Review of Ultraportable Notebooks

Ultraportable notebooks make heavy lifting a thing of the past.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the January 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It seems like everyone's trying to slim down these days. But you shouldn't have to work up a sweat when it comes to your mobile computing setup. Hardcore mobile entrepreneurs can take advantage of one of the many ultraportable laptop options on the market.

The compromises aren't as major as they used to be. You still pay a premium to slim down to 4 pounds, but you get plenty of power and features. Hewlett-Packard's Compaq nc4200 Notebook PC shimmies in at 3.9 pounds and features a 40GB hard drive, 512MB RAM, Wi-Fi and a 1.73GHz Pentium M processor, all for $1,599 (all prices street). You'll want to add a CD burner or DVD drive.

Ultraportables do veer away from the overall trend of increasingly large laptop displays. Expect ultraportables to have diagonal measurements between 8.9 inches and 12.1 inches in varying shapes. Dell's $1,998 Latitude X1 makes the most of 12.1 inches with a WXGA aspect ratio (1,280 x 768) that improves multimedia or DVD viewing.

The Fujitsu LifeBook P1510D takes a slightly different approach, befitting its role as a convertible tablet PC. Its 8.9-inch wide-SVGA display (1,024 x 600) is more rectangular than square for spreadsheet viewing, and it folds back to create a writing slate. At 2.2 pounds, it's a featherweight, but you sacrifice having an internal CD or DVD drive. Compare it with the heftier Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet, which weighs in at 3.5 pounds and comes stocked with a 12.1-inch display and an integrated fingerprint reader for security. The tablet option isn't for everyone, but users who work in warehouse environments or who really like the ability to use the handwriting technology will want to consider it. Some buyers may want to wait a bit for the new, improved version of the tablet PC OS set to debut with Windows Vista sometime this year.

The style-conscious Sony VAIO TX series starts at about $2,300 and offers a special feature for highly mobile entrepreneurs who need to be on the net. Integrated wireless WAN works in conjunction with a subscription from Cingular to keep you connected anywhere within Cingular's service area. Throw in 1GB of memory, up to 7.5 hours of battery life, a 60GB hard drive and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, and you get a fully stocked machine that lives up to its price tag. Compare that to the similarly outfitted Toshiba Port�g� R200, which comes with Wi-Fi, 512MB RAM and a slightly larger 12.1-inch screen for $1,999.

The try-before-you-buy approach can be especially important when you're dealing with ultraportables. Their compact size may put a squeeze on some users' fingers, so find one that's comfortable. When it comes to battery life, you're apt to get between three and seven hours with a standard battery. Extended batteries or additional batteries are a must for entrepreneurs who expect to be away from power outlets for long stretches. Ultimately, an ultraportable can be a smart compromise between a hefty standard notebook and the limited capabilities of a PDA.

Shopping List Ready to get on the road? A powerful ultraportable lets you take what you need and still pack light.
Latitude X1
(800) WWW-DELL
2.5 pounds
1.1GHz Pentium M
12.1-inch WXGA display, CD-ROM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, three-year warranty $1,998
LifeBook P1510D
2.2 pounds
1.2GHz Pentium M
8.9-inch wide-SVGA touchscreen, one-year warranty, tablet PC $1,499
Compaq nc4200
(888) 999-4747
3.9 pounds
1.73GHz Pentium M
12.1-inch display, Wi-Fi $1,599
ThinkPad X41
(866) 96-THINK
3.5 pounds
1.5 GHz Pentium M
12.1-inch display, three-year
warranty, fingerprint reader
(877) 865-SONY
2.8 pounds
1.2GHz Pentium M
11.1-inch widescreen display,
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless WAN
Port�g� R200
(877) 789-7158
2.7 pounds
1.2GHz Pentium M
12.1-inch display, Wi-Fi,
three-year warranty
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