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PC downturn be damned, new crop of Windows 8.1 notebooks about to ship

Despite the decrease in worldwide PC adoption, vendors are readying enterprise-level Windows 8.1 notebooks for Q4. Here's what's coming.

Notebook PC vendors are giving enterprises some new choices for Windows 8.1, despite the continued decline of PC sales.

PC unit shipments remained weak during the third quarter, but the dip was not as large as expected, despite the effects of the flourishing tablet industry on the PC market, according to IDC and Gartner.

Worldwide shipments for PCs reached 81.6 million units, representing a decline of 7.6% compared with the third quarter in 2012, according to IDC. In contrast, worldwide PC shipments declined 8.6% in the third quarter compared with the same time in 2012, bringing the total to 80.3 million units, Gartner said.

The decline wasn't as bad as expected, analysts said, pointing out that vendors were now upgrading to refreshed laptops using the newer Intel Haswell and Bay Trail chipsets.

"I'm not too worried about the slide," said Rajani Singh, a senior research analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. The industry came away with a double-digit decrease during the second quarter of this year, and there was only a single-digit contraction during the third quarter of 2013, she said.

While overall PC shipments declined, the U.S. performed relatively well in comparison with other regions.

The U.S. was relatively flat, which represents good news as the industry enters the fourth quarter, Singh noted. Overall, the PC market is in a recovery phase, he cautiously said.

Windows 8.1 spurs device updates

Meanwhile, notebook PC vendors such as Toshiba, Fujitsu, Dell and others refreshed their enterprise-level devices with the commercial availability of Windows 8.1 this week. The new Windows 8.1 notebooks are expected to ship in November and January.

Toshiba has several laptops preinstalled with Windows 8.1 Pro. The Portege Z30 and the Tecra Z40 come out the same day as the update. Each will also feature fourth-generation Intel Core processors up to i7, high-definition screens, backlit keyboards and screen sizes that range from 13.1 to 15.6 inches. The Tecra Z50 will be available this November. The base prices range from $1,229 to $1,279.

The latest enterprise-aimed notebooks from Fujitsu America Inc. include Windows 8.1 and Intel Haswell Core 15 or i7 processors, backlit keyboards and 10.1- to 14-inch screens. The Lifebook U904 will be available this month, and the Lifebook S904 and Stylistic Q584 will be available in November. The Stylistic Q704 will be available in December, and the Lifebook T904 and Lifebook T734 will be available in January. The Lifebook U904 starts at $1,549. Prices are not available for the other models.

Dell Inc. has three computers slated for release this fall. The 11.6-inch XPS 11, which converts from a tablet to a notebook, and the XPS 13, which has a fourth-generation Intel Core processor, will both be available on the same day as the update. The15.6-inch XPS 15 features Intel's fourth-generation i5 and i7 quad-core processors and will be available in November. Prices for the basic model of these devices range from $1,000 to $1,499.

Lenovo's business-oriented 13.3-inch IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro comes preinstalled with Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro 64, fourth-generation Intel Core i3 to i7 processors, and a backlit keyboard. Pricing for the base model starts at $1,049.

After releasing the ZBook 15 and ZBook 17 notebooks in September, Hewlett-Packard will release the ZBook 14 on the same day as the update. It weighs 3.57 lb. and can handle up to 16 GB of RAM. It includes fourth-generation Intel Haswell Core i5 or i7 chips and has storage capacity of up to 1 TB. Pricing for the ZBook 15 and ZBook 17 starts at $1,969 and $1,999, respectively. Pricing for the ZBook 14 is not yet available.

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