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Tech wars

Sun., Oct. 25, 2009

Computer companies up the ante with new offerings

Apple Inc. has made significant upgrades to its venerable iMac computers, as well as several other products.

The announcement of the new wares came on Tuesday, which is perhaps not coincidental.

Thursday, Microsoft Corp. unveiled its Windows 7 operating system and revealed several new computers created with the new system in mind.

Here’s a look at what Apple brought forth, and what’s already known about the new Win7-friendly computers about to debut.


The new products, most of which were made available upon the announcement, didn’t mark a big enough change to warrant one of the company’s Steve Jobs-hosted public events.

But there are significant enhancements, mostly without significant price changes.

Not that Apple products are going bargain class – it’s still the premium brand, especially in laptops.

The new iMac comes in two models – one with a whopping 27-inch screen (starting at $1,699) and the other with a 21.5-inch screen (starting at $1,199). Both screens are LED-backlit.

Both models come standard with processors that run at a swift 3.06GHz. And they use Apple’s new multitouch mouse.

What the new iMacs don’t have are drives to play Blu-ray discs – a feature some Apple watchers had predicted.

The newly upgraded 13-inch MacBook laptop is $999 (no price change) and has some features that were previously available only on higher-priced Apple models, including a longer lasting (touted to run up to seven hours on a charge), non-removable battery, and a multitouch track pad.

The Mac Mini, which is Apple’s lowest priced, stripped-down desktop computer (it comes without screen, keyboard or mouse) has undergone performance enhancements. The starting price remains the same at $599.

The most radical biggest product change is not to a computer, but to Apple’s wireless mouse – called the Magic Mouse – which comes with the new iMacs and can be purchased separately for $69.

Its entire top surface is touch-sensitive, and it recognizes when you are using two fingers, instead of one, to trigger certain functions, such as right-clicking or going back or forward through pages on the Safari Web browser.

This was likely inspired by the multitouch track pads on recent versions of Mac laptops. The multitouch feature went far beyond novelty status to become a staple that cut work time and made computing more fun.

Windows 7

Many of the Win7-ready products were designed to work with new touch screen features that are part of the new operating system.

Hewlett-Packard will have four new touch screen products. At the low end is the TouchSmart 300, an all-in-one desktop with a 20-inch screen that will sell for about $900 and up.

The TouchSmart 600, an all-in-one that will sell for about $1,100, will sport a 23-inch screen. An upgraded version, for about $1,600, will be able to show video at 1080p resolution.

The TouchSmart tx2 is a tablet computer with a screen that folds down flat over the unit, screen side up. It will start at about $800.

Finally, the LD4200tm is a 42-inch touch screen monitor. It will go for about $2,800.

For the budget-minded, HP’s bargain line, Compaq (which used to be a high-end brand in its own right) will have the CQ61z laptop with a 15-inch screen (nontouch) at $399. That’s what you’d pay for a much smaller netbook computer. But the Compaq price is temporary – after Dec. 19 it will jump to $499.

Toshiba will have two new Satellite-branded laptops with touch screens. Its M505 with a 14-inch screen will go for about $950, while the U505 with a 13-inch screen will be about $1,050.

So, why will the laptop with the smaller screen be more expensive? One of the primary reasons, the company said, is that the case will sport a “textured” finish.

Finally, one of the oddest of the new offerings will come from computer maker Acer Inc., which has confirmed it will have a laptop especially equipped to show 3D movies.

But it will be no miracle machine. You’ll still have to wear the wacky glasses to see the effect.


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