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Sony Taking Orders For Upgraded Vaio Notebooks

The Vaio SZ premium notebooks feature large hard drives and Intel's latest mobile processors; they will begin shipping in the next couple of weeks

Sony on Wednesday started taking orders for its newest Vaio SZ premium notebooks, which include large hard drives and Intel's latest mobile processors. Sony will begin shipping the notebooks in the next couple of weeks.

Two of the premium machines come with Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 processors, and a third with a Core 2 Duo T8100 chip. Sony also is taking orders on a less expensive Vaio SZ that comes with a slower T7500 processor.

The notebooks have 13.3-inch LCD screens, and the three premium models come standard with a 250-GB hard disk drive. The least expensive model includes 160 GBs of storage.

At more than four pounds and 1.5 inches thick, the machines are not in the same class as Apple's thinner and lighter MacBook Air, which the company unveiled at Macworld in San Francisco last week. Starting price for the Air is $1,799.

The Sony machines, however, would compete with Lenovo's entertainment notebooks, which the Chinese computer maker introduced in the United States this month. It was the company's first U.S. consumer notebook. The Vaio SZ series also would compete with Hewlett-Packard's Pavilion entertainment notebooks and Dell's XPS line.

The Sony machines, which include a DVD read/write drive, are built for people who want a fast entertainment notebook with lots of storage for video, pictures, and music. Starting prices for the new products range from $1,750 to $2,500.

The new products come with Sony's Hybrid Graphics System and support for 802.11n, the fastest Wi-Fi standard. They also include a fingerprint sensor for log-in security.

The three more expensive models include as upgrade options support for Bluetooth wireless technology for connecting to peripherals, Sprint's EVDO mobile broadband service, and up to 4 GBs of memory.

The two highest end machines come with 2.5 GHz T9300 processors, which have 6 MBs of L2 cache. The third premium model ships with a 2.1 GHz T8100 processor, and the least expensive model a 2.2 GHz T7500 chip. With the exception of the latter chip, the processors have been built with Intel's latest 45 nanometer manufacturing process, which delivers maximum power at the lowest possible energy consumption.

The new computers are the fastest in the Vaio line to date. Computer makers continue to crank out new products as fast as Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices are able to release higher performing processors for the mobile market. High-end notebooks carry a higher profit margin than products at the low-end of the spectrum, so competition is fierce for buyers willing to spend more for the fastest machines.

Notebook shipments are growing faster that desktop shipments, and are expected to make up more than half the market this year, according to IDC.

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