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Sony, Toshiba Introduce PVR-Equipped Notebooks

Sony and Toshiba have brought desktop PC features to the notebook market with their recent introduction of models with personal video recorder capability.

Sony introduced two new notebook computers, one of which places for the first time the company’s Giga Pocket PVR technology in a mobile platform. Toshiba opted for Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center operating system to give its new notebook PVR functionality.

The Sony VAIO PCG-GRT190G is Sony’s first notebook computer to utilize the Giga Pocket technology. Giga Pocket combines a TV tuner with PVR functionality, allowing users to view, record and manipulate television programming. Giga Pocket has been offered on desktop PCs since last year. It will ship in July with a $2,500 suggested retail.

Although a notebook computer by design, the GRT190G is being marketed by Sony as a portable PC and has the power and capability to not only be a home’s primary computer, but act as a home server, said Mike Abrary, Sony’s product management director, mobile PC group. To handle these tasks it is equipped with a full Pentium 4 Intel 2.8GHz processor — not the mobile version normally found in a notebook. In addition to the Giga Pocket PVR, it has a dual format DVD burner that can write to +RW and -RW media, a 60GB hard drive, 512MB of RAM, 802.11b wireless networking and a 16.1-inch LCD, the largest Sony has ever offered, Abrary said. This model also will be available in different configurations.

In another first for Sony, the PCG-GRT190G and Vaio PCG-TR1A ultra-light notebook and are the first to feature Sony’s XBRITE LCD technology. The latter has a suggested retail price $2,000 and is shipping next month. XBRITE uses a dual lamp system to deliver higher levels of brightness and contrast, Abrary said.

The TR1A is the latest model in Sony’s long line of ultra-portable notebooks. Although available in various configurations, the basic model weighs 3.1 pounds and is powered by a 900MHz Intel Pentium M processor with Centrino technology. It has 512MB of RAM, 30GB hard drive, 802.11b wireless connectivity, 10-inch by 6-inch LCD, CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, USB 2.0 and 1394 ports.

Sony’s unveiling of an ultra-portable and desktop replacement models is indicative of where the company sees the notebook category growing. Abrary said the two ends of the market are doing quite well, with most of the smaller notebooks being used for business, and the larger versions for home use and selling through retail. Sony does not plan to ignore the mid-range price and size segment, he said, but it also will not focus on it a great deal. Instead it will spend its marketing dollars and effort on the hotter categories.

Toshiba’s entry is the Satellite 5205-S705. It started shipping earlier this month with a $2,699 suggested retail. The Satellite incorporates a DVD-RAM burner with CD-RW capability and is powered by an Intel Mobile Pentium 4 2.4GHz processor. It also has a 60GB hard drive, an NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5600 video card with 64MB of onboard memory, a 15-inch display, three USB 2.0 ports and WiFi networking.

Toshiba also introduced two other mid-range consumer notebooks, the A15-S157 and A10-S177. The former uses an Intel Celeron 2.2GHz processor, integrated 802.11b networking, and has 512MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and a 15-inch LCD. It is now shipping with a $1,249 estimated street price. The A10-S177, shipping now with a $1,379 estimated street price, is powered by an Intel Mobile Pentium 4 2.2GHz processor. It shares most of the features with the A15-S157, except it has 256MB of RAM and optional WiFi networking capability.