June 13, 2002 9:05 AM PDT

HP notebooks head out on the highway

With its new line of Compaq Computer Presario notebooks, Hewlett-Packard is looking for road warriors who enjoy the freedom of movement, but prefer to stay plugged in at home.


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The Presario 1500 is a machine that can effectively replace a desktop computer, but is also small enough to be taken on the road. By including a desktop Pentium 4 processor into the notebook, the company is gunning for consumers and small businesses that value performance first, and portability second.

The Compaq notebook is just one of many portable computers that incorporate a desktop Pentium 4 processor. The chips typically perform better than their mobile counterparts, yet run hotter, requiring manufacturers to build a larger chassis around them for cooling. The new Presario starts at $1,364, before rebates, and includes a 2GHz Pentium 4, a 14-inch screen, 128MB of RAM, and a 20GB hard drive. It weighs about 7 pounds.

HP says that a prospective Presario 1500 buyer will likely spend most of the time stationary and plugged in, only going mobile once in awhile. HP's Compaq team has dubbed this practice "casual mobility."

"There's a class of users who are looking more for a desktop versus a notebook they could take on an airplane," said Jonathan Kaye, manager of product marketing for HP's personal systems group.

This group of consumer also tends to buy notebooks with large screens, which makes it possible to build a larger chassis. "So why not take advantage of the faster desktop processor?" Kaye asked.

Initially, the Presario 1500 will be sold direct to customers on the Compaq Web site. It will hit retail stores later this summer.

Other PC makers have explored options with desktop chips in notebooks. Toshiba's Satellite 1905, which packs a 1.6GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip and includes a 15-inch screen, was the No. 5 retail seller in March and April, according to NPD Techworld.

Toshiba recently updated its Satellite 1905 by adding a 2GHz desktop chip. The machine weighs 8.5 pounds.

"PC makers are looking to put as much power into notebooks as they can, having identified customers who are willing to pay more for a machine with a faster processor," said Steve Baker, an analyst with NPD Techworld.

However, unlike some of its competitors, the Presario 1500 was designed to handle both mobile and desktop processors, which helped Compaq pare back the weight of the machine.

The use of more power-hungry desktop chips brings the 1500's battery life down to roughly 2.5 hours--about average for a notebook with a desktop chip.

A Presario 1500 with a 2.2GHz Pentium 4, 15-inch screen, 512MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive, and a combination CD-RW/DVD drive is expected to cost $2,074, before any rebates. As a comparison, a Presario 8000 desktop computer with a 2.26GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, DVD and CD-RW drives, and a 15-inch flat-panel monitor costs around $1,900, according to HP's Web site.

Keeping it fast
HP plans to include even faster chips in the Presario 1500 line in the future.

"We're committed to this space," Kaye said. "We're going to keep pushing physics as fast as we can."

Intel, however, may not agree completely with the strategy. The chipmaker doesn't actively discourage the practice of fitting notebooks with desktop chips--yet it doesn't encourage it, either.

Mobile Pentium 4 chips run as fast as 1.8GHz but are designed to be more miserly with power and produce less heat. As a result, they are more expensive chips. A company can buy a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip for $400, only $52 more than a 1.8GHz Pentium 4-M mobile chip, which lists for $348.

Even though HP sees consumers going for larger, desktop processor machines, it will continue to design the majority of its notebooks with processors made specifically for mobile computers.

"We're also committed to mobile" chips, Kaye said.

 

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