iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






June 2001 Hardware Digest
Part 2

July 14, 2001

The month turned to be full of events starting from Computex and finishing with New York's PCExpo 2001 (TechX NY now). In this review we will pay attention to those interesting issues which were left untouched in the main roundup of the month.


The most active company was Fujitsu which released as much as three models that extended the LifeBook S, C and B series. The LifeBook S on a mobile low-voltage 750 MHz PIII with a 12.1-inch XGA monitor, a DVD/CD-RW drive, IEEE 1394, a V.90 modem, a built-in 10/100 Ethernet adapter and other modern features was launched first. It is a mid-high model priced at $2,399 and weighing 1.6 kg. In the middle of the month the company introduced a new model of the "C" series priced at $2,000, but with a DVD-ROM 8x drive and ordinary 800-850 MHz PIII mobile processors. Although this notebook doesn't differ much from the previous one in performance and functionality, it is heavier and positioned as a mid-range product. After that the market received a mini-notebook from the LifeBook B series with a touch-screen. These notebooks will be equipped only with ULV processors from Intel - 600 MHz and higher. Apart from a 10.4" touch-screen in the highest possible configuration the new LifeBook B will have: 256 MBytes memory, 30 GBytes hard disc, external FDD and CD-ROM drive, SmartCard Reader, 10/100 Mbit Ethernet, V.90 modem, Win2000.

At the Computex ASUS introduced its two new models - B1 and B2. There are specs of the B1:

  • Mobile Intel Pentium 1 GHz
  • 15" LCD
  • ASUS Dynamic Thermal Dissipation technology
  • ASUS MediaBay - a special design of a universal slot for removable storage devices
  • Wireless network interface integrated controller IEEE802.11b
  • Confidentiality protection: Smart Card and according to dactylograms
  • Digital 5.1-channel S/PDIF output
  • TV-out and integrated interface IEEE1394

The B2, apart from all these things, has got the GeForce2Go.

VIA which had been making plans for its new economical 0.13 micron C3, earlier known as Ezra, launched them right before the Computex. They announced a 800 MHz version of the processor for desktop PCs and the respective mobile version of the C3.

In the middle of the month Hewlett-Packard announced Pavilion notebooks based on the Athlon 4 1 GHz and Duron 850. The company chose Trident CBXP video chip and Polk Audio one - a unique approach.

But a more surprising thing from this manufacturer is its "Pocket, but PC" Roverbook S, on the i810E with support up to 766 MHz Celeron or 1 GHz PIII, up to 30 GBytes hard disc, a video-out, a built-in speaker, a DVD-drive, all standard outputs. Quite a good thing but it reminds me a Japanese device Cappuccino G1.

Another product based on a mini-PC standard x86 architecture is a concept PC from Matsushita - Panasonic AirFG, where a display and a docking station (on the processor with ultra-low supply voltage (ULV) 300 MHz Pentium III, Intel 815EM chipset equipped with 64 MBytes memory and a 1.8" 5 GBytes hard disc) communicate via the IEEE 802.11b. The 8.4" AirLC display is made of special magnesium alloy and is shock-proof. Its response time almost coincides with data exchange time via the 802.11b, that is why no problems with excessive time lag must occur. The company has taken its strength characteristics so seriously because of possible utilization of this device by Japanese policemen.

Sony didn't follow a traditional way and released a photonotebook with a built-in 0.68 Mpixel camera. This portable PC is based on a usual model Vaio PCG-GT1 with the Crusoe TM5600 inside. It also includes Rage Mobility M1 with 8 MBytes memory, 2 PC Card Type 2 slots; 1 IEEE 1394 port, Sony Memory Stick slot. The device is priced at $1,860 in Japan.

But the most significant event of the month is a release of the Pentium III-M at TechX NY. This Tualatin-512k wrapped in a 479-pin FCBGA case has an extended set of functions - SpeedStep, including DeeperSleep to switch to the sleep mode on a more economically sound basis. Among the chipsets it will be exactly the Almador to be used for Pentium III-M support, the desktop version of which won't appear anymore. But the mobile i830, like the new processor, has index M. Its versions are 830M (integrated graphics core, AGP), 830MP (AGP, without graphics), 830MG (integrated graphics core, no external AGP). Fujitsu and Acer immediately demonstrated their LifeBook and TravelMate on the 1.13 GHz Pentium III-M.

The Inquirer has shared its information about the Rage Mobility M9 from ATI on the R300 core which is to be released not earlier than in a year. A 0.15 micron technological process, 350 MHz, DX9, 128-bit DDR SDRAM interface, 74 million triangles/sec, 4 pixel pipelines and 8 texture ones. I hope that this chip will be implemented in silicon.

More and more famous companies are starting production of subnotebooks on the Crusoe. NEC released a light and functional notebook Versa DayLite on 600 MHz TM5600 with a reflecting 10.4" SVGA display, a 20 GBytes hard disc, a USB CD-ROM drive and an FDD one. The model is powered from Li-polymeric batteries to make the model lighter; they run for 7.5 hours in a standard mode and 4 hours in the highest brightness mode. But such model will cost you $2,499.

In the end of the month at the TechX NY Toshiba introduced a curious hard disc with a record capacity for its form-factor: 5 GBytes for the 1.8" model which fits excellently a PCMCIA PC Card II slot.

At the PC Expo in New York IBM demonstrated its prototype of a wearing PC Mobile Assistant V (MAV) with a protective LCD (800X600) worn on a head and a keyboard worn on a forearm. The PC weighs only 445 g. The computer consists of a ULV (ultra low voltage) version of the 500 MHz Celeron (1.1 V), 128 MBytes memory, a 5 GBytes HDD. The interfaces are: CF, USB and IEEE 1394. Neither price or the release date are announced.


At the beginning of the month MSI released a PDA and an Internet console (IA) almost simultaneously. The MS-2010 PDA reminds younger Palm models in its configuration: 120 g weight at the dimensions equal to 119X80X16, Motorola DragonBall 33 MHz, 2 MBytes ROM, 8 MBytes RAM, RS-232 and USB interfaces. The MS-3011 IA is implemented as a set-top box and is equipped with a smart card reader, a V.90 56 Kbit modem and a wireless keyboard.

NEC, in its turn, launched an elder model MobilePro 790 of the subnotebook/HPC class with a small LCD touchscreen and a 78-button keyboard. The CompactFlash Type II and PC Card Type II slots are intended for extended possibilities. This small computer is equipped with powerful stuffing - 168 MHz VR4121 processor, 32 MBytes RAM, 24 ROM and 16 Flash. There are also a V.90 modem, an IR port, a VGA-out and audio. As an OS there is a lite version of the Windows CE for Handheld PC 2000 and a complete set of programs. The product will make your purse thinner by $899.

As for the PDA processors, there are two excelling companies - Hitachi and Motorola. Hitachi extended its series of SuperH processors RISC/DSP with a 32-bit core SH7727 working at 160 MHz. This processor is equipped with an integrated support of the peripherals, including a USB controller and a color LCD controller. Motorola announced several new DragonBall processors which turned to be pure PDA products and are used in the whole series of Palm articles.

The elder model Dragonball MX1 (ARM920T core) is developed specifically for operation under the Palm OS, works at 140 MHz - 200 MHz, is equipped with a great deal of controllers (Bluetooth, USB, color LCD support, ADC, Sony Memory Stick support etc.)

A budget model Dragonball Super VZ (66 MHz) is some improvement of the 68000 processor series. Apart from a higher clock speed the DragonBall Super VZ will get partial possibilities of the MX1.

The IBM Microdrive is a dream of many owners of advanced PDAs with a CompactFlash Type II slot. Ritek, however, announced almost identical 1 GB hard disc MicroStor with CF interface. The company is planning on starting sales of the product in the Q3 priced twice cheaper than a 1 GBytes IBM MicroDrive ($400-$500).

Another interesting event at Computex was announcing of wireless 802.11b LAN adapters for CompactFlash interface. The main heroes are Z-Com and BroMax Communications. The cards from both companies have good characteristics. They differ only in the chip which is PRIZM 2.0 of the Z-Com Wireless CF Card, and PRIZM 2.5 (allowing making the card smaller) of the FreePort īT BroMax. But such cards are too expensive today: $180-200.

Casio Japan announced a new PDA Cassiopeia E-750 which works under the WinCE 3.0. This model looks tough: a 200 MHz processor MIPS VR4131, 32 MB ROM and 32 MBytes RAM, a color 16-bit TFT display measuring 240 X 320 and a traditional slot CompactFlash Type II. Besides, it has a built-in speaker, a stereo audio-out, an IR port IrDA 1.2, a USB interface.

But taking into account that the Cassiopeia can be connected with wireless communication modules PDC or cdmaOne, which turns a E-750 into a communicator and the time of non-stop operation is now 10 hours, this PDA can be considered one of the most promising on the market.

But apart from such dear and functional model, Casio launched a PDA BE-300 with a 3.2" 32768-color STN LCD screen with 240 x 320 resolution, 16 MBytes memory, a 166 MHz processor VR4131 from NEC, a CompactFlash (Type II) slot, serial and USB interfaces. The BE-300 works under the Windows CE 3.0 in combination with a graphics interface developed by Casio. The BE-300 measures 76 x 121 x 17.9 mm, and weighs 167 g.

Sony released two new PDAs of the Clie series: PEG-S320 and PEG-N610C. This first one is inexpensive: it costs up to $200. The model consists of a monochrome 160X160 LCD, Motorola Dragonball 33 MHz processor, 8 MBytes RAM, 4 MBytes flash memory. The PEG-N610C is a more sound solution: it has a 16-bit color screen with resolution up to 320X320, Motorola Dragonball 33 MHz processor and 8 MBytes RAM and 4 MBytes flash memory. This one will most probably cost some $400. With such a price the Clie PEG-N610C can be a good competitor against the Palm m505. Of course, both have a USB interface and come with Palm OS 4.0.

ViewSonic entered the market with its ViewPad 100 SuperPDA and a real IA ViewPad1000 TabletPC. The difference consists in the configuration, and therefore, in the price. In dimensions they don't differ much, but their weigh is far not the same. The SuperPDA is a 206 MHz StrongARM from Intel, 32 MBytes flash memory, 64 MBytes SDRAM, a 10" TFT LCD touchscreen, USB, IrDA and WinCE 3.0. It weighs 1.1 kg. The X86 ViewPad 1000 is equipped with a 800 MHz Mobile Celeron, a 10.4" touchscreen (for a virtual keyboard), 128 MBytes SDRAM, a 6 GBytes HDD, IEEE802.11b, a built-in digital camera, Windows Me. It weighs 1.8 kg. No information about the price is now available.

Fujitsu PC also announced PenCentra 2000 pad for the Windows CE for Handheld PC 2000 (H/PC 2000). It weighs a bit less than a kilo and is based on the 129 MHz RISC processor Toshiba TX3922 MIPS. It also has 32 MBytes RAM (expandable to 64), 32 MBytes ROM (for OS), 16 MBytes flash memory, a 32-bit graphics controller with 1 MBytes memory, USB, a 56K modem, IrDA, a speaker and a microphone, as well as two PC Card Type II slots. A 8" display can be both reflective SSTN, and bright DSTN with backlight.


The most considerable event of the month was undoubtedly a release of the nForce at the beginning of June. NVIDIA improved an audio part of its MCP (multimedia-communication processor). The MCP now can code multichannel audio into the Dolby Digital 5.1 format in a real time mode and output an AC3 stream via the S/PDIF for further decoding on a consumer receiver in a home theater. The APU (Audio Processing Unit) in the nForce MCP can be accelerated on a hardware level up to 256 2D voices and up to 64 3D voices with 3D positioning support. The MCP also supports DirectX 8 and Sensaura technologies on a hardware level. Audio is processed completely by 4 DSPs inside the APU. Besides, the nForce will be produced both with a hardware coder Dolby Digital 5.1 and without it.

The second important event of the month was strengthening of a MP3Pro standard - a direct successor of the MP3. According to the developers - Thomson and Fraunhofer Institute, the new standard will provide almost CD quality, being at that twice more compact than the MP3. The MP3Pro is back compatible with MP3: there are two different data streams for audio coding, one of which will be recognized by old players. The licensing of the MP3Pro costs nearly twice cheaper than that of the competitors.

The most curious event of the month is a presentation of the Sound Blaster Audigy at audigy.boom.ru. There you can find photos of the card and of an external 5.25" module. The visual difference of the new cards Audigy from the SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 series consists in replacement of Game/MIDI interface connectors with the IEEE-1394 (FireWire) connector. The Audigy Platinum has MIDI-connectors in the form of mini-DIN one on a 5.25" module together with the IEEE-1394. The Audigy will be compatible with the ASIO, which allows working with Cubase on a professional level. Besides, the developers promised a possibility of overlaying of effects on each track separately.

While some companies released new models of their players, others made only their debut on this market.

Sony launched a player Walkman Memory Stick with a water-proof case for those who are keen on extreme sport. The player comes with 64 MBytes Memory Stick. Computer connection is implemented with USB. ATRAC3, MP3, WMA, WAV, Liqiud Audio formats are supported. The device is quite dear: $300.

Archos introduced its version of a Jukebox player with a 6 GBytes hard disc - Archos Jukebox Recorder. It has a USB interface, a built-in microphone, a mic-in, a 12-line display. The player can implement sampling of an analog signal. Besides, it is detected as a usual USB hard disc, what simplifies recording of music and other data on it. The player weighs 360 g and costs $350. It is a good competitor for the Creative D.A.P. Jukebox.

At the turn of the month Compaq released iPAQ Personal CD Player PCD-1 - a usual CD/MP3 player of the second generation, equipped with an integrated FM tuner, an equalizer and an infrared remote controller. The iPAQ PCD-1 works both with usual and CD-R and CD-RW discs, plays MP3 and WMA. But its release data and detailed characteristics are still kept a secret.

Imation showed an interesting portable USB 1.1 CD-RW drive with MP3 player functions - RipGo!. This drive can play WMA. It has an anti-shock feature, an LCD display with backlight and all other features peculiar for devices of this class. Unfortunately, its speeds are still unknown, but it will probably be 4X. The RipGo! will start selling in autumn at $400.


Hewlett-Packard entered the market of digital printing systems with its new product HP Digital Press 6600. Its characteristics are standard for such systems: offset quality printing, 6 paints, adjustment and additional colors. The system provides high performance at the expense of lack of printing plates, films and pre-printing preparation. The HP Digital Press 6600 can be ordered at $200,000.

Epson released two new designed printers with increased performance - Stylus C20 and C40. Both models are meant to replace Stylus Color 480SXU and 580, respectively. The C20 provides 720X720 dpi, USB and up to 6.5 pages per minute. It costs about $70. The C40 offers 1440X720 dpi and a higher printing speed - up to 8 ps/min. The interface is only USB. The device will be available at $100. By the end of the month Epson renewed its Perfection scanner series: the Perfection 1250 and 1250 Photo will replace a low-end 640U, and P1650 and P1650 Photo are successors of the 1240 series. The new models have a good optical resolution at the acceptable price. The P1250 gives us 1200 X 2400 dpi, but the most amazing is the difference of $15 ($115 and $130) between the Photo and usual model. The Perfection 1650 has 1600 X 3200 dpi, 3.2D dynamic range and 48-bit color depth. It is not so bad for mid-level models at $195 and $260 (Photo).

At the end of June Minolta announced its semi-professional slide scanner with hardware resolution equal to 4800 dpi - DiMAGE Scan Multi PRO. This model is equipped with a 16-bit ADC, the dynamic range is 4.8D, and with two interfaces available - IEEE 1394 and Ultra SCSI-II. Professional image correction and optimization technologies (Digital ICE3, ROC and GEM) are supported. Besides, the device also can implement packet scanning. The system is compatible with the most of film formats, and, when equipped with an additional pad Multi-Format, it is able to work with films of electronic microscopes, microfilms in an aperture card, 16mm films, Minox films and 24 x 65mm ones.

Besides, UMAX released two mid-level models: Astra 4400 (1200 X 2400 dpi) at $120 and Astra 5500 with a slide scanner at $160.

As for laser printers, I should mark out MINOLTA-QMS who started selling new models such as color 2200 DeskLaser and an inexpensive SOHO PagePro 1100L. Both look rather attractive. The 1200 dpi Magicolor 2200 Laser prints out up to 20 ps/min in a monochrome mode and up to 5 pages per min in a color one. It is equipped with an Ethernet connector and autoduplex. The product costs $999. The PagePro 1100L is able to print out up to 10 pages of Legal format (216 X 356 mm) at 600X600 dpi. It is not so bad at $279.

IBM launched a whole series of laser printers InfoPrint 1000. The products are meant only for offices, and can print out pages from the Internet (including PDF files attached to sites). The models are:

  • Infoprint 1120 and 1125 - 1200 dpi, 20 and 25 pages per min, respectively.
  • Infoprint 1130 and 1140 - 1200 dpi, 30 and 40 ps/min, respectively.
  • Infoprint 1145 - 1200 dpi, 45 ps/min.

The models can be supplemented with a network adapter (n suffix comes into the name), a duplex mechanism (d), duplex and network adapter (dn), or Internet-compatibility (in).

At last, there is Hewlett Packard with its new multifunctional compact PSC 750 which combines a color bubblejet, a scanner and a color copier. The device prints in 1200 X 2400 dpi resolution on special paper. The printing part is very similar to the DeskJet 959: the highest speed makes 11 ps/min when printing test and 8.5 graphics. The scanner is also not that bad - 600 X 1200 dpi, 36-bit color. The copier has a multifunctional menu - up to 99 copies from one original and scaling within 25%-400%. This combo connects a computer via USB and costs a bit more than $300.

Digital photo

Up to 2.2 Mpixels:

At the beginning of the month Sanyo announced DSC-MZ1 at $560 with a 2.11 Mpixel matrix and up to 15 fps at 640X480. But at 10 fps you can get photos of 1600X1200 resolution. The "wide range shot" function allows a user to shoot in a wide range of illumination: in this mode the CCD matrix makes two shots - a bright one and a darkened one at the same exposure, and then combines the best parts of both shots.

The next newly released device is Ricoh Caplio RR10. It has similar characteristics with the previous camera, a 2.11 Mpixel matrix, a 2x optical zoom. The camera costs $492. Besides, the Ricoh contains an MP3 player.

Sony introduced its budget CyberShot DSC-P20 camera: a 1.3 Mpixel matrix (max. resolution is 1280X960), lack of an optical zoom, Memory Stick support (4 MBytes). The camera is available at $250.

At the end of month Casio and SiPix launched a 2.11 Mpixel QV-2900UX and a 1.3 Mpixel SP-1300, respectively. The camera from Casio has quite attractive characteristics: a 8X optical zoom, up to 270 degrees rotation, shooting of clips with sound, a CompactFlash Type II slot. The price is $499.

The entry-level SiPix camera differs from others only in a presence of optical and digital viewfinders, 4 MBytes internal memory, CompactFlash slot and JPEG recording. It is not so bad at $179.

From 2.2 to 3.8 Mpixels:

Epson released a 3.34-Mpixel Photo PC 3100Z camera with moderate characteristics - a 3X optical zoom, a CompactFlash slot and PRINT Image Matching technology. The camera makes possible shooting of 25-sec video clips with sound accompaniment. The camera is supplied with a 16 MBytes CompactFlash card. Then comes Fuji with a similar 3.34-Mpixel FinePix 6900 camera. The maximum resolution is 2048X1536. The camera has a 6X optical zoom, as well as optical and digital viewfinders. SmartMedia flash cards are supported (the camera comes with a standard 16 MBytes one). All these features are available at $999. A 3.3 Mpixel race is supported with an Optio 330 model from Pentax. It has the same 2048X1536, 3X a optical zoom, a CompactFlash slot, a digital viewfinder. The price is unknown. The Hitachi Maxell ZD3 camera belongs to the same class, its design was developed by Zero Halliburton. So, we have a stylish design with a moderate functional part - a 2X optical zoom, 2048X1536, SD and MMC flash card support, 15s video clip shooting. The camera measures only 87 X 55.1 X 33.3 mm and weighs 170 g. The price is $650. Another interesting model came from Fuji. Although the FinePix 2800 Zoom has a small matrix (2.4 million pixels - 1600X1200), the design is developed by well-known Porsche. It has a 3X optical zoom, flash, SmartMedia support, a digital viewfinder, up to 80 s of video, the weight is 300 g. The camera costs $699.

From 3.8:

First come semi-professional cameras. Toshiba released a 4.2 Mpixel PDR-M81 camera in Japan and started selling it on the American market. The digital and optical possibilities are not rich for a model of such class: 2.8X optical zoom, 2400X1800, up to 3 min video in AVI at 160X120@15 fps, digital viewfinder, SmartMedia support (a 8 MBytes card comes with the camera). The model costs $576. Olympus launched its 4.1 Mpixel (2272X1704) CAMEDIA C-4040 ZOOM, which is equipped with a 3X optical zoom, iESP (contract level adjustment), optical and digital viewfinders, flash, up to 8 fps at the highest resolution. The flash memory is SmartMedia. The price is not low - $1099. Casio released nearly the same camera - QV-4000, but for a possibility to shoot video clips up to 60 s and a CompactFlash slot. But the price is still unclear.

Kodak introduced its professional camera DCS 720X. It is implemented in the Nikon F5 case, equipped with a unique full-format CCD sensor made of indium tin oxide (ITO), a set of color filters (CFA) and screened electronics. The sensitivity lies in the range from 400 to 6400 ISO. Besides, the camera has an IEEE 1394 interface. The price is $6999.

That's all I wanted to tell you about cameras. Now a little bit about photo printers. Sony released two new models - DPP-SV88 and DPP-SV77. The SV88 differs from the SV77 in a CD-R/RW drive to record photos directly on the storage device. Both printers have slots for Memory Stick, PC card, Smart Media and Compact Flash cards, and a USB interface. Among high-professional level systems for digital printing, the market received a set of a system controller UPA-PC120 and a digital printer UP-DR100. The controller-terminal PC120 has a contrast 12.1" LCD and slots for Memory Stick, Compact Flash, Smart Media, PC card, CD-R discs and 1.44 MBytes diskettes. The UP-DR100 printer is meant for high-speed printing (127 X 178 mm shot at 34 s). The price for the professional system is unknown, the SV88 is $667, and SV77 is a bit cheaper.

SOYO Computer launched a curious device named SOYO Advance Photo System to display, edit and arrange photos without a PC. The Advance Photo System is compatible with two standards of cards - SmartMedia and CompactFlash. Data are displayed on a usual TV screen (both NSTC and PAL) through a TV-out or on a monitor via a VGA-out. The process is controlled with a remote controller. The device is not very dear - $199.

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