Dell Shipping Sandy Bridge PCs, Plans Ultra-Slim Laptop

Dell says it's shipping tons of PCs with Intel "Sandy Bridge" processors with updated Cougar Point hardware, and has a new ultra-slim laptop soon to debut.

Dell is shipping more systems with the new Intel "Sandy Bridge" processors and updated "Cougar Point" chipset hardware "than just about anyone else," according to a company spokesman, and that trend will only continue.

In a March 7 blog post, Lionel Menchaca said that over the next six weeks, the company will expand the systems it offers running the Intel 2nd Generation Core processors, and among these will be an Inspiron laptop (as early as next week) and a new ultra-slim notebook that will "answer a few questions plus bring performance and style together in a big way."

Earlier this year Dell cancelled its thin-and-light Dell Adamo, which looked to compete with the Apple MacBook Air and-with the sleek design and its slick advertising campaign-change perceptions about the company. In the end, however, sales were lackluster, and the Adamo was both heavier and pricier than the Apple system.

The new ultra-slim Dell notebook will be part of an XPS consumer laptop line, PC World reported March 7, citing "a source familiar with Dell's plans," and said the line will "draw heavily" from the Adamo.

Apple last refreshed the MacBook Air in October 2010, showing off a 2.3-pound device that relies on SSD (solid-state drive) storage technology instead of a hard drive, measures 0.68 inches at its thickest point, and runs Intel Core 2 Duo processors and Nvidia GeForce graphics. Introducing it, Apple CEO Steve Jobs joked that it looks like the result of what would happen "if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up."

Were Dell to release a new MacBook Air competitor, it would have the benefit of the new Intel chips, which offer considerable speed and battery-life benefits. Apple has already put the chips to work in its newest MacBook Pro laptops, introduced Feb. 24, which are twice as fast the earlier models.

Apple tends to update its devices once a year, however, which would give Dell just a matter of months before its ultra-slim XPS was facing new competition in updated MacBook Airs.

Menchaca said in the blog post that Dell also plans to begin accepting new orders for several of its high-end desktops, including the XPS 8300, Vostro 460 and Alienware Aurora R3 systems, early this month. On Feb. 22, Dell also began shipping its XPS 15 and 17 laptops, both of which also feature Intel's latest processors but were not affected by the flaws found in the Cougar Point chipset.

On Jan. 31, Intel officials announced that they were recalling the chipset, though they had located the flaw and were already beginning to manufacture replacements. Depending on the configuration of a device, the flaw wasn't always an issue; Apple's laptops, for example, were unaffected.

In a research report following the Intel announcement, DigiTimes wrote that Apple could nonetheless afford to be slow about upgrading its notebooks, given their high average selling pricing. However, "for Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Dell, which heavily depend on their economic scale," said the report, "the new [Intel] platform will help raise their ASPs and, therefore, these makers will try to launch notebooks with new platforms as early as possible."