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Notebooks break the GigaHertz barrier with Intel's launch of its 1GHz mobile Pentium III processor - available now in systems from most major vendors. Now that they're here, just how fast is a 1GHz notebook? Digit tested the chip in a number of top-spec portables from Dell, HP, Gateway and IBM. All of them have at least 128MB of SDRAM, 20GB or larger hard disks, 8x DVD drives, and either Windows 2000 Professional or Windows Millennium Edition. As expected, these 1GHz systems reached highs on PC WorldBench 2000 tests. A preproduction Dell Inspiron 8000 and a shipping HP OmniBook 6000, both with 128MB of SDRAM obtained PC WorldBench 2000 scores of 169 and 168, respectively. These units offer a boost of about 4 per cent over the average of eight similar notebooks with Pentium III-850/700 chips, previously the fastest available for laptops. Great as these systems are, top honors still go to a Pentium III 850/700-based IBM ThinkPad A21p system. Equipped with 256MB of RAM, this super-fast system is at the upper limit of its processor class. (All of the above notebooks were tested with Windows 2000.) The shipping Gateway Solo 9500, the only one of the five running Windows Me, garnered a top-notch 158 on PC WorldBench 2000, the highest yet for a Windows Me laptop and a match for the average of four Win Me-based 1-GHz PIII desktops tested. The unit is also about 9 percent faster than the average of three PIII-850 laptops. All have 128MB of SDRAM. (Windows Me systems typically score lower on PC World tests than Windows 2000 PCs.) Battery life is also good for these units: The HP lasted an impressive 3 hours, 19 minutes; the Gateway managed nearly 3 hours. The Dell was still good at 2 hours, 41 minutes. Although these systems don't have the stop-in-your-tracks appeal of Apple's widescreen PowerBook G4, each has plenty to offer. Dell's Inspiron 8000 and Gateway's Solo 9500 both pack top-notch components, including roomy 32GB hard disks, DVD drives, at least one media bay each, 56-kbps modems, touchpads, and fast IEEE 1394 (FireWire) ports. The Dell also has great graphics, thanks to NVidia's new GeForce2 Go chip set with 32MB of DDR SDRAM and a sharp 15-inch LCD with 1600 by 1200 resolution. The Solo's screen is larger - 15.7 inches - but its ATI Mobility M4 graphics chip set offers less memory (16MB of SGRAM) and supports a maximum resolution of just 1280-x-1024. The Dell tested offers built-in Ethernet and a pointing stick, as well as extra buttons to launch Internet and user-programmed apps or control your DVD drive. Gateway provides the quick-launch application buttons but no external drive controls. However, the Solo gives you the bigger screen, an LS-120 floppy drive, and a fibre-optic digital audio channel; it also weighs a bit less. HP's OmniBook 6000 offers a stable platform - without sacrificing features or performance. The HP's 15-inch screen is complemented by a 30GB hard drive. HP gives you a pointing stick and a touchpad, plus the option of an internal floppy drive. The OmniBook also offers a 56kbps modem, Ethernet, and a media bay (taken by a DVD-ROM drive in our models).