Thursday, 14 June 2007

Comparing Prices Among Laptop Brands - Who's Cheapest?

Dells are cheap and Macs are expensive... right? The perceived cost of certain brands over others is one of computing's most enduring notions. But how true are they? I thought it was time to take a hard look at computer pricing (in this case, laptops, as they're easier to compare, features-wise) and see who really are the most and least expensive brands on the market, by comparing as closely as possible an almost-identical laptop from various "top tier" (and close second-tier) vendors.

Some ground rules: The machines were all priced on June 13, 2007. Obviously, prices change all the time, and won't be accurate for long after this post goes live. I will not be updating it every week!

All machines were configured as closely as possible to these specs, which make up a solidly-configured laptop that should suffice for any buyer: 15.4-inch widescreen display (default resolution and type), 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB RAM in 2 DIMMs, 120GB hard drive, dual-layer DVD writer, discrete graphics card (preferably a 256MB card from ATI or Nvidia), Windows Vista Home Premium, no software bundle, no warranty, no mobile broadband, default battery, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless. Where the machine I was able to configure varied from these specs (Dell offers no 2.2GHz CPU in the E1505, for example), I've noted the primary differences next to the price. All prices are direct from the manufacturer's website.

Here they are:

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch - $1,999 - Obviously includes MacOS, not Vista. Has Firewire 800 port.

Dell Inspiron E1505 - $1,299 - Only offers a 2GHz CPU but has a 160GB hard drive.

Fujitsu LifeBook A6030 - $1,449 - 2GHz CPU.

Gateway NX570X -$1,608 - 2.16GHz CPU and 128MB of video RAM. (And that includes a $200 "instant discount" which I'm not really clear on.)

HP dv6500tse - $1,522 - Only 2GHz CPU but a GPU with 383MB(!) of RAM.

Lenovo ThinkPad T61 - $1,379 - Integrated graphics.

Sony Vaio VGN-FE890 CTO - $1,760 - No 802.11n. Nvidia graphics but RAM isn't specified on the site. I had to add the price up myself because the Sony website didn't work.

Toshiba Satellite A200 - $1,318 - GPU has only 128MB of RAM.

Some interesting surprises here, and some not so interesting: Turns out the Apple was indeed the most expensive and the Dell the cheapest by a small margin. That actually shocked me, as Dell's have been quietly increasing in price over the years. Another big surprise: The Gateway was crazy overpriced and the Fujitsu, normally a budget brand, was also on the expensive side. A final, major surprise: A ThinkPad for only $80 more than a Dell? Yeah, the integrated graphics are lame, but that's still a heck of a deal.

Remember that you can save a lot of cash by shopping around. A different model machine from the same company may have only slightly fewer features but could cost hundreds less. This is just one look at the market at one point in time, and sliced a different way (say, for 14-inch screens or lower-speed CPUs) the results could have been much different.

Meanwhile, discuss amongst yourselves. --Elec Plasma TV's Laptops, Electronics -- Goes Live Online

High ticket consumer electronics such as Plasma TV's and Laptop computers just got easier to purchase. provides interest free payment terms and has just launched its online store.

High ticket consumer electronics such as Plasma TV's and Laptop computers just got easier to purchase. provides interest free payment terms and has just launched its online store.

Managing partner Jeremy Dickens stated, "We're excited and pleased to offer name brand televisions and computers to consumers that may have otherwise struggled to obtain these items. High costs and interest rates have stopped many families and individuals from making these purchases in the past. And with every computer we ship, we know we're helping people succeed in life." launched its online operation in June. The company sells high ticket consumer electronics with easy payment terms for consumers with less than perfect credit. It seems everyone wants a Plasma TV and a Laptop computer, and this is exactly what Indigo Gear provides.

Consumers no longer have to save up, or sign an extended purchase agreement with high interest rates. With Indigo Gear the buying process is much like a rent to own program.

Consumers make three layaway payments and their new TV or Computer is shipped to them. From there they only maintain a small monthly payment for ten months and the product they purchased is theirs. And there is never any finance charges. Approval is virtually guaranteed. All that is required is that the purchaser is over eighteen years of age and has a valid checking account.

A current promotion includes some great giveaways like a free color printer or a free HD DVD player.

Mr. Dickens further stated, "Let's face it, everyone wants a new flat screen TV at their home, or a new laptop to improve their productivity. We just wanted to help those who couldn't afford these items in one shot get what they need. And the last thing any of us need is more interest charges."

For more information please visit

Jack Powell
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Intel: Chipsets are Survivors

Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service Sat Jun 9, 4:00 PM ET

Computers are getting smaller and functions that once required multiple chips will increasingly be combined or move to the processor. But Intel Corp. said one component is going to survive these changes: the chipset.

If a processor is the brain of a computer, the chipset is its central nervous system. Traditional PC designs use a dual-chip chipset with one chip acting as a memory controller and another handling I/O functions, but that is changing.

"The chipset is not going to go away," said Richard Malinoski, vice president and general manager of Intel's Chipset Group. At the same time, the chipset's functions have evolved over time. "I think the vision of the kitchen sink, one big chip that is the computer, is a little bit exaggerated."

"We're miles away from that kind of a model," he said.

Nevertheless, big changes are afoot. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) was the first PC chipmaker to do away with the separate memory controller, moving this component onto the same piece of silicon as the processor to boost performance. Intel plans to follow suit with Nehalem, a new processor design the company has planned for 2008.

At around the same time, AMD and Intel are expected to take the graphics capabilities integrated in some chipsets, and move this to the processor-- at least for some systems. Different types of computers are going to use different components, reflecting the wider range of computers that are increasingly available.

For example, in the not-too-distant future many PCs, will have processors that include graphics capabilities. But separate graphics processors, called discrete chips, will still be needed, particularly for high-end systems and gaming machines where users demand better graphics performance.

"Different people want different things," Malinoski said, adding that many functions, such as parts of Intel's vPro technology, are handled by the chipset.

As the chipset's role evolves, one requirement that won't change is the need for I/O. Both high-end and mid-range PCs require a chipset to handle the flow of data between the processor and other components, such as solid-state drives or, in the case of systems using discrete graphics, the graphics card.

The integration of PC components will be greatest in ultramobile computers. Designers are racing to combine components in a bid to cut power consumption and shrink the size and weight of these devices. Asustek Computer Inc.'s Eee PC and Via Technologies Inc.'s NanoBook, both announced at Computex, illustrate the progress that's being made.

Via is blazing the trail towards still smaller devices, and Intel isn't far behind.

Earlier this week, Via CEO Wenchi Chen unveiled the company's Mobile ITX motherboard, which measures just 7.5 centimeters by 4.5 cm-- less than a business card. And he promised the company will introduce still smaller boards, made possible by CPUs that combine the processor with the chipset and graphics processor inside a single package.

"The single CPU chip will happen," Chen said this week.

ACS and MasterCard Worldwide Introduce Contactless Payments to Parking Areas at Major U.S. Airports

Customers will use MasterCard(R) PayPass(TM) to 'Tap & Go(TM)' and quickly exit busy airport parking lots

DALLAS, June 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (NYSE: ACS - News) today announced that its airport parking applications in North America will begin accepting MasterCard PayPass contactless payments. ACS is the leader in large airport parking systems, with more than 20 current installations at the nation's busiest airports.

MasterCard PayPass is a fast, cashless payment option that enables ACS customers to pay for parking simply by tapping their PayPass-enabled MasterCard card or device on a PayPass reader. ACS will begin to implement PayPass at selected, existing customer sites this summer. PayPass readers are anticipated to be installed in four to six airport sites by the end of 2007. ACS' airport revenue control solutions will continue to accept traditional magnetic-stripe payment cards along with this contactless payment technology and will continue to work with all payment card providers.

"This enhancement to airport parking is driven by MasterCard PayPass' ability to make purchases more convenient for customers by helping them move through lines more quickly and easily. After a long trip no one wants to be stuck in slow lines when exiting airport parking," said T.J. Sharkey, Group Head, Merchant Sales, U.S. Commerce Development, MasterCard Worldwide. "ACS is an innovative and proven provider of best-in-class technology solutions, making it an ideal partner for MasterCard to improve the experience for busy airport travelers."

With MasterCard PayPass, consumers no longer need to fumble for cash and coins or swipe a card for purchases. With the PayPass option, customers do not have to sign receipts for purchases under $25, which further speeds the payment process. In addition, under MasterCard's Quick Payment Service (QPS) program, no signature is required to complete a purchase and a receipt is optional for transactions up to $50 at parking garages.

"MasterCard's selection of ACS to expand MasterCard PayPass acceptance to airport parking facilities demonstrates our focus to simplify our customers' lives by providing innovative alternatives," said Michael Huerta, Managing Director of ACS Transportation Solutions. "Airport parking is an ideal setting for contactless payments because this technology streamlines a sometimes time-consuming activity for clients who frequently do not have time to spare."

ACS offers a wide range of transportation solutions, including public transit agency, toll collection agency and car park operator solutions that rationalize and automate revenue collection. A high service level optimizes revenue intake, while user-friendly tools enhance the customer experience. ACS solutions can be seamlessly integrated into existing environments and are geared for the requirements of the future. At ACS, transport infrastructure operators can find a complete range of products and systems for fare collection, parking and toll collection. The "one-stop shopping" principle enhances tailored solutions and long-term investment protection.

About MasterCard PayPass

MasterCard PayPass is ideal for traditional cash-heavy environments where speed is essential, and has led the way in bringing contactless technology to consumer categories such as quick serve restaurants, drug stores, gas stations, vending machines, convenience stores, sports arenas, movie theaters, transit systems and parking garages. As of 1Q 2007, there are over 14 million PayPass cards and devices in the market, and PayPass is currently accepted globally at 51,000 merchant locations, including participating 7-Eleven, CVS, McDonald's, Regal Entertainment Group theaters and many others. PayPass is also accepted at numerous football and baseball stadiums. For more information about MasterCard PayPass and a full list of participating merchants, visit

About MasterCard Worldwide

MasterCard Worldwide advances global commerce by providing a critical economic link among financial institutions, businesses, cardholders and merchants worldwide. As a franchisor, processor and advisor, MasterCard develops and markets payment solutions, processes over 16 billion transactions each year, and provides industry-leading analysis and consulting services to financial institution customers and merchants. Through its family of brands, including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus®, MasterCard serves consumers and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more information, go to

About ACS

ACS, a global FORTUNE 500 company with 58,000 people supporting client operations reaching more than 100 countries, provides business process outsourcing and information technology solutions to world-class commercial and government clients. The company's Class A common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ACS." ACS makes technology work. Visit ACS on the Internet at

Source: ACS, Inc.

HP, IBM add to blade PC market

San Francisco (IDGNS) - Hewlett-Packard Co. is sticking with processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) in a new family of blade PCs designed to compete with offerings from IBM

HP announced its BladeSystem bc2000 and bc2500 products on Monday, promising to reduce IT management costs and improve data security for corporate buyers by replacing traditional desktop and notebook PCs.

Specialist blade manufacturers like ClearCube Technology Inc. and Wyse Technology Inc. also compete in this segment, as vendors see growing demand from businesses that struggle to balance security and compliance regulations with an increasingly dispersed and outsourced workforce.

The new BladeSystems are the desktop version of HP's range of remote computing products. They fit between a blade server arrangement for workers with light computing needs and a blade workstation system for engineers and stock traders.

In all three models, the user connects to a remote processor and data storage by accessing the office network with a desk-based access device such as a thin client. Since the main computing resources are located in a single, controlled data center, the corporate IT department can cut management costs by making hardware repairs and applying software patches remotely instead of visiting numerous workers at their desks.

HP is selling the bc2000 for US$1,000 per unit when a company buys 10 of the machines. Although that is up to twice the price of a traditional desktop, the IT department can pay off the difference in 12 months of operation, said Tate Davis, CCI product manager for HP's consolidated client infrastructure group.

IBM is chasing that same market with its HC10 blade and a TC10 thin client from its partner Devon IT Inc., both launched in May. IBM also targets midrange business users, but uses an Intel Corp. Core 2 Duo processor, 8G bytes of memory and 60G bytes of storage.

In contrast, HP upgraded its previous blade PC -- the BladeSystem bc1500 -- by increasing the storage from 40G bytes to 80G bytes, the memory from 512M bytes to 1G byte, and the processor from an AMD Athlon 64 1500-series chip to Athlon 64 2100-series (for the bc2000) or dual-core Athlon 64 X2 (for the bc2500).

The extra power meets user demands for a blade PC capable of running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista Business edition and its fast graphics handling, Davis said.

"Customers say 'If we're going to do thousands of units for a wholesale desktop replacement, we need this thing to support Vista, we need a graphics look and feel equivalent to a desktop PC, and we need a little more processing power than the bc1500, our previous generation,'" Davis said. The bc1500 ran
Windows XP Professional.

HP says that power allows the bc2000 to outperform other blade computing designs, since it accesses those new processors over a dedicated link instead of through a "time-share" network where multiple users tap into a single blade computer.

"The IT department is being asked to do more than keep the trains running on time," Davis said. "They also have to help the end user comply with disaster continuity and recovery, handle outsourcing and offshore jobs, and maintain high security and compliance with the data."

The bc2000 is shipping now, with the bc2500 to follow by late July. Pricing for the bc2500 has not yet been announced.

DesignArt Networks Picks Tensilica Xtensa LX2 Configurable for WiMAX Baseband Chip

Tensilica®, Inc. today announced that DesignArt Networks, of Ra'anana Israel, has decided to use multiple Xtensa® LX2 configurable processor cores to speed product development and reduce risk to their WiMAX wireless baseband chip design. Multiple Xtensa LX2 cores are used in PHY and MAC layers of DesignArt's SOC platform, where some are replacing RTL state machines with high performance software, and some have been configured as custom DSP engines, handling high-speed signal processing functions.

"By using Tensilica's Xtensa LX2 configurable processors in our SOC, we took our platform to a higher level of flexibility, and we are able to bring a highly configurable silicon platform to our customers. The benefits are clear -- better ability of tracking customer requirements and standards evolution, as well as an in-field software upgradeable network infrastructure," stated Oz Barak, CEO, DesignArt Networks. "In the PHY, the powerful Xtensa LX2 DSP core enables the implementation of various MIMO receiver configurations. In the MAC layer, the Xtensa LX2 processors are the engine of the embedded high packet rate network processor, forming a highly-configurable design to track the future 802.16e standard evolution, as well as the emerging 802.16j standard. The robustness and sophistication of the Xtensa toolset allowed us to have packets traversing an RTL simulation on day 2 of the development effort. Today, these multi-core subsystems are up and running on the FPGA boards in our integration labs, with several months of testing already completed."

"The wireless infrastructure market is the focus of significant investment and opportunity right now, and DesignArt Networks has an aggressive plan to be a leader in that market," stated Steve Roddy, Tensilica's vice president of marketing. "By taking advantage of the unique features of our Xtensa LX2 processor, and by using multiple cores instead of dedicated hardwired logic blocks, DesignArt Networks can rapidly deliver product into this fast moving market and simultaneously engineer an area-efficient, low-power solution."

About DesignArt Networks

DesignArt Networks Ltd. is a fabless semiconductor company driving the evolution of the 4G wireless network infrastructure, towards high density, high-capacity deployments with ubiquitous and uniform out- and indoor coverage. DesignArt provides a comprehensive WiMAX SoC silicon platform, with the goal to substantially lower the cost of the WiMAX network infrastructure. Based on DesignArt's patented single-chip design architecture, this SOC platform enables equipment vendors to build a portfolio of base and relay stations, ranging from micro, pico to femto cell and multi-service access point designs. DesignArt combines an experienced management team with strong technology leadership, and holds a unique combination of expertise and intellectual property. For more information about DesignArt Networks, please visit

About Tensilica

Tensilica, Inc., is the recognized leader in configurable processor technology and has leveraged that technology to become the leading supplier of licensable controllers and DSP cores for mobile audio and video applications. Tensilica offers the broadest line of controller, CPU, network, and specialty DSP processors on the market today -- including full software toolchain and modeling support -- in both an off-the-shelf format via the Diamond Standard Series cores and with full designer configurability with the Xtensa processor family. The modern design behind all of Tensilica's processor cores provide semiconductor companies and system OEMs with the lowest power, smallest area solutions for high-volume products including mobile phones and other consumer electronics, networking and telecommunications equipment, and computer peripherals. For more information on Tensilica's patented, benchmark-proven processors, visit

Editors' Notes:

* Tensilica and Xtensa are registered trademarks belonging to Tensilica Inc. All other company and product names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.
* Tensilica's announced licensees include Afa Technologies, ALPS, AMCC (JNI Corporation), Aquantia, Astute Networks, Atheros, ATI (AMD), Avago Technologies, Avision, Bay Microsystems, Berkeley Wireless Research Center, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, CMC Microsystems, Conexant Systems, Cypress, Crimson Microsystems, DesignArt Networks, EE Solutions, Enuclia, ETRI, FUJIFILM Microdevices, Fujitsu Ltd., Hudson Soft, Hughes Network Systems, iBiquity Digital, Ikanos Communications, LG Electronics, Lucid Information Technology, Marvell, MediaWorks, NEC Laboratories America, NEC Corporation, NetEffect, Neterion, Nethra Imaging, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT), NuFront, NVIDIA, Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., Penstar, Plato Networks, PnpNetwork Technologies, sci-worx, Seiko Epson, Solid State Systems, Sony, STMicroelectronics, Stretch, TranSwitch Corporation, u-Nav Microelectronics, Victor Company of Japan (JVC), WiQuest

Communications, and XM Radio.


Tensilica, Inc.
Paula Jones, 408-327-7343 (Press)
for Tensilica
Erika Powelson, 831-424-1811 (Press)

Source: Tensilica, Inc.

GE Fanuc Embedded Systems Announces Conduction-cooled CR5 3U CompactPCI Single Board Computer

Designed for deployment in harsh military environments
-- 1.66 GHz Intel(R) Core(TM) Duo processor
-- Conduction cooled, extended temperature range
-- Easy upgrade path for existing customers

Demonstrating once more the company's commitment to providing state of the art price/performance while ensuring ease of upgrade for existing customers, GE Fanuc Embedded Systems today announced the CR5 rugged 3U CompactPCI single board computer. Based on an Intel® Core(TM) Duo LV (low voltage) processor operating at up to 1.66 GHz, the CR5 is designed for a broad range of applications, with a conduction-cooled option making it especially appropriate for military applications in harsh environments. The CR5 supports up to 2 GBytes of DDR2 SDRAM with ECC on a 400 MHz memory bus, and features two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two SATA ports, two USB 2.0 ports and eight GPIO ports.

"The announcement of the CR5 single board computer is significant for two reasons," said Wayne McGee, Global Director of SBC Product Line Management at GE Fanuc Embedded Systems. "First, it makes available a leading edge processor coupled with the popular 3U CompactPCI form factor, and provides the option for ruggedization in those environments that require it., such as military applications Second, it is totally form, fit and function compatible with its predecessor, and thus provides a smooth, straightforward upgrade path for customers who have previously designed the CR4 into their systems."

The Core(TM) Duo processor provides two complete execution cores in a single processor package, sharing a 667 MHz front side bus and 2 Mbytes of L2 cache for maximum performance and application productivity, but with low power consumption. Also featured by the CR5 is the Intel® 3100 ICH integrated memory and I/O controller hub which provides two USB 2.0 ports, two SATA ports and a standard COM port. An optionally available daughter card for the CR5 provides support for a CompactFlash module and SVGA graphics. The CR5, which is PICMG 2.0 and VITA 47 compliant, provides operating system support for VxWorks, Linux and Windows® XP.

About GE Fanuc Embedded Systems

GE Fanuc Embedded Systems is a leading global provider of embedded computing solutions for a wide range of industries and applications. Featuring a comprehensive offering that includes Intel® and PowerPC®-based Single Board Computers, sensor processing, networking products, avionics interfaces, rugged flat panel monitors and complete computer systems, GE Fanuc Embedded Systems can support the full range of embedded computing needs. GE Fanuc Embedded Systems is part of GE Fanuc, a joint venture between GE and FANUC LTD of Japan. For more information, visit


GE Fanuc Embedded Systems
Ian McMurray, +44 (0) 1327 322821

Source: GE Fanuc Embedded Systems