Ultralight NotebooksBy Frank Ohlhorst | Print
The choices for portable computing have never been greater. And the choice for which PC you buy and support, as always, comes down to price versus performance. Netbooks and MacBook Air look convenient, but do they have the power? Ultralights have features, but are they light enough? And what are we paying for? Here’s a look at today's choices for mobile computing.
Today, notebooks come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the 17-inch screen, 15-pound behemoth desktop replacement to the ultra-mini 8-inch screen, 1-pound handheld. Somewhere in between is the ideal form factor for a mobile worker. The only problem is, that form factor may not be the same from worker to worker, so picking a notebook computer for the corporate work force is bound to be an exercise in compromise.
Some would choose Toshiba’s Portege as a fine portable to carry around, but those counting the bucks may choke on the $3,000 price tag. Some may go to the other extreme and choose a consumer-grade notebook for under $1,000 and sacrifice some business capabilities and a lot of portability.
Perhaps, the best way to go about selecting what would be the best compromise is to put a dollar value on the unit, say around $1,400. That leads to a value proposition that beats the MacBook Air, but to be fair, the system should have a 13.3-inch or larger screen, weigh in at around 4 pounds, sport a dual-core processor and include numerous ports, along with an internal optical drive.
Surprisingly, there are quite a few notebooks that fit, including the Lenovo ThinkPad T400, Toshiba Satellite U305 and Tecra R10, Dell Vostro 1310, and Fujitsu LifeBook S6520. Some may wonder why Hewlett-Packard didn’t make the cut here. Simply put: HP’s thin and light systems come in at 5.1 pounds, a little heavy for the market segment that we are shooting for.
While each of those systems has plenty of merit, the Fujitsu LifeBook S6520, the latest model of the bunch to enter the market, offers a great deal of features for the $1,429 sticker price.
The system offers a 14.1-inch display, a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a DVD writer, 802.11a/b/g/n, a 120GB SATA hard drive, integrated Webcam, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, three bootable USB 2.0 ports, and audio and video out ports, and it weighs in at just 4 pounds. The system comes with Windows Vista Business Edition preinstalled and offers a downgrade to Windows XP Pro.
Simply put, the mobile worker can get all of the functionality needed to work almost anywhere for about $1,400. Of course, the unit won’t perform like a high-performance workstation, but it does offer plenty of performance to run office suites, presentations, videoconferencing solutions and pretty much anything else a user can throw at it.
The general idea here was to show three distinct paths to mobile productivity and to point out the strengths and weaknesses of each path. Summing it up, the only viable mobile PC solution comes down to the traditional notebook computer, where there is plenty of variety and options to meet anyone’s needs or budget.
Netbooks are just simply too low end to take on the chores of the typical
mobile worker, but can be an inexpensive solution for those who only need to do
the minimum of Web-based work.
The MacBook Air proves to be too limited and too expensive to hand out in mass to a mobile work force, and its shortcomings quickly rear their ugly heads once someone tries to expand on the capabilities.
The lesson learned here is that this is not the time for solution providers to abandon thin and light notebook computers for the latest fad PCs or trendy devices.