But these computers are now gaining features such as microphones and built-in CD-Rom drives. Notebook display technology is also improving, andsome high-resolution screensare capable of displaying high-quality video and animation.
A top-of-the-range model such as Toshiba's Tecra 720 currently costs about pounds 5,500, though prices are starting to come down. It includes a 133mhz Pentium processor, 16mb Ram, 2gb hard disk and a 12in TFT (thin film transistor) screen with a resolution of 1024 by 768.
Opt for a slightly slower processor, or a standard 800 by 600 resolution screen, and you can get a pretty good, brand-name system for about pounds 3,500. If you buy from a low-cost "clone" manufacturer, you should get the price down to pounds 2,500-pounds 3,000.
At first, the market consisted of business users who wanted to give impressive presentations but, because these notebooks now offer the power and features of a full-sized desktop PC, they are also sold as desktop system alternatives.
In many organisations, the sales and marketing staff have two computers - a desktop PC for the office and a notebook for travelling. Buying these all-in-one multimedia notebookssaves firms money as it provides a single computer which can be used for both. They also make it possible to adopt new working practices, such as "hot-desking", where employees move freely around their offices and set up their notebooks on any available desk.
Every new feature that you add to a notebook computer makes it heavier and less portable. There are two solutions to this problem, and accordingly two different types of notebook. Notebooks such as the Tecra adopt a modular design and are built with "swappable" holding bays that accept a number of components. If you don't need the floppy disk drive you can take it out and replace with a CD-Rom drive, or a second battery so the notebook lasts longer.
The alternative is a lightweight basic unit that can have extra components added. Compaq's Armada notebooks are a good example of this. The main notebook unit is very slim and light, with only a hard disk and floppy disk drive built inand can be clipped on to a flat "tray" unit that includes a CD-Rom drive, speakers and an extra battery slot.
This approach can be useful for people who want to use the notebook as a replacement for a desktop PC.