Can one of the current crop of High Tech Notebooks replace a Desktop?
Part 1, mid-market class

Staff Review, written by Keith Benicek & Zak Bryce
October 3, 2002

For better than a decade, portable computer makers and sellers have been claiming that the “Notebook or laptop” was ready to replace the “Desktop” (often under the desk) computer box. Some computer users, although a very small percentage, have indeed made that choice in all their computer use. To be totally fair, we’re talking about if you can completely replace that desk anchor in everything you do; that means at work, home and travel. Obviously, travel is a no brainer unless you’re moving your computer around in a converted bus instead of flying like John Madden.

And, to further clarify the parameter of this definition of all your computing we are not including the gamers that build a home version of “Big Blue” at four or five thousand dollars just to play Quake III and Grand Theft Auto Moron. Fortunately for all of us this represent a minor percentage of computing and even more fortunate, an insignificant number in the population. No we are talking about the real productive use of a computer that includes applications for: business, home, design and graphics, music, education, science, IT management and mild levels of engineering.

There are certain tasks that will stay with theDesktop and mini-workstation in science, CADCAM, engineering and heavy data crunching. Other applications that require specialized cards and hardware just can’t make the switch either.

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We decided to look at ten portable “Notebook” sized computers from companies we feel have always been the great innovators, rather than the “me too” followers. Those companies are Apple, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard/Compaq, IBM, Sony and Toshiba. To make this investigative and review article more pertinent to most of you, we’ve divided the group of Notebooks into “mid-market” class priced units and “high-end market” class units. Each company has chosen current representative units of their choice to include in the review. We only consoled them on the price range, which is an MSRP around $1,795 for the mid-market class units and high-end class units starting at $2,195. These prices do not reflect the often heavy discounting that you may find when shopping for any of these units, well except for the Apple portables.
One thing we want you to notice is that only 1 of these 10 NEW Notebooks has USB 2.0 and ALL but 1 has Firewire!
Instead of looking at benchmark test comparisons of Quake III and obscure Photoshop 7.0 filters, we will rate the Notebooks by realistic measures of display quality and resolution, video card capabilities, applications support, keyboard feel, physical size and portability, battery life, ports and features, and so on. In other words, real life day in day out needs and requirements. Oh we’ll report on the processor type and speed, but you’ll need to be the judge of whether you need that 4 gigawattzit – 100 teraflop whozit processor. I mean do you really believe those inflated GHz numbers anyway?

One thing we want you to notice is that only 1 of these 10 NEW Notebooks has USB 2.0 and ALL but 1 has Firewire! So much for the claims of USB 2.0's universal acceptance.

At the end of each of the two class reviews, we will be selecting top choices; but you are really the one that needs to decide what portable is right for you. Check the comparison chart throughout the article for a quick reference. Things we feel may be very important may not be for you. So let’s get started and tear into these babies!


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