IBM and Dell Inc. are among several PC makers rolling out notebooks that take advantage of Intel Corp.s new, speedy Sonoma chip set.
Sonoma, the latest version of the popular Centrino chip set, will appear in 150 notebook models by years end, said Intel officials in Santa Clara, Calif. Sonoma features a 533MHz front-side bus as well as a PCI Express bus architecture.
Unlike PCI, PCI Express is a serial link, enabling more data to move through fewer lines than via the parallel delivery of PCI. PCI Express links will run at 2.5GHz, compared with PCIs 133MHz, officials said.
To complement Sonoma, IBMs new ThinkPad T43 notebook has both a PC Card and a PCI Express slot, said officials at IBM, in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Sonoma also includes improved graphics capabilities via the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900. As such, the T43 is the first of IBMs T Series notebooks to include integrated graphics support.
"Integrated graphics performance is finally catching up to the discrete graphics performance," said Bill Iori, IBMs product manager for the ThinkPad line. "Its really a benefit in terms of cost."
In addition to the Sonoma support, the T43 includes new ThinkVantage management features—a key way IBM has distinguished itself among the myriad companies that use the same Intel chip sets.
"In general, I believe IBMs image management tools and protection features are the best in the industry," said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and CareGroup Healthcare System, a Boston-area hospital group that uses ThinkPads.
Chief among the new management features is Version 2.0 of IBMs Rescue and Recovery software, which includes the Antidote Delivery Manager. This makes it easier for IT managers to deploy virus patches by installing them before system boot-up.
The T43, due next month, ranges in price from $1,499 to $3,199.
Meanwhile, Dell introduced the Inspiron 6000, a notebook that focuses on multimedia capabilities. Features include backlit buttons on the front and center of the notebook, making it easy to control volume and playback. It also has a 15.4-inch screen, good for watching videos or viewing two applications side by side.
Pricing depends on configuration but starts at approximately $1,000. Customers can choose between a lower-cost Intel Celeron processor or a higher-end Pentium M.
Some analysts recommend that customers lean toward the less expensive processors.
"With many people spending 60 percent of their day in e-mail, we could almost go back to green screens on IBM 3270s," said Ken Dulaney, a Gartner Inc. analyst in Stamford, Conn. "Users should cut costs by buying low end unless they have special needs."