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Cheetah is one ‘fast cat’

S.L. laptop company fills worldwide niche

SHARE Cheetah is one ‘fast cat’

Cats are sleek, mobile and agile — all qualities consumers want in notebook computers. And that's why the products put out by Salt Lake-based PC Notebook Inc. carry feline names.

They have Bobcats and Jaguars and Cougars and Lynxes. But they've traditionally reserved the name Cheetah for the notebook that's the fastest in the world. And they boast that they've had several Cheetahs.

On Wednesday they introduced a new "fast cat," one with up to 2.2 GHz processing, a quick follow-up to the then-record-breaking 2 GHz processor. The Cheetah 4 uses Intel's Pentium 4 CPU.

Don't believe salesmen who tell you a laptop computer can't use a Pentium 4 because it gets too hot, said company founder and president Tayne Hunsaker. The unique magnesium case design makes for a light, workhorse machine that's quiet and physically cool. The fan only comes on when it's needed.

Cheetah 4 weighs a touch over six pounds and is upgradeable to the 2.2 GHz Intel P4, 400 MHz bus speed. The basic Cheetah 4 has a 1.6 GHz processor, and several steps are available in between, for a little extra money. The laptops start at $1,599 and range to $2,599.

Each one comes with a 14.1-inch screen with 32 Bit colors; a built-in 56K modem; a hard drive upgradeable to 80 GB; international A/C charger; five user-programmable keys; enhanced Windows keyboard; a touch pad that actually works without sticking; 3D Sound; and lifetime technical support, firewire and built-in ethernet. It also has the world's fastest video controller, Hunsaker said.

The basic model includes a 10 GB hard drive, 128 MB memory and a CD-ROM. Enhancements can include a DVD or CDRW/DVD combo drive and up to 1 GB SDRAM memory. They all come loaded with your choice of Windows operating systems (the Pro versions are slightly more) and two USB ports. The carrying case and floppy are optional and extra.

When Hunsaker started PC Notebook — which is actually better known nationally and internationally than locally, although there's now a bricks-and-mortar showroom at 515 W. Pickett Circle, #200 in Salt Lake City — he was hoping to find a niche. And he didn't have to look hard. Customer service seemed to be a problem area for laptop computer manufacturers, he said.

"We try to underpromise and oversell," he said. "We don't always make it, but more often than not we do."

What they promise is quite simple: Your PC Notebook laptop computer is upgradeable, which is not common in the industry. The components are manufactured overseas, all of them industry standard and many of them leading brand-name — then the machines are assembled by a fairly small staff (he declines to give exact numbers) in Utah. While the traditional laptop warranty is 90 days technical support and 1 year limited parts and labor, this company offers lifetime technical support, three years labor and one year on parts. Extended 3-year parts warranties also are available.

"The worst thing you can do is underbuy a notebook," said Hunsaker, but that's a less significant problem when it can be updated whenever you want.

The company's "niche" has been noticed, with positive reviews from PC Magazine, Mobile Computing, Windows Magazine and even Dunn & Bradstreet, which rates companies based on customer satisfaction. Laptop Buyers Guide said when it comes to performance, service and upgradeability combined, PC Notebook Inc. is the "only" laptop manufacturer.

Besides the Cheetah 4, the company has a tablet PC called a Cheetah Pad now in production, targeting principally doctors and hospitals. The three-pound tablet, which will sell for around $2,000, has a 12-inch, high-resolution display, a magnesium case, a Transmeta 600 MHz processor (upgradeable to 800), firewire, USB and up to 512 MB random access memory. You can attach a digital camera and even use face-recognition technology, which would allow doctors to prescribe medications but prevent others from using the device to do so, Hunsaker said.

Other items include the Jaguar Pad with a Windows CE operating system, offering the function of a hand-held device like a Palm with the "performance and applications for a notebook," and a "wrist PC."

More information is available online at www.pcnotebook.com.

E-MAIL: lois@desnews.com