual-layer DVD writer, and a 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 SE graphics controller.

The mainstream version of the M465-E is called the NX560 and uses the same chassis design. These models should be shipping by the late February.

Hewlett-Packard refreshes to dual core

The 5.6-pound dv1000t, a dual-core refresh of HP's popular consumer notebook, now boasts a basic Web cam built into the top of the 14-inch, 1280-by-768-resolution screen, a 100GB hard drive, a handy touchpad lock, and dual headphones ports located on the front. The dv1000 also has a quick-play option that lets you turn the notebook into a stand-alone DVD and CD player. It should make a good entertainment notebook for students and mainstream consumers.

Meanwhile, HP's updated Compaq Presario V2000T has a silver-colored design incorporating a 14-inch widescreen display and will feature similar specifications to the Pavilion dv1000t.

Lenovo updates popular T And X series

Lenovo announced updates to two of its most popular ThinkPad notebook lines: the portable performance T-series and ultraportable X-series. Like the recent ThinkPad Z60, the new models also include Windows shortcut keys.

The ThinkPad T60 and X60 series notebooks will be available with Intel's Duo (dual core) and Solo (regular) processors. Additionally, X60s models will offer Intel Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processors to help increase battery life even further.

The ThinkPad X60 has two open DIMM (upgradeable memory) slots able to house a total of 4GB of memory, although Lenovo advised that Windows can only actually address 3.2GB. Still, this is an improvement over the ThinkPad X41, which had one memory stick fixed in place, causing its memory capacity to max out at 1.5GB.

The X41 also uses a 1.8-inch hard disk with maximum speed of 4200-rpm and a 60GB capacity. The ThinkPad X60 has improvements in this area courtesy of a 2.5-inch serial ATA hard disk that can operate at 7200-rpm and is available in capacities up to 100GB.

There are subtle improvements in ergonomics on both units, including a more rounded palm rest and less distracting colors around the keyboard. The Access IBM button on each new ThinkPad range has been renamed ThinkVantage, but continues to provide an easy path to backup, recovery, and system setting tools.

The new T and X ThinkPad lines also now feature a third USB 2.0 port, FireWire, a shock-mounted hard disk, and have options to include a biometric fingerprint reader capable of BIOS level protection.

More particulars for each series should be available around February 3rd, before Lenovo's intended launch date of February 14.

Toshiba's new Qosmio, first with HD-DVD

Although Toshiba unveiled a slew of new notebooks at CES, it was the company's demonstration of its Centrino Duo-equipped Qosmio (pronounced Koz-Mee-Oh) that gained a lot of the attention, but not just for the processor.

The forthcoming high-end Qosmio entertainment notebook includes next-generation features such as a built-in HD-DVD drive and a display supporting resolutions up to the high-definition 1080p format.

The unit will also feature the first 1-bit digital amplifier built into a notebook, quality Harmon/Kardon speakers, Dolby Home Theater technology, and NVidia's GeForce Go 7800 graphics.

DVR capabilities, supplied by Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005,round out what looks set to be a strong luxury offering.

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