You're stuck in the airport wondering if an e-mail from that important client has come in yet. It's just you, your laptop and a Wi-Fi wireless connection zone. Is your laptop prepared to check your e-mail right then and there? If you've got one of these notebook computers, the answer would be yes. This new breed of laptop is really the Swiss Army Knife of wired and wireless communication tools. Beyond the 56Kbps V.90 dial-up modem, you also get built-in Ethernet, Wi-Fi and sometimes Bluetooth.
Advances in wireless technology make built-in Wi-Fi especially attractive. Nothing beats tapping into your own business network miles away at fast speeds of up to 11Mbps. If you've joined other businesses installing Wi-Fi wireless networks in their offices, then a laptop like the $2,299 Gateway Solo 9550xl will work seamlessly.
These well-equipped laptops may fall outside most people's budgets, but they're good alternatives for desktop replacements. At $1,599 (all prices street), Sony VAIO SRX77 is the most affordable, but doesn't offer Bluetooth. You can fix that problem with a notebook Bluetooth card like the 3Com Wireless Bluetooth PC Card for $125.
Even if you can't think of any uses offhand for Bluetooth in your laptop, you'll be glad you got it. Many new mobile phones and other devices are now equipped with Bluetooth. Compaq, for example, built the technology into its $649 iPaq H3870 handheld. This sets the stage for quick, hot-syncing of data.
Don't let attractive communications options blind you to the rest of the specs. Choose a laptop based on price, memory, storage, weight and features like DVD drives and CD-RW drives. Just remember: A laptop that connects anywhere will put you at the head of the class whether you're on the road, in an airport or just roaming around the office.
If you're scouting for a few good laptops, here's a roster of top-performance portables to keep in mind.
|PRODUCT||CONTACT||PROCESSOR||HARD DRIVE||FEATURES||STREET PRICE|
|1.13 GHz Pentium III||30GB/256MB||Weighs 8 pounds, FireWire,Windows XP, no Bluetooth||$2,299|
HP Pavilion zt1190
|1.2 GHz Pentium III||40GB/512MB||Weighs 5.9 pounds, FireWire,Bluetooth optional||$1,999|
|1.2 GHz Pentium III||48GB/128MB||Weighs 7 pounds, FireWire, Bluetooth||$3,249|
|800 MHz Pentium III||20GB/128MB||Weighs 2.76 pounds, FireWire, Memory Stick slot, no Bluetooth||$1,599|
|750 MHz Pentium III||30GB/256MB||Ultra-portable, custom configure at Web site, Bluetooth||$2,378|