Nine Notable Notebooks

Home Office Computing magazine picks the laptop computers most deserving of your attention.

September 1, 2000

In looking at today’s trend-setting laptops, it’s obvious that some portable computers are powerful enough to replace traditional desktop boxes.

Although their battery-powered components and flat-panel displays mean they’ll always cost more than comparable desktops, these days it’s easy to find a fully capable briefcase PC for less than $1,800. Even today’s most exotic, dream-machine notebook will set you back only $4,000, instead of the $7,000 it cost a few years ago.

In addition to checking your wallet, however, you’ll have to consider which type of notebook PC best fits your needs. There are three types:

Here are nine for your shopping list:

Get the skinny

2. Among other ultralight notebooks, the 3.4-pound, 0.8-inch-thin Toshiba Portege 3440CT (computers.toshiba.com; $2,499) is tempting for its mix of 500MHz Pentium III power, battery-thrifty 11.3-inch display, and LAN port replicator.

3. Acer’s 4.1-pound TravelMate 340 (www.acer.com) is a great deal at $1,899. Not only does it have a 450MHz processor, 12.1-inch screen, and Ethernet port, but it’s one of the few slimlines that don’t charge extra for their external CD-ROM drive.

Middle of the road

4. Prefer a midsize machine? A few brands such as WinBook and E-Machines offer stripped-down, dual-scan laptops for $999, but $1,299 will get you an active-matrix value in the Compaq Notebook 100 (www.compaq.com), with a 475MHz AMD K6-2 processor, 64MB RAM, 5GB hard disk, and internal modem.

5. IBM’s new ThinkPad A20 line features such gadgets as the ThinkLight—a keyboard lamp for typing while airline seatmates sleep. The start of the new lineup, the 6.4-pound A20m, looks well worth $1,799, with its Celeron 550 chip, 6GB hard disk, and 12.1-inch SVGA display (www.ibm.com/thinkpad). Stepping up to a 14.1-inch screen and 12GB disk, as well as a hot-rod Pentium III 700, bumps the price to $2,499.

6. Want to split the difference? Toshiba’s Satellite 2655XDVD is a bit heavy at 7 pounds, and its Celeron 466 chip sets no speed records, but it gives you both DVD and a 14.1-inch display for $2,099.

Bigger is better

7. In the desktop replacement category, weight is (almost) no object, so IBM’s 700MHz ThinkPad A20p tips the scales at 7.6 pounds, despite exotic titanium-composite construction. But part of that weight is a battery that’ll last five hours if you do leave your desk. The 15-inch screen, 128MB RAM, 18GB hard disk, and DVD will draw crowds and put most desktops to shame. $3,799.

8. Can’t afford the A20p’s price tag? Then visit www.gateway.com. At $3,499, the Gateway Solo 9300CX is $300 cheaper (thanks to its lesser 96MB RAM, and 12GB hard disk), but claims bragging rights with a 15.7-inch display. Its show-off screen steals our vote from a former Home Office Computing favorite, Dell’s beefy Inspiron 7500.

9. Dell’s newer Inspiron 5000 (www.dell.com) slims down to 1.5 inches thick, and its Pentium III 600 model, with a 15-inch screen, 64MB RAM, and a 6GB hard disk, is a good buy at $2,239.

For laptop shopping tips, go to www.magazine.realtor.

  • Stylish ultralight units that jettison some built-in features such as a CD-ROM drive in order to trim traveling weight
  • Midpriced, middleweight all-around laptops
  • Deluxe desktop replacements, whose large screen and goodies such as DVD-ROM qualify them to be your only computer, though less pleasant to carry around.
  • 1. Sony’s VAIO 505, Sharp’s Actius, and Toshiba’s Portege series define the skinny standard. But we can’t resist recommending another Sony VAIO, the C1 PictureBook (; $2,300), for fitting not only a Pentium II processor and a big 12GB hard disk but also a built-in digital camera into a tiny 2.2-pound package. The PictureBook’s seeing eye, mounted atop the display, isn’t nearly as sharp as a separate digital camera, but it still serves to snap a property--or, with supplied software, stitch multiple snaps into a panoramic view—and post images on the Web.

Eric Grevstad is editor in chief of Home Office Computing, the technology resource that reaches more than 500,000 home-based businesspeople each month. It covers everything from home office furnishings and tax and time management to computers, communications, Internet product reviews, and buyer’s guides. HOC is available on newsstands or by annual subscription for $19.97 (800/288-7812).

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