Sure, laptops in general are smaller and more powerful than ever. But lugging 6 to 10 pounds of hardware and accessories through a crowded airport or around an office building isn't anyone's idea of a mobile good time. For entrepreneurs willing to make sacrifices, ultraportable computers deliver the lightweight goods. You'll have to give up the 15-inch display and the battery-sapping processor. You might even have to leave a few peripherals behind. In exchange, you'll get a capable notebook that fits into a mobile working lifestyle.
This category may eventually be crowded by the new tablet PCs, but until then, it stands on its own. These really aren't desktop replacement notebooks, but rather desktop supplements for hard-core mobile warriors. A typical ultraportable comes with around or under a 12-inch screen, weighs less than 4 pounds and features a battery-savvy processor.
Intel's new battery-extending and wireless-enabled mobile processor family, dubbed Centrino, is just starting to pop up in ultraportables. (For more on Centrino, see "Portable Light") Here, we're dealing with the established processors like Crusoe and the Intel Mobile Pentium III.
While the Fujitsu LifeBook P-2000 has a built-in DVD/CD-RW drive that goes along with it, many models save even more weight with a docking station. Both the $1,999 (all prices street) Gateway 200 and the $1,499 Dell Latitude X200 feature a docking station with floppy and CD-RW drives. If you need to take these capabilities with you, you would have to either invest in a small external drive or take along the docking base when you go. An external DVD/CD-RW comes standard with the $1,689 Sony VAIO SRX99. The Toshiba Portege 4010 just tops 4.2 pounds when you take the DVD drive along.
When choosing an ultraportable, you'll have to decide what screen size and which keyboard are comfortable for you. Naturally, the best way to do this is to try them all out. The keyboards on these machines all reach or come close to being a standard laptop size. The 12.1-inch screens like the ones you'll find on the $1,999 IBM ThinkPad X30 are the norm. And the Fujitsu LifeBook P-2000 squeezes in with a space-saving 10.6-inch display.
When you're out on the road for long stretches, you don't need your laptop to wheeze and conk out from lack of energy. The $1,825 Hewlett-Packard Compaq Evo N410C, for example, says it produces "over two hours" on a standard battery. The safe bet is to invest in a backup battery or an extended-life battery. What's the catch? You guessed it: more weight. The IBM ThinkPad X30 boasts up to five hours of battery life with an optional additional battery reaching around nine hours of performance. If you can get enough juice to get you from outlet to outlet, then you'll be fine.
Check out these lightweights! But remember, there's more to consider than less bulk. See if you can get your fingers on these babies.
|30GB||128MB||12.1-inch display, 802.11b wireless LAN, three-year warranty||$1,499|
|40GB||256MB||10.6-inch display, 802.11b wireless LAN, DVD/CD-RW combo drive||$1,699|
|40GB||256MB||12.1-inch display, 802.11b wireless LAN, one-year warranty||$1,999|
|30GB||256MB||12.1-inch display, three-year warranty||$1,825|
|40GB||256MB||12.1-inch display, three-year warranty||$1,999|
|20GB||384MB||10.4-inch display, 802.11b wireless LAN, one-year warranty||$1,689|
|30GB||256MB||12.1-inch display, 802.11b wireless LAN, three-year warranty||$2,109|