Ultra-thin notebooks make splash

Ultra-thin notebooks make splash

Ultra-portable notebooks, and particularly a new crop of super-slim models, were among the big crowd pullers at the Comdex/Fall '98 show, promising a new era of true portability for road warriors.

Several vendors unveiled new thin and light notebooks, which, although only around 2.5 cm thick and weighing a bit over a kilogram, often offer performance similar to full-sized notebooks.

New entrants in the arena of ultra-thin notebooks look to present strong competition to mini notebooks, such as Toshiba's Libretto series, analysts and users said, providing better keyboards and displays.

And judging from user reaction at the show here, the new ultra-light notebooks will also find a home in corporate environments.

"I think this is fantastic," said Gail Burke, executive director with Australia's Macquarie Bank, who was ready to discard her Toshiba Libretto and upgrade to the new, ultra-light Portege 3010C. Powered by Intel's 266MHz Pentium MMX processor, the unit weighs 1.3kg with pricing in the US starting at $US1999.

Currently, executives at the bank use Libretto mini notebooks when they are on the road, said Burke, who together with a colleague had come by the Toshiba booth to check out the next generation of Toshiba products on behalf of the bank.

Although the Libretto has proved popular among the bank's employees, Burke thinks the mini notebook's screen and keyboard are simply too small.

Another set of users, who said they also made technology purchasing decisions for a bank, said they liked the Portege's lightness, and the quality of its screen.

While Japanese vendors have been the fastest to introduce such ultra portables, other top-tier vendors, such as Compaq Computer and IBM, are likely to soon follow with similar offerings, said Randy Giusto, director of mobile technology research at Massachusetts-based International Data Corp.

Similar in appearance to Sony's groundbreaking Vaio 505 series, Sharp's new Actius A150 UltraLite Notebook, featuring an Intel 266MHz Pentium MMX, 64MB of main memory and a 4.3GB hard drive, also won accolades for its crisp 11.3in active matrix display.

The Sharp notebook, which features proprietary transflective technology, has the best screen of any portable computer on the market today, said Tim Bajarin, president of California-based consulting company Creative Strategies.

Other Actius A150 features include a built- in 56Kbps modem and 2MB of video mem- ory, enabling it to display 16.7 million colours. It also has a built-in Universal Serial Bus port, one Type II PC card slot and a VGA external monitor port. Available immediately, the 1.4kg, 10.2 x 8.3 x 1.1in notebook in the US is priced at $US2299.

Sony, meanwhile, showed its latest addition to the Vaio notebook line, the PCG-C1, which features a built-in camera.

Shipping in Japan since about two months ago, the new Sony unit is expected to hit US and Australian store shelves some time next year officials said.

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