Notebook News Roundup

Outdoor Life: Panasonic Puts 3G Wireless Into Rugged Notebooks
Panasonic’s Toughbook notebooks aren’t designed for the cushy indoor life of the average commuter notebooks or even the stressful demands of a road warrior. Toughbooks, the marines of the notebook world, are designed to handle duty in hot spots such as construction sites, field-service calls and the like. Now they’re ready to go beyond Wi-Fi hot spots with Cingular, Sprint or Verizon wireless data access, all while shrugging off drops, jolts and splashes that will take out any civilian notebook.

The ultra-rugged line now includes a five-pound Tablet PC convertible and an eight-pound flagship laptop, both featuring Intel Core Duo processors and available Cingular or Sprint/Verizon WWAN as well as 802.11g wireless networking.

The Toughbook CF-19 convertible ($4,199) has a Core Duo U2400 (1.06GHz) CPU, shock-mounted 80GB hard disk, and 10.4-inch daylight-readable XGA display as well as a magnesium alloy case, while the CF-30 notebook ($4,699) features a Core Duo L2400 (1.66GHz) processor, modular combo or DVD±RW drive bay and 13.3-inch XGA touchscreen with 1,000 nits of brightness for easy viewing in direct sunlight.

Rated for seven and six hours of battery life, respectively, they meet MIL-STD-810F specifications for drop, shock, vibration, liquid, and dust resistance. Fingerprint security scanners and vehicle mounts are optional, as are EV-DO (Sprint or Verizon) or HSDPA (Cingular) data access and integrated GPS receivers. The two Toughbooks will ship in December.

Averatec Launches Lightweight Dual-Core Notebook
This affordable PC offers processing power in a slimline package plus lots of extras you wouldn’t expect at price this low.

Laptop value specialist Averatec has introduced its first thin-and-light notebook with dual-core processing and Windows XP Media Center Edition. The four-pound Averatec 2300 Series portable combines AMD’s Turion 64 X2 TL-50 (1.6GHz) with 1GB of DDR-2 memory, a 100GB hard disk, and a dual-layer DVD±RW burner in a package measuring 8.4 by 11.7 by 1.4 inches.

The 2300’s AveraBrite display is a 12.1-inch widescreen (1,280 by 800) LCD backed by Nvidia’s GeForce Go 6100 integrated graphics. Both Ethernet and 802.11b/g wireless networking are standard, as are a 4-in-1 flash-card reader, one FireWire and three USB 2.0 ports, and an ExpressCard expansion slot. The Averatec is available at retailers including Staples, Circuit City, and OfficeMax with an estimated street price of $900.

Acer Revs Up Two New Ferrari Notebooks
If you’re looking for a little executive prestige, check out Acer. It adds two models to its Ferrari showroom, putting its officially licensed premium brand onto 12.1- and 15.4-inch-screened notebooks for lightweight travelers and multimedia mavens, respectively. AMD Turion 64 X2 power and a Bluetooth VoIP phone are standard.

Acer America Corp. sells laptop PCs under its own brand (Aspire) and a brand bought years ago from Texas Instruments (TravelMate), but its most premium portables are licensed to carry a brand from exotic sports cars and winning Formula 1 racers — Ferrari. The company’s newest dual-core Ferrari notebooks are now available in North America.

The under-4-pound Ferrari 1000 ($1,999) packs AMD’s Turion 64 X2 TL-56 (1.8GHz, 2x512K Level 2 cache) processor, 1GB of DDR-2/667 memory, a 160GB hard drive, and an external DVD burner; it features a 12.1-inch, 1,280 by 800-pixel CrystalBrite display backed by ATI’s Radeon Xpress 1150 graphics. Its wireless connections go beyond 802.11b/g to 802.11n and Bluetooth, with a Bluetooth VoIP phone standard.

Under the trademark red of its light carbon-fiber casing, the Ferrari 5000 ($2,299) sports Turion 64 X2 TL-60 (2.0GHz, 2x512K cache) power with 2GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, and slot-loading DVD±RW drive on board. The 6.6-pound portable has a 15.4-inch widescreen (1,680 by 1,050) display with ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics. Both the Bluetooth VoIP phone and Acer Video Conference technology with OrbiCam Web camera are built in.

Belkin Debuts Docking Station for ExpressCard-Equipped Notebooks
Some laptop docking stations plug into your portable via a USB port, which isn’t fast enough to support high-resolution graphics on an external monitor. Belkin’s secret for reaching 1,600 by 1,200 pixels is the 2.0Gbps bandwidth of newer notebooks’ ExpressCard interfaces.

There are universal or brand-agnostic notebook docking solutions that plug into any laptop with a USB 2.0 port. But Belkin is betting that you don’t want to affect the performance of your other USB peripherals, so the company has taken a different path with four times the available bandwidth: Its Notebook Expansion Dock connects through a portable’s ExpressCard — the high-speed successor to PC Card or PCMCIA — slot.

Shipping in November for $200, the compact, vertical-standing docking station connects at 2.0Gbps to drive a VGA or DVI external monitor at up to 1,600 by 1,200 resolution with 32-bit color. The Windows XP- and Vista-compatible device also includes five USB 2.0 ports, two of which are top-mounted for easy access by flash-memory drives; a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port; and 5.1 surround sound support through optical or 3.5mm outputs.

Adapted from

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