In recent years, the big players in the laptop arena (Sony, Toshiba, HP, IBM, etc.) have begun producing ever more portable laptop computers, weighing in as little as 2.8 pounds and offering as much as 9 hours playback. Often portability would come at the cost of sacrificing functionality in favour of a smaller footprint or longer batterylife.
Thanks to advancements such as Intel’s new low voltage processors, and some ingenious design, for the most part this is no longer the case (though there are some notable exceptions). You can now purchase an ultraportable laptop computer weighing in at a little over 3 pounds (or less) and still maintain enormous functionality, such as running Microsoft Windows Vista, and perhaps more importantly, maintain extra long batterylife – as long 9hrs in some cases.
There are an increasingly diverse range of ultraportable computers, so some caveats are in order. For instance, we will only look at laptops with a screen between 11 and 13.5 inches – smaller and we’re in the realm of handheld computers. Also we will want to impose a maximum weight of 2.5 kilograms or 5.5 pounds – theres no point in an ultraportable if you need a back brace to carry it.
The following is far from an exhaustive list, but it should prove as a good cross-section of the market.
Apple Macbook starting at EUR1,119 / £749
Ever since Apple computers’ switch from PowerPC to Intel processors in 2006, they have been increasly nudging their way into the traditional PC market; and nevermoreso since the release of Bootcamptm – a free program from Apple that gives you the ability to install and run Microsoft Windows operating systems on Apple hardware.
The recently upgraded Intel Core 2 Duo powered Macbooks offer quite a lot for their pricepoint. Starting from EUR1,119/£749 the ultrathin, ultrabright widescreen wonder (as Apple put it) packs in many high spec components not often seen even in high specification laptops such as the built-in iSight webcam, remote control, gigabit ethernet. and firewire-400.
Unspurprisingly the cheapest model on offer leaves you wanting, at EUR200 cheaper than the next best model, you miss out on a supermultidrive – the fancy jack of all trades of CD/DVD writers, an additional 512MB RAM and 20GB Hard Disk space amongst others.
Although the graphics processor of the MacBook is far from the ideal, it is sufficient for most purposes including video playback, and even Windows Vista’s Aero glass interface, remembering of course that ultraportable computers aren’t designed to meet the needs of modern gamers, and probably never will be.
- Can play host to either MacOS X or Windows XP / Vista
- Starting at only EUR1,119/£749 you get a lot of bang-for-your-buck
- Considerably more stylish than your average brick
- Can only purchased online or at an Apple Retailer, which are few and far between. Though in recent months, more and more highstreet stores are selling Apple computers.
- If your a windows user, you may find the one-button mouse thing irretating.
- At 2.3 KG it’s at the very upper limit of ultraportability
- Poor integrated graphics sharing 64MB of main memory
Sony VAIO TX starting at EUR1,999
Wild claims and high prices abound the Sony VAIO TX series of ultraportable laptops. With a screen size of 11.1 inches and with such high-end features as a carbon fibre chassis, weighing in at a nearly undetectectably 2.7 pounds and a battery life of upto 7.5hr per charge, its no surprise that the VAIO TX series comes in at the most expensive of all, with prices starting at EUR1,999.
If there was an ultimate portable laptop, it would be the Sony VAIO TX. With battery life alone at upto 7.5hr it should receive such a title, but add to that its deminutive size, its more than ample memory of 1GB RAM and 80GB Hard Disk, the Sony VAIO TX is truly the most portable of the ultraportables.
That being said, not all is sunshine and lollypops. The TX series, in its effort to cut down on space has lost a little of usability in the process. Although by definition an ultraportable computer should be small, In this reviewers opinion, the TX series perhaps went a little too far, at least with the screen. With a widescreen screen size of only 11.1 inches diagonally, and a resolution as insanely high as 1366 x 768, one gets the feeling that to even use this tiny display on a regular basis would require either a magnifying glass or some prescription spectacles. In addition to the resolution being dispraportionate to screen size, I also feel that perhaps the trackpad could do with a little more in the way of size. For such a small display, controlling the cursor can be a nightmare at times.
- Truly in a class of its own
- Carbon Fibre chassis
- High spec in a small package
- Integrated supermulti-drive
- Native resolution of the display is insanely high for such a small screen
- Trackpad is too small or inaccurate for the native screen resolution
Dell XPS M1210 starting at EUR1,299
Certainly not the prettiest of the ultramobiles, far from it infact, the Dell XPS M1210 series makes up for the chunky looks by packing in lots of functionality. With 1GB RAM, 120GB Hard Disk, 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and integrated DVD +/- RW by default, the Dell XPS M1210 is arguably the best value for money of all the ultraportable computers.
It has its failings however, apart from looking like a plastic brick and a weight starting at 1.93KG. Thats most definitely with minimal offerings, its far from being the best contender in the ultraportable field. However if price is an issue, this machine packs a lot into a very small space at a very reasonable price.
- Possibly the best value for money
- Truly the ugliest of the bunch
Samsung Q35 starting at EUR1,450
By far my favourite of all the ultraportables, the Samsung Q35 offers not only great functionality at a reasonable price but also does so in a very stylish manner – both in silver and red. Unlike some other contenders to the ultraportable throne, the Q35 not only offers decent battery life (over 5hrs), a high performance processor (1.8 Ghz Intel Core2 Duo), bags of memory (1.25 GB RAM, 100GB Hard Disk), but also packs in an internal supermultidrive and a 6-in-1 memory card reader whilst still staying ultralight at only 1.89 KG and still at a very reasonable price point. It even includes a splash/water proof keyboard, which anyone who has experienced the dread of desperately wiping up a spilled beverage before their laptop dies, will apreciate.
The Samsung Q35 is the successor to the Q30; an older and slightly lighter model that was lacking some vital features such as an integrated optical drive and whose memory lay at a now-meagre 512 MB and 40GB respectively.
Available in both red and silver, the Q35 is a very stylish laptop indeed; especially when compared to the rather chunky and uninspired design of the Dell XPS M1210, also sporting the now defacto standard of wireless communications protocols: 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR.
- Stylish in silver and red models
- Decent battery life
- Integrated supermulti-drive
- Reasonable price point
- 6-in-1 media card reader
- Wireless 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR
- Hard to find replacement or increased capacity battery
- Windows XP (free upgrade to Vista Home Premium)