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Laptops Get Thin

How the ultralight category of laptops shapes up

The Apple iPad tablet is now among us--and despite the hype, the ├╝berchic tablet computer just isn't small-business manna from heaven. Yes, it boasts a multimedia wow factor, with its 9.7-inch screen and multitouch interactivity. But its lack of keyboard and office app support mean it's simply not a contender for work life.

"Let's be clear: The iPad is not a notebook, or even a netbook," says Erica Brown, executive vice president of corporate strategy at Frost & Sullivan, an international technology research and strategy company. "It's a digital version of a coffee-table book."

But if you have a case of Apple lust, fear not. Traditional, ultraportable notebook computers offer hope for businesspeople dying to get thin. Here is our guide to the work-ready thin PC:

MacBook Air (starting at $1,500)
The iPad buzz made us forget that Apple makes a darn good ultraportable. The Air is getting close to 3 years old (that's 120 in tech years!), and it has some issues with overheating and hinge durability. Still, its lovely aluminum enclosure, abundant processing power and effortless integration into all things Apple make this the best choice for Mac users on the go.

Sony VAIO X (starting at $1,300)
Almost eerily weightless at 1.6 pounds, the Sony Vaio X takes business computing to new limits of lightness. Sure, it's three times the price of a cheapie netbook. And even basic code such as Excel clogs the thin processor, 2GB of RAM and mere 128GB of drive storage. But who cares? You get a fab-looking, full-functioning work PC that you will literally forget you are carrying: It weighs less than a daily newspaper. Need we say more?

HP Envy (starting at $1,299)
For the portable PC that can truly replace a desktop PC, the HP Envy sets the standard. With cord, disc drive and case, it's reasonably light at just less than 4 pounds. And this sucker can be configured to pack dual processors, 4GB of system memory and 250GB drive. So just about anything will run plenty darn fast on it. With the right docking station and monitors, the Envy really could be your only computer.

Lenova IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Notebook (due out in June, expected price $999)
No, it is not a Prius: The U1 is a tablet and notebook computer in one. The tablet pops into a detachable screen cradle that connects to a notebook computer keyboard. When the two are connected, the tablet is the computer's screen. But pop the tablet out and it becomes the computer--you and your work are on your way. Pretty slick. We weren't blown away by its processing power or interface design in our pre-rollout preview, but if there is a single, exciting new idea in the portable work PC space, it is the U1. Don't go ultraportable without at least touching this device.

Jonathan Blum is a freelance writer and the principal of Blumsday LLC, a Web-based content company specializing in technology news.

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This article was originally published in the June 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Getting Thin.

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