Ultra-low voltage laptops draw interest at show

The systems using low-power Intel chips could fill the gap between netbooks and standard laptops

Laptops using Intel's low-power chips for machines bigger than a netbook checkered PC displays at Computex Taipei on Tuesday, revealing growing popularity for the chips and the class of laptop.

Intel displayed laptops powered by the CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) chips from a half dozen PC makers on the same day it announced the Pentium SU2700, a new addition to the chip line.

The Intel microprocessors are meant for a new class of ultra-thin laptops that are as light as a netbook but pack bigger screens and stronger computing power. Such machines could fill the gap for buyers between standard laptops, which usually cost over US$1,000, and netbooks that sell for as little as $250 but do not run complex applications well.

Asustek Computer displayed a CULV laptop called the UX50V that comes with a graphics chip, the Nvidia GeForce G105M, for gaming.

The Nvidia chip outperforms the graphics unit in the Intel chipset, but it can also be toggled off to save power, a company representative said.

The laptop, with a 15.6-inch screen and a backlit keyboard, tapers from 1.13 inches to 0.73 inches thick. It weighs 5.7 pounds (2.6 kilograms) and comes with a hard drive size up to 500G bytes.

The laptop will go to market in the third quarter as one of a series of notebooks that will cost between $799 and $1099, the representative said.

Asustek also displayed the UX30, a smaller system just 0.27 inches at its thinnest point that is expected to be released by the early fourth quarter. The UX30 has a 13.3-inch screen, battery life of over four hours and a weight of 3.5 pounds.

Both Asustek machines will be offered with Intel's latest CULV chip, which runs at 1.3 GHz.

Acer, which showed its line of CULV laptops at its booth, is developing a product that will use the new Intel chip, a company representative said.

Taiwan-based Micro-Star International showed off its CULV laptops as well, and Intel displayed models from Lenovo, Taiwanese PC designer Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) and Pegatron, a former contract manufacturing arm of Asustek.

One Chinese PC designer, Lengda Technology, displayed a CULV laptop that it expects a partner to brand and ship next month.

Taiwanese laptop maker Mitac Technology was one of few companies to display a notebook actually using Intel's new chip.

The laptop, the Mitac 9223, has a 13.3-inch screen and is 1.24 inches thick. Its price will start from $799 when it hits the market next month, and Mitac expects to follow it with another model using Intel's new chip in August, a company representative said.

Intel is tracking work on over 50 CULV laptops by other companies, most of which it expects to launch this year, a company representative said.

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Owen Fletcher

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