A major advantage to using a space-saving replacement that mimics a desktop PC is the real estate recovered. Of course, the bevy of ports on typical desktop replacements means these peripherals can still be added by those who prefer jumbo monitors or dislike trackpads and other portable pointing devices.
Another benefit is upgradable RAM. For example, the memory in IBM's ThinkPad 390X LOU can be pumped up to 576MB. Be warned, though: Upgrades like this are more costly than on a desktop PC-576MB in the IBM will set you back an extra $1,490.
"For most users, 64MB is plenty, and 128MB is a safe number," adds Martin Reynolds, a research fellow for Dataquest.
The latest breed of replacement notebooks are powerful; the Pentium III microprocessors from Intel clock in at speeds as high as 500MHz-a good match for a desktop PC. They also come with hard drives that range from bountiful to huge-up to 25GB in some cases, although 6GB and 8GB drives are the norm.
If you're really more comfortable using a standard-sized keyboard and a regular mouse, look for a notebook with a docking station or port replicator bar that allows you to keep your office peripherals plugged in24/7 (meaning all you have to do to get going is plug in your portable). Another advantage to these devices is the availability of additional expansion slots and drive bays, which takes some of the weight out of desktop replacement portables. The NEC Versa LXi, for example, offers an optional $699 (street) motorized "full docking station" that can take up to four additional hard drives and regular networking cards. For a simpler way to get dockability for peripherals, get a USB port replicator that plugs in to a built-in USB port. It costs an average of $99 (street) for a non-network version, or $199 (street) for LAN capability that can connect to your office network.
While large, 15-inch displays remain one of the main reasons replacement notebooks are gaining popularity, you can save more money by buying a notebook with a smaller screen and plugging in a standard-sized monitor. A few smaller-screen models are listed on our chart, in addition to four 15-inch models. As for weight, if you only travel between home and office, this is hardly a concern if you consider that your office's files can be at your fingertips anywhere you take your computer.