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.