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Round Up: Five Powerful, Light Ultraportables


Now you’re familiar with these five ultraportables, and you understand their limits, and the trade-offs that manufacturers must carefully consider when engineering these computers. Primarily, price, performance, and weight are evaluated; secondarily, size, style, and usability are added to the equation.

Sony’s TZ is by far the zippiest ultraportable we considered, but its price is out of control—it’s a good thing that it is no longer available for purchase, and we’re glad Sony recalled the computer if it poses a danger to consumers. This computer almost serves as a cautionary tale to engineers: don’t try to pack too much power into such a small form-factor if the design is flawed (which it must have been to be recalled) and if the economics aren’t right (which they clearly weren’t if Sony had to price this machine at $2,999).

We’re looking forward to putting Sony’s revamped ultraportable—the TT—through its paces; stay tuned for that review soon. To me, however, another notable standout in this review is the Lenovo IdeaPad U110, which is the one truly consumer-oriented ultraportable. I found its performance to be more than adequate for Web browsing, word processing, watching video, editing photos and other productivity tasks. Its size and weight were ideal, I did not miss an internal optical drive, and it came with an extra mini-battery for a power boost. Best of all, its excellent and fun design made me more willing to forgive the computer its premium pricing. One caveat is that the keyboard will really annoy some people.

While the Fujitsu and Asus each suffered from real problems—price-to-performance, and battery/performance issues, respectively—they each had strengths, too, which make them a good choice for some people. Fujitsu presented a computer with a well-rounded design, usability, and battery strengths, while Asus’s fancy leather-wrapped machine is not only eye-catching, but designed well too. With computers this pricy, manufacturers have to target niche groups of consumers.

When it comes to value, however, Toshiba is the ultimate winner: pound for pound, it is the lightest and cheapest ultraportable we could find. And isn’t that what really matters when talking about tiny computers? Of course, it also has an optical drive, making it ideal for travel. The performance difference between the Toshiba and a netbook is vast, but, unfortunately, Toshiba’s build quality seems to match some of the low-end netbooks. Take good care of it, however, and it’ll last you through dozens of cross country trips.

  • Thanks for writing this article; I have been interested in how these things perform.
  • these are all at the high-end of the price spectrum, have you considered the asus eee pc or acer aspire one? i have one of these, and while it's not exactly a gaming powerhouse it does all you need in a small laptop... mind you the linux distros these things come with can be a real pain
  • JJeng1
    A possible reason for the fingerprint reader placement. Look into the options of the fingerprint software, as sometimes the reader doubles as a scroll wheel.
  • Regulas
    Rubbish, get the the new Macbook, 13" screen plenty of power no viruses and no bloated Vista for the low end of cash stated in this review.
  • bjornlo
    Rubbish, get the the new Macbook, 13" screen plenty of power no viruses and no bloated Vista for the low end of cash stated in this review.
    Typical ignorant fanboi BS.
    Get your facts straight. Nothing wrong with a Mac other than total cost of ownership and slightly reduced software choices... although the default browser is very unsecure (but fixable, DL any other). But, there is nothing special about them except their style and slightly better ease of use for the "technologically challenged".
  • Placebo
    First of, Macs are rubbish. Buying one is alright for the creative crowd, whose fav. software is exclusive for OSX. Other than that, the company would have already closed up, if not saved by the mighty (LOL) Ipod-brand.

    Regarding the otherwise brilliant review, how come the Dell M1330 isn't mentioned, or even tested, its not even on the site?!?!

    Best selling product in the category for almost two years. Anyone buying should look into it. Had one for around a year, can honestly say its the best electronic device i ever owned.

    Its cheap, lightwight and with supurb spec! for notebooks :-)Sry... they jus do a better job.

  • cruiseoveride
    Linux > OSX >> Windows

    I wish the IBM one was cheaper.
  • boostercorp
    i guess i never understood why you'd need such a small underpowered laptop and also never knew who would buy such a thing.
    But if you're on the road alot like me it would be more handy then dragging around a 8 pound 17" laptop like i 'm currently doing.

    i only hoped they'd be a little less expensive cause i bought my 17" for € 899 and got a shedload of stuff i didn't need like that fingerprint scanner ,bluetooth ,ir , ...
  • Can we post a review of ultraportables with eSATA and Express Card ? I think the ASUS U6V (not sure) has one, the Dell E4200 and E4300 have eSATA but no Express Card. The Lenovo X200 and X300 series have some great features. I really hope manufacturers start making machines with eSATA and Express Card and not one or the other. Oh and How about the Toshiba dynabook R6 ?
  • enforcer22
    "Rubbish, get the the new Macbook, 13" screen plenty of power no viruses and no bloated Vista for the low end of cash stated in this review."

    O your right and look i cant do anything i want to do with it either.. I also cant get it to look like a computer instead of a over priced pos paperweight. Linux is as usless to me as that over priced thing keeping my desk up to.