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  • 8/14/2019 3852 Holiday Guide 08

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    The Holiday Guide toLaptopComputers

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    1

    contents

    This content was adapted from Internet.com's Hardware Central, and SmallBusinessComputing Web sites.Contributors: Eric Grevstad and Jamie Bsales.

    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers, An Internet.com Personal Technology eBook. 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.

    3 Acer Aspire One:No. 1 in ValueEric Grevstad

    6 Lenovo IdeaPad U110:An Attractive IdeaEric Grevstad

    8 Lenovo ThinkPad X200:A Three-Pound HatchlingReady to FlyJamie Bsales

    10 Gateway M-1626:64 But Not HardcoreEric Grevstad

    14 Lenovo ThinkPad X300:You Know You Want ItEric Grevstad

    17 HP 2133 Mini-Note:Eee-clipse?Eric Grevstad

    20 HP EliteBook 6930p:Keep Your Data andHardware SecureJamie Bsales

    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]

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    6 8

    10 14

    17 20

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    Maybe you've got a laptop user on your holidayshopping list, or maybe you want to takeadvantage of holiday deals to update your

    existing system. Either way, we created this guide forInternet.com members researching mobile computers

    that keep them in touch wherever they go.

    Internet.com's editors review dozens of gadgets fromdesktop computers to mobile accessories throughoutthe year. Here's a look at some of the laptops theytested in 2008. Use them to educate yourself beforeyou start buying. Good luck and happy holidays!

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    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]

    we created this guide for Internet.com members researchingmobile computers that keep them in touch wherever they go.

    TheHoliday Guide

    to LaptopComputers

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    We have a winner, if not in the sales competition atleast in the nomenclature contest: The low-priced,lightweight laptops inspired by last fall's Asus Eee

    PC and since described as everything from mini-notebooks

    to kneetops to Microsoft's catchy acronym ULCPCs (ultra-low-cost PCs) are now universally called netbooks, after theirprimary purpose of simple Web and e-mail access.

    They're also selling like mad to studentsand traveling professionals who don'twant to carry a heavy full-sized laptop

    just for going online or doing some wordprocessing or presentation work -- andwho don't want to pay big bucks for anupscale ultralight such as Apple'sMacBook Air or Lenovo's ThinkPad

    X301. That's why Asus has been joinedby HP, Acer, MSI, and (soon) Delland Lenovo, all trying to find thesweet spot of reduced-but-not-too-reduced featuresand performance ver-sus price.

    Trouble is, the plunging prices of full-fledged notebooks are screwing with the sweetspot. HP offers a bare-bones, Linux-based configurationof its 2133 Mini-Note for $499, but the top-of-the-line

    Windows Vista Business model is a hefty $829.

    And while the original 7-inch-screened Eee flew off theshelves at $400, Asus' current 10-inch Eee PC 1000costs $700. That's not even mentioning the online buzzabout an Asus presentation this summer that outlined aconfusing crop of more than 20 Eee-branded PCs atprices up to $900. Can you say "losing sight of simpleand affordable"?

    That's why we're impressed with Acer's entry in the net-

    book wars, the Aspire One. True, "impressed" doesn'tmean "enraptured"; Intel's new Atom processor's per-formance is underwhelming, and our test unit delivereddisappointingly brief battery life.

    But the Acer is a handsome and classy ultraportablewith a high-quality 8.9-inch display, a remarkably usablekeyboard, and the familiar environment of Windows XPHome Edition with an ample 120GB hard disk for

    installing applications and storing data,music, and image files.Considering that it cost thesame $399 as the 7-inch, key-board- and storage-crampedEee PC 4G we cheered lastNovember, we decided fairly

    quickly to give it a thumbs up.

    And that was before Acer low-ered the price to $349.

    Go Get YourOwn, Kid

    Actually, Acer has introduced what itcalls back-to-school savings on two

    Aspire One models. Our review system,model AOA150-1570, combines Windows XP

    with 1GB of memory and the abovementioned 120GBhard disk.

    For $329, the Aspire One AOA110-1722 stays closer tothe first Eee recipe with the Linpus Linux Lite operatingsystem, 512MB of RAM, and an 8GB solid-state drive(SSD) instead of a hard disk. Like the Eee 4G's variationon Xandros Linux, the Linpus platform hides the open-source OS' complexity behind point-and-click icons incategories such as Connect (browser, instant messen-ger, e-mail), Fun (media player, photo manager), and

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    Acer Aspire One: No. 1 in Value

    By Eric Grevstad

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    Work (the OpenOffice.org word processor, spread-sheet, and so on).

    Both of the above Aspires come with a three-cell bat-tery pack that fits flush with the back of the case. Acerhas assigned the $399 price point to a new Win XPconfiguration (AOA150-1447) with a 160GB hard driveand six-cell battery.

    We'd like to get our hands on the six-pack, because werarely got the One to run for more than two hoursunplugged -- maybe two hours and ten minutes doinglight productivity work with the Wi-Fi radio turned off,but that proved the best-case scenario. Two hours is allright for a luggable desktop replacement, but a toss-it-

    into-your-briefcase-or-backpack netbook should lastmuch longer.

    At least Acer's advertised lifespan for the three-cellpack -- a maximum two and a half hours with the harddisk, three hours with SSD -- is less exaggerated thanmost notebook vendors' battery claims. So when thecompany estimates six hours for the six-cell, we canhope for an honest five.

    Am I Blue?The Aspire One measures 6.7 x 9.8 x 1.1 inches and

    weighs 2.3 pounds -- an even three pounds with its ACadapter.

    It's also available in white, but we vote for the Aspire inour test unit's deep blue, which manages to be bothone of the best-looking and best fingerprint- andsmudge-collecting shades we've seen. There's no pol-ishing cloth in the box for buffing the netbook's lid andpalm rest, but there's a soft, snug-fitting carryingpouch.

    A tiny slider switch on the Acer's front edge turns the

    802.11b/g wireless on and off. Microphone and head-phone jacks, two USB 2.0 ports, and anSD/MMC/xD/Memory Stick flash-card slot are on thesystem's right side, with a third USB port, VGA andEthernet ports, and an additional SD card slot alongthe left.

    On the Linux model, this slot performs the nifty trick ofmerging a memory card with the SSD as seamless mainstorage, rather than appearing as an additional drive.

    Like all netbooks, the Acer's keyboard reflects somedownsizing -- the A through apostrophe keys span 7.25inches, compared to 8 inches for a desktop keyboard

    and 7.5 inches for the category-leading HP 2133.

    But it's considerably more comfortable than the 6.5inches of the original Eee PC 4G, with a sturdy, first-class typing feel that encourages almost-full-speedtouch typing after just an hour or so of practice or con-sciously precise fingerwork.

    Considering that we could come up with only oneminor gripe about the layout -- the lack of dedicatedPgUp and PgDn keys (they're Fn-key combinations withthe Home and End keys) -- you're left with a keyboard

    that ranks near the top of the netbook category.

    Unfortunately, we can't say the same for the cursor-con-trol touchpad below the space bar -- it's awfully small,with stiff and noisy mouse buttons mounted on eitherside rather than beneath the pad's perimeter.

    Tinkering with the controls enables handy features suchas virtual scrolling (moving your finger either up anddown along the right edge of the pad, or in counter- orclockwise circles next to the edge), but these reducethe already cramped room to maneuver. Overall, thetouchpad is tolerable, but a notebook mouse wouldmake a good holiday gift for an Aspire One owner.

    Mini-Hyper-ThreadingSpeaking of scrolling, the Acer's screen's 1,024 x 600resolution will oblige you to do a bit more verticalscrolling than you're used to, but at least spare you thechore of having to move horizontally to see a wholeWeb page as the 7-inch Eee's 800 x 680-pixel paneldid.

    The 8.9-inch Aspire One display is crisp and bright, at

    least with the LED backlight on the top three or four ofits ten brightness settings. Colors looked great, albeitsensitive to nudging the screen tilt a few degrees for-ward or back, with less of the shaving-mirror effectwe've seen with other glossy LCDs. If you do want tolook at your reflection, there's a bare-bones 640 x 480webcam above the screen.

    Under the hood, you'll find 1GB of DDR2/667 memoryand a 120GB, 5,400 rpm Hitachi SATA hard drive, as

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    well as Intel's Atom N270 -- a single-core, 1.6GHzprocessor with 512K of Level 2 cache and a 533MHzfront-side bus.

    The watt-saving CPU revives the Hyper-ThreadingTechnology that Intel touted before it had true dual-core processors, giving at least a modest boost for mul-tithreaded applications or multitasking -- the Acer ren-dered Cinebench 10's sample scene in a bit over 27minutes without Hyper-Threading, but less than 18 min-utes with the feature enabled.

    To be sure, 18 minutes for Cinebench 10 -- or 1 minuteand 15 seconds to boot XP and load the preinstalledutilities and taskbar icons, or four seconds' wait after

    right-clicking the desktop and clicking Properties to seethe Display Properties dialog box -- is not dazzling per-formance. Overall, the Aspire One is clearly faster thanthe VIA C7-based HP 2133, and perfectly adequate foreveryday applications, but occasionally feels a bit slug-gish.

    Plugged into an external monitor for the sake of ourbenchmark tests' XGA resolution -- the system caneither clone its LCD display on an attached monitor orwork at higher resolution with the LCD switched off --the Acer posted a PCMark05 score of 1,501 (CPU1,478; memory 2,350; hard disk 3,872; graphics 549).

    And we cry "Oh noooo!" like Mr. Bill whenever we dis-cover that a PC has the old Intel 945GME chipset'sGMA 950 integrated graphics. The Acer upheld thevideo platform's molasses reputation by meandering to3DMark06 and 3DMark05 scores of 109 and 248,respectively, and stumbling through the DirectX 9.0game simulation AquaMark3 at 4 frames per second.

    A Real DealWhile the netbook has 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, neitherBluetooth nor 3G wireless broadband are included.Plugging in a USB dongle can get you the former; Acerhas mentioned an internal upgrade for the latter, butthere's no hard news as of yet. It's 3G we're thinking ofwhen we say we wish the Aspire One had anExpressCard slot like Lenovo's IdeaPad S10.

    Acer's software bundle is modest. Sixty-day trial ver-sions of Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student andMcAfee Security Center are preinstalled, as areMicrosoft Works, Yahoo Toolbar, and InterVideoWinDVD, presumably for users who'll buy a USB exter-nal DVD drive. The day we registered our McAfee trial,

    we were amused to get an e-mail offering the full ver-sion of the security suite for 29 percent off the list price,followed a few hours later by an offer for 36 percentoff. We figure if we wait another day or two we'll get abetter offer.

    By contrast, we doubt that netbook shoppers will see abetter offer than the Win XP Aspire One for $349(though we're equally tempted by the six-cell model for$399). Right now, the Acer saves you at least $100 andin some cases over $200 compared to competitorsfrom HP, Asus, and MSI. It also seems likely to undercut

    the latecomers from Lenovo and Dell, unless those ven-dors come in significantly below their announced oranticipated prices.

    Along the way, it turns the "Since a netbook nowadayscosts the same or more, why not get a real notebook?"argument upside down: If you can settle for a plug-inoptical drive and slightly subpar touchpad, why shouldyou spend more than $400 or carry more than threepounds? This may be the year's best PC value. I

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    D

    o you change clothes when you come home fromwork? You probably trade your conservative duds forsomething more colorful and comfortable (unless

    you're Superman, who dresses more colorfully when goingto work).

    Lenovo does the same thing: When it supplemented itsThinkPad business laptop line with a series of consumernotebooks dubbed IdeaPad, the company gave theultralight IdeaPad U110 not a matte black but avivid red case lid, garnished with an ornate tex-tured paisley pattern that's even echoed on theunderside with artfully cut cooling vents.

    But there's more to the U110 than flash and splash.

    Once you admit that it's a splurge at $1,899, the 11.1-inch-screened compact is an appealing civilian alterna-tive to the super-elite $3,000 ThinkPad X300 slimlinewe love.

    Extreme PortabilityWhile the X300 is remarkablylight for a notebook thatincludes an onboard opti-cal drive, the U110 islighter still, because (spoilerahead) it doesn't. Instead, the IdeaPad comes with a13-ounce external DVDRW drive that plugs into thetwo USB 2.0 ports on the system's left side. (One portisn't enough to power the AC-adapter-less drive.)

    Setting aside the DVD burner and the system's ACadapter (11 ounces), the Lenovo measures 7.7 x 10.8 x0.9 inches and tips the scales at 2.4 pounds with theprovided four-cell battery pack, which fits flush with thenotebook for a sleek and trim appearance. As is com-

    mon with ultralights, there's a larger, longer-lived alter-native battery -- a seven-cell pack that protrudes slight-ly at the rear and below and hikes system weight to 2.9

    pounds.

    If you winced when you read the U110's price, youshould take into account that both batteries, like the

    USB optical drive and a soft carrying pouch,come with the system instead of hiding as

    options or asterisks on a lower advertisedprice. Also, though the IdeaPad has a

    smidgen less sex appeal, it costs thesame as an Apple MacBook Air with

    no optical drive or swappable bat-tery.

    On the minus side, whileLenovo estimates that the lit-tle and big batteries can lastas long as two and six hours,

    respectively, our U110 fell farshort of such endurance. The

    four-cell lasted barely an hour anda quarter in our real-world work ses-

    sions. The seven-cell averaged aboutthree hours in mixed-use stints without

    the DVDRW attached and two hours

    when using the drive to watch a DVD.

    Besides the two USB ports, the notebook's left sideoffers a VGA monitor connector and an exhaust-fanvent that can get pretty warm. A third USB port,FireWire and Ethernet connectors, microphone andheadphone jacks, a six-format memory-card reader slot,and an ExpressCard slot are at the right. Bluetooth isstandard, along with 802.11a/g Wi-Fi.

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    Lenovo IdeaPad U110: An Attractive Idea

    By Eric Grevstad

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    The small laptop makes room for a full-sized keyboard(8 inches from A through apostrophe), except for half-sized function, Delete, and cursor-control keys. The

    only layout quirk that takes a little adjusting to is that,while there are dedicated PgUp and PgDn keys insteadof the common and clumsy Fn-key-plus-cursor-arrowcombinations, there aren't dedicated Home and Endkeys -- those are the Fn key plus PgUp and PgDn.(Pressing the Fn key along with the cursor arrows dialsthe LCD backlight and audio volume up or down.)

    We had to adjust to something else during our firsthour or two with the U110 -- the keys, like the palm restbelow them, are a glossy black that becomes smoth-ered with smudgy fingerprints after about five minutes.

    They actually felt a bit slippery at first, like walking onfreshly waxed floor tiles, but our fingers quickly adjust-ed. Call the result a medium-good but not exceptionaltyping feel.

    The IdeaPad breaks from Lenovo's ThinkPads in nothaving a center-of-keyboard nub or pointing stick formouse control, just a smallish touchpad with good-sized mouse buttons below it. It worked smoothly andnearly silently in our tests.

    At the risk of getting spoiled, we're rapidly losing ouraffection for laptop LCDs without the latest LED back-light technology. The notebook's 11.1-inch, LED-backlitdisplay is crisp and clear, at least at the top two orthree of its brightness settings -- when we first read thesystem specs we feared that squeezing 1,366 x 768 res-olution into the relatively small widescreen panel wouldmake text and icons too tiny for tired eyes, but the dis-play proved first-class, superbly sharp with colors thatpop. It also fits flush with the surrounding black borderinstead of having a traditional bezel -- Lenovo calls it"frameless" -- for an even cooler appearance.

    It's not just in size and style that the IdeaPad U110

    stands comparison with the ThinkPad X300. Thanks toa faster CPU -- Intel's 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo L7500, withan 800MHz front-side bus and 4MB of Level 2 cache --the consumer compact beat the professional model inmany of our benchmark tests.

    Fitted with 2GB of DDR2/667 memory (one 1GB moduleon the motherboard and one in the system's sole memo-ry slot), the IdeaPad posted a PCMark05 score of 3,476(CPU 4,007; memory 3,737; graphics 1,628; hard drive

    2,891) -- decent numbers except for the last, reflectingthe leisurely 4,200-rpm Toshiba 120GB hard disk.

    The slimline scored 3.5 on its Windows Vista HomePremium (Service Pack 2) operating system's 5.9-pointExperience Index scale. It rendered Cinebench 10'ssample image in 4 minutes and 36 seconds with bothCPU cores active.

    The U110's integrated Graphics Media AcceleratorX3100 (Intel GM965 chipset) graphics do disqualify itfor all but the most casual gaming -- 10 and 23 framesper second in the old, low-octane AquaMark3 andWolfenstein: Enemy Territory, respectively, with a3DMark06 score of 593 (1,280 x 768 resolution with no

    antialiasing).

    Take a Look at Me NowMost of the IdeaPad's software bundle is what you'dexpect -- trial versions of Norton AntiVirus andMicrosoft Office; CyberLink's Power2Go for burningmusic, video, and photo DVDs and CDs; a handyEasyCapture utility for taking snapshots with the 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen. Shuttle Center IIis an eye-candy alternative to Windows Media Centerfor perusing and using your MP3s, images, and othermultimedia files.

    We were disappointed, however, by one of Lenovo'stouted features -- VeriFace, a software solution thatuses the webcam to identify your face and automateyour Windows login and Web site passwords, as manynotebooks' fingerprint readers do.

    It turns out we have a forgettable face. SometimesVeriFace recognized us and proceeded to Windowsafter just one or two passes of its on-screen scanner(which puts creepy circles over your eyes as part of itsface mapping), but sometimes we spent a frustrating

    five minutes trying different positions, angles, and gen-erally playing peek-a-boo with a scanner determined,Mission Impossible-style, to disavow any knowledge ofour actions. We switched the feature off after a coupleof days.

    Still, the IdeaPad U110 has plenty of attractive featuresfor someone seeking an ultralight with more pizzazzthan your average ThinkPad or Portege. And if red'snot your color, it also comes in black. I

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    I

    f you've been schlepping around a too-heavy, too-slownotebook for too long, Intel and Lenovo have given you

    even more reasons to buy a better laptop. The newThinkPad X200 is Lenovo's latest ultraportable notebook, athree-pound hatchling that's ready to fly thanks to Intel's newCentrino 2 mobile-PC platform.

    The X200 replaces the ThinkPad X61, slotting belowthe rave-reviewed but hyper-pricey ThinkPadX300 in Lenovo's lineup. Instead of the latter's13.3-inch display, the X200 is built around a12.1-inch screen that gives the system a foot-print about the size of a sheet of paper.

    Its slim profile tapers from less than an inchto 1.4 inches thick, and its light weightmakes it easy to tote to meetingsor slip in your bag. Theexterior is the familiarThinkPad matte black;it won't turn heads, but doesgive an appropriately professionalimpression.

    Beauty on the InsideWhile the X200's exterior is buttoned-down, its sex

    appeal lurks on the inside. Intel's Centrino 2 platformmarries the latest generation of speedy Core 2 Duoprocessors to a faster front-side bus (1066MHz, upfrom 800MHz in previous Centrino solutions), whichhelps eliminate performance bottlenecks at thesystem level.

    Centrino 2 also delivers an improved Wi-Fi wirelesschip including 802.11-DraftN support, as well asembedded Gigabit Ethernet networking and improved

    integrated graphics via a faster Graphics MediaAccelerator X4500HD chip with hardware-based high-definition video decoding. Intel boasts that Centrino 2both improves notebook performance and extendsbattery life.

    Indeed, in our informal testing, the Core 2 DuoP8400-powered (a 2.26GHz

    processor with 3MB of Level 2cache) Lenovo generally out-

    performed other ultraportablesin the three-pound weight

    range, launching and runningapplications at speeds tradition-

    ally reserved for larger laptops. A2.4GHz Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU is

    an option.

    If you spend a lot of time away froman electrical outlet, you'll also

    appreciate the X200's battery life,which Lenovo estimates at 3.2 hours

    with the standard four-cell battery and morethan nine hours with a nine-cell battery that

    hikes system weight to 3.6 pounds.

    Business-Friendly FeaturesThe ThinkPad has other features a business pro wouldcrave. Unlike other ultraportables, which make yousuffer with an undersized keyboard, the X200's key-board is full-sized, with the famous feel and respon-siveness long a hallmark of ThinkPad portables.Lenovo also provides dedicated volume and mutebuttons (no more fumbling with a Fn-key combo) aswell as the handy ThinkLight, a white LED above thescreen that gives off just enough light to illuminate

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    Lenovo ThinkPad X200: A Three-PoundHatchling Ready to Fly

    By Jamie Bsales

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    the keyboard in a dark room.

    The 12.1-inch, 1,200 x 800-resolution screen is bright

    and exceedingly sharp. Compared to its X61 prede-cessor's 1,024 x 768-pixel panel, the widescreenaspect ratio keeps the height of the panel fairly squat,which makes the X200 ideal for use on an airline traytable. You can equip the X200 with an 80GB, 160GB,or 320GB hard drive; a 200GB, 7,200-rpm drive withFull Disk Encryption; or a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD)that uses indestructible flash memory instead of spin-ning platters. If you've ever had a traditional harddrive die on you, the allure of an SSD is obvious.

    With the exception of FireWire, the X200 has all the

    ports you're likely to need, including three USB 2.0ports; a VGA connector for hooking up a projector ormonitor; modem and Ethernet jacks; and a PC Cardslot. Options include a fingerprint reader for addedlogin security, a Webcam for videoconferencing, and afive-format memory-card reader.

    Lenovo also offers optional wireless broadband, whichlets you connect via cellular carriers' high-speed net-works; the WWAN option has a handy option of its ownin GPS navigation. If you often find yourself paying forwireless access at airports, hotels, and other W-fi hotspots -- or find yourself someplace without Wi-Fi alto-gether -- this feature can pay for itself quickly.

    The TradeoffsWhile the X200 has a lot going for it, it does necessi-tate a few tradeoffs typical of the ultraportable class.First and foremost, unlike the pricier X300, the note-book doesn't have a built-in optical drive. You'll have toinvest in a USB-based external drive or opt for Lenovo'ssnap-on UltraBase accessory, which adds a modular bayfor a CD-RW/DVD-ROM, DVDRW, or Blu-ray drive ora second battery second hard disk.

    The small size of the X200 also means there was onlyroom for the familiar ThinkPad TrackPoint pointing stick,not the touchpad most portable users have grownaccustomed to. And while the notebook's built-inspeaker is fine for personal use, you'll want to rely on

    your projector's speakers if you're given a presentationin any but the smallest conference room.

    But these compromises can be said of most everythree-pound PC, and the X200 does away with two ofthe biggest shortcomings of previous examples: so-soperformance and a cramped, substandard keyboard.Even better, the base configuration starts at a reason-able $1,199. Considering its cutting-edge features andhorsepower, that price makes the ThinkPad X200 a bar-gain to boot. I

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    P

    C prices have come way down? A thousand bucks willbuy you a first-class desktop? Even less will buy you a

    capable notebook? This is incredible! What's that yousay? Why yes, my name is Van Winkle. How did you know?

    Obviously it's no longer news that even non-tech-savvy, non-wealthy consumers are buying PCs atwhich even experienced power users can't sneer (well,can sneer only at their lack of gonzo gaminggraphics or ponderouspower supplies). The shelvesof Staples or Best Buy orWal-Mart or [insert retailerhere] are full of suchmachines.

    Nor is it a shocker to find ven-dors better known for directonline and phone sales, such asDell and Gateway, at your nearestsuperstore, often selling slightlydifferent, prepackaged configura-tions of the systems you see on theirWeb sites. The Gateway M-1626 is onesuch machine -- a version of the company's M-Series 15.4-inch laptop with a sober black instead ofsome models' snazzy red or blue case, available for

    $850 at Office Depot.

    It's still a bit out of the ordinary, however, to find a 64-bit operating system between the toner-cartridge andballpoint-pen aisles. The AMD Turion 64 X2-poweredGateway comes with 4GB of dual-channel DDR-2/667memory, a chunk more than 32-bit Windows Vista canuse but a good amount for the preinstalled VistaHome Premium 64-bit edition.

    Nearly CompatibleTechnically speaking, we're tickled to see mainstream

    consumers board the 64-bit computing bandwagon.Practically speaking, we're not sure it's worth it: Thenumber of 64-bit x86 programs is still exceptionallysmall and still skewed toward specialized and/or enter-prise applications. Heck, there are still disappointinglyfew multithreaded applications that take full advantage

    of multicore processors.

    Until that changes, the main benefit of 64-bitWindows for M-1626 owners will be better mul-titasking for their 32-bit wares, and -- in some-thing likely to puzzle retail consumers more

    than it will power users -- they'll give up asmall but significant amount of driver and

    application support to get it. Indeed,the laptop comes with a DVD

    with both 32- and 64-bit fla-vors of Vista Home Premium,along with documentation say-

    ing, "The powerful, preinstalledWindows Vista 64-bit edition is not for every-

    one" and giving drive-reformatting instructions forthose who "prefer to install 32-bit Windows Vista forcomprehensive hardware and software compatibility."

    And as far as megatasking is concerned, the supplied4GB of system RAM is the Gateway's hardware ceiling.That will disappoint geeks who might dream about theoperating system's support for up to 16GB.

    So, 64-bit Vista aside, what does the M-1626 have tooffer? Basically, bread and butter: a capable, full-sizednotebook with nice features and decent performancefor any productivity (as opposed to gaming or video-

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    Gateway M-1626: 64 But Not Hardcore

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    editing) job.

    Our biggest complaint is that, though the Gateway is

    more portable than some of its 15.4-inch peers, it hasthe poor battery life of a larger desktop replacement --an hour and a half in our disk- and multimedia-intensivesessions, peaking at an hour and three-quarters forundemanding word processing and spreadsheet work.We were also bemused to see Windows' low-batterywarning pop up every time we booted the laptop onbattery power, even if the battery was actually full.

    Basic BlackClad in matte black with a grippable if slightly smudge-prone textured lid, the Gateway measures 10 x 14 x 1.5

    inches and tips the scale at 5.9 pounds -- just under ourthis-is-too-much-to-carry threshold -- with the ACadapter bringing total travel weight to 6.7 pounds.Fancy styling touches are limited to a flush-fitting stripof Windows Media Center and multimedia control keysabove the keyboard.

    You'll find microphone and headphone jacks on thefront edge of the system, with the Optiarc dual-layerDVDRW drive -- with LabelFlash technology to etchlabels onto special CDs, as with the LightScribe drivesin many HP computers -- joined by a USB 2.0 port on

    the right. VGA and modem ports are at the rear.

    On the M-1626's left side are two more USB ports; anEthernet connector; a flash-card slot for SD, MMC, xD,and MS/Pro storage formats; and an ExpressCard/54expansion slot. The left side also offers a not-yet-com-mon feature -- an HDMI port for connecting theGateway to many HDTV sets. Unfortunately, the ATIRadeon 1270 integrated graphics hit the wall at thescreen's native 1,280 x 800 resolution instead of sup-porting any 720- or 1080-line HDTV modes.

    It's not one of AMD's new Turion X2 Ultras, but theGateway's Turion 64 X2 TL-60 processor is arespectable 65-nanometer-process, 2.0GHz CPU with512K of Level 2 cache for each of its two cores. It'spaired with an ATI RS690T chipset, which is paired with128MB of dedicated memory (and can borrow morefrom system memory) for its Radeon X1270 integratedgraphics.

    The latter is an old and humble DirectX 9.0 graphics

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    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]

    Microsoft Wireless

    Laser Mouse 6000 2.0By Eric Grevstad

    It's hardly a radical

    idea, but you wonder

    why no one thought of

    it before. Microsoft, like

    its rival Logitech, makes

    numerous mice designed

    for use with notebook

    PCs -- scaled-down devices that don't take much

    space in a traveler's briefcase, usually with a niche

    or cubbyhole on the underside to hold the cordlessmouse's USB receiver so the latter is less likely to

    get lost in said briefcase.

    However, according to Microsoft, more than a third

    of consumers prefer to buy full-sized desktop mice

    to use with their laptops, to avoid having to adjust

    from a hand rest to a fingertip grip when leaving

    the office or home. Presto, the Wireless Laser

    Mouse 6000 -- a full-sized, $50 mouse with a USB

    adapter that snaps into a bottom slot just like its

    miniature siblings.

    To forestall any confusion among mouse model

    memorizers, we should note that the new mousetakes the name of the model it replaces in

    Microsoft's crowded lineup, the Wireless Laser

    Mouse 6000. The label on the mouse's bottom adds a

    v2.0 suffix, but it's safe to assume nobody will expe-

    rience dj vu upon seeing the 6000 in a store.

    A Slippery SlopeMeasuring a conventional 2.8 x 4.9 inches, the 6000

    follows recent Redmond rodents in offering a r ight-

    hand-only ergonomic design that slopes downward

    from left to right as you look at the mouse from

    behind, so your index finger is at the summit and

    your pinky fingertip brushes your mouse pad or

    desk or airline tray table.

    There's a trough or scoop on the right that feels like

    it's supposed to support your ring finger, though it's

    too shallow to hold the latter in place; it's all too

    easy to let that fingertip slip downward so that it,

    too, brushes the desktop. On the other hand, or

    rather the other side, there's a roomy, concave rub-

    berized grip for your thumb.

    continued

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    solution, which put on a slide show (6 frames per sec-ond) in our DX9 benchmark test Gun Metal 2 at XGAresolution. It improved to 9 fps in the OpenGL test

    Lightsmark 2007 at 1,200 x 800 resolution.

    Other results weren't quite as rock-bottom, with a3DMark06 score of 311 at full-screen resolution with noantialiasing. The Gateway rendered Cinebench 10'ssample scene in 4 minutes and 20 seconds with bothCPU cores firing.

    As for overall performance, our usual SysMark 2007application benchmark doesn't run under 64-bitWindows, but the Gateway gets a Windows Experiencerating of 3.0 on Vista's 5.9-point scale. The notebook's

    suitability for gaming graphics is the low point, but itearns relatively high ratings for both system memoryand the 250GB, 5,400-rpm Western Digital hard drive.

    Image and InputSpeaking of graphics, the M-1626's widescreen displayis reasonably bright (at its top two or three backlightbrightness settings) and colorful, if not particularly vividdespite its glossy coating. None of our test unit's 1,280x 800 pixels were bad, and Gateway's wise/thrifty deci-sion to forgo any higher resolution for its 15.4 diagonalinches made easy reading of even small icon and menu

    text, even in dimly lit rooms.

    The laptop's keyboard is spacious and holds no layoutsurprises -- all right, the Ctrl key is second from leftinstead of far left in the bottom row, as we inevitablygrouse about, but Delete is in the top right cornerwhere it belongs, and there are real Home, End, PgUp,and PgDn keys instead of Fn-plus-cursor-arrow impos-tors.

    We wound up disabling horizontal scrolling, whichseemed to pop into play whenever we wanted simple

    horizontal cursor movement, but both the touchpadand twin mouse buttons below it are amply sized andcomfortably smooth to use.

    In addition to Vista Home Premium 64-Bit, the Gatewaycomes with 60-day trial versions of Symantec's NortonSecurity 2008 and Microsoft's Office Home and Student2007 plus Works and Money Essentials. The WildTangent game service and Napster music player arealso standard, as is Gateway's consumer-friendly BigFix

    12 Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers, An Internet.com Personal Technology eBook. 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.

    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]Apart from the r ing-finger quibble, we found the

    mouse perfectly comfortable even through long

    days of working overtime. Sliver-sized Forward and

    Back buttons (more like one long button bisected;programmable for other functions via Microsoft's

    software driver) ride just above your thumb atop the

    mouse's left edge.

    As with most side-mounted Forward and Back duos

    we try, clicking Forward involves a much more natu-

    ral flick of the thumb than the tiny but awkward up-

    and-back motion required to get your thumb on the

    Back button. In fact, when we flexed our thumb, it

    often hit the strip dead center and pressed both but-

    tons, so we assigned Back to both buttons in our

    browser.

    The 6000's scroll wheel has a smooth, seamless feelthat will disappoint users accustomed to slight

    clicks or detents during scrolling, but with a little

    practice we were elevatoring up and down through

    our e-mail inbox with no under- or overshooting a

    target.

    The wheel also tilts left and right for horizontal

    scrolling through spreadsheets or zoom views of

    images or Web pages, though (as we've grumbled in

    many another review) Microsoft's driver doesn't let

    you reprogram left and right tilts to other functions

    as Logitech's does. The latter's quick sideways flicks

    remain our favorite Back and Forward.

    The IntelliPoint 6.2 driver does let you reassign all

    five buttons, counting a click of the scroll wheel, to

    other functions ranging from the usual undo, cut,

    copy, paste, or zoom to Flip 3D -- Windows Vista

    Aero's pretty shuffle-stack of active windows -- or

    Instant Viewer -- a tamer Win XP version of the same

    that arranges current program windows on the

    screen like a geeky art gallery.

    More options include launching a specified applica-

    tion or creating and running a macro combination

    of keystrokes. And Microsoft didn't forget the con-

    venience of program-specific settings, so the same

    button that's Back in your browser can be Undo in

    your word processor.

    A Magnifier function opens a zoom window that you

    can drag around the screen for a zoom view of the

    pixels beneath. A slightly awkward process of hold-

    ing the assigned button while moving the mouse or

    scrolling the wheel lets you resize the magnifying

    lens or switch among several levels of magnification.

    continued

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    upgrade notice utility. A nice pull-out sidebar at oneside of the screen controls the 1.3-megapixel webcamcentered above it.

    Frankly, mainstream 15.4-inch notebooks are gettingsqueezed between 14- and 13-inch and smaller light-weight travelers and 17-inch deluxe desktop replace-ments. That said, the M-1626 (or another Gateway MSeries model, some with Intel and some with AMDpower), is a solid, workmanlike choice for its $850 price,especially for anyone shopping for 64- rather than 32-bit Windows. The trouble is, we don't think there'll beswarms of such shoppers at Office Depot. I

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    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]Set loose on a crowded desk, the 6000 turned in a

    fine performance. Its 1,000 dpi resolution -- what

    Microsoft calls High Definition Laser Technology --

    gives sufficient room to move even with just two anda half or three inches of free space next to a note-

    book. After a few minutes' practice, we were maneu-

    vering as precisely as a Smart car in city traffic.

    It worked smoothly on every surface we tried except

    that nemesis of optical mice, a mirror, while its

    interference-resistant 2.4GHz radio connection kept

    the mouse and PC in contact even from the next

    room with a wall in between.

    Travelin' OnA light on top of the mouse glows when its two AA

    alkalines are growing weak, which we didn't have

    time to observe -- Microsoft claims some users willsee up to six months between battery replacements

    (or refills if you're doing the green thing and using

    rechargeable NiMH cells). Such users probably get

    in the habit of unplugging the mouse's flash-drive-

    sized USB transceiver from the PC or laptop and

    snapping it into its niche on the 6000's underside,

    which automatically turns the mouse off.

    Basically, the Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 breaks a

    decade of silence in exposing the secret shame of

    so-called notebook mice: It's not that much harder to

    find room in your briefcase or laptop case for a

    mouse that's two inches larger. As such, the 6000 is

    a first-class candidate to be your only mouse -- to useboth when you're at your desk and when you're

    mobile. I

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    We can't keep it. Our eval loan has run out and we

    have to return this Lenovo ThinkPad X300 reviewunit next week. But that's all right. We'll find a way.

    We can follow it back to Lenovo's address in North Carolina.We can stalk it. Someday it'll be in our arms again and wecan tell it how we feel. We'll say those three little words wethought we'd never say, words no level-headed PC reviewershould swoon and say:

    Best notebook ever.

    If You Have To Ask ...

    They say love is blind, andwe were struck blind by ourfirst look at the X300's pricetag: At retail, our test config-uration (model 6478-1VU)costs as much as four ade-quately equipped, full-sizedlaptops -- $3,000 equippedwith 2GB of DDR-2/667memory, Bluetooth, webcam, fingerprint reader, and a

    Verizon mobile broadband module with GPS.

    When we configured a matching model on Lenovo'sWeb site, it came to $3,400. The best discount wefound was from Datavision, offering the X300 for$2,800.

    Part of the system's high tariff is that it features a 64GBsolid-state disk (SSD or flash-memory drive). That'smuch less storage capacity than most notebooks' con-ventional hard disks, but it gives the Lenovo a fast start-up time (about 30 seconds) and extra reliability, espe-

    cially when coupled with what Lenovo calls glass- and

    carbon-fiber "roll cage" construction and aThinkVantage Active Protection System that automati-cally turns off the drive when the X300 is jolted ordropped. The latter feature isn't nearly as necessary foran SSD as for a mechanical drive, but it has a cute real-time display window in which you can watch an animat-ed image of the ThinkPad jiggle and jump as you mis-treat it.

    But the real reason the X300 inspires devotion is thatit's the PC market's closest thing to Apple's celebrated,

    skinny status symbol, the

    MacBook Air. At 9.1 x 12.5 x1 inches, it isn't quite assvelte as the Apple, but hasessential features the Airlacks -- a DVDRW drive,for example, along with anEthernet port and a user-removable battery.

    The Lenovo is also light enough to make briefcase-lug-ging a pleasure: Our test unit tipped the scale at 3.4pounds (an even 4 pounds with the AC adapter). You

    can add a few ounces by replacing the optical drivewith a second battery pack for, Lenovo says, up to 10hours of battery life.

    And, to return to the MacBook Air, the ThinkPad's$3,000 price may be daunting but is $98 less thanApple charges for its slimline with the same size solid-state drive but no optical drive. And while both have13.3-inch displays, the X300 offers higher resolution(1,440 x 900 pixels versus 1,200 x 800).

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    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]

    Lenovo ThinkPad X300:You Know You Want It

    By Eric Grevstad

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    A DVD Drive Hardly ThickerThan a DVD

    On the notebook's left side are two USB 2.0 ports andmicrophone and headphone jacks. At the rear are athird USB port and Ethernet and VGA monitor ports.

    We were disappointed not to find a flash-memory cardreader or an ExpressCard slot, though Lenovo wouldlikely say there's no urgent need for the latter sincewhat's under the hood already includes mobile broad-band; a GPS chip; and support for WiMax, shouldIntel's chosen long-range wireless standard overcomethe apparently long odds against it ever beingdeployed.

    One of the ThinkPad's most remarkable features is onits right side -- a super-duper-slim, swappableDVDRW burner. The dual-layer Matsushita drive is just7mm (a quarter of an inch) thick; we found ourselveswishing it would pull out just a fraction further but itproved easy enough to slip a disc into the tray inside-edge first.

    The latest thing in skinny screens is LED backlighting,which helps make the X300's 13.3-inch display crispand vivid for black text and color images alike. On theother hand, to be frank, the 1,440 x 900-pixel paneldidn't seem super-bright or show whiter whites underoffice fluorescent lighting, unless we left the backlighton its highest setting.

    Working at home, with just one or two lamps at oppo-site sides of the living room, made things look better.Under such less-than-sunny conditions, or on a dark-ened airplane beside a snoring seatmate, you can pressa Fn-key combination to activate the cutest little nightlight you ever saw, tucked into the top bezel beside the1.3-megapixel webcam and shining down on the key-board.

    The keyboard lives up to the high standard of otherThinkPads, stretching back well before 2005 whenLenovo acquired the matte-black brand from IBM. It'svirtually full-sized (spanning 8 inches from A throughapostrophe, just like our desktop keyboard) and deliv-ers a smooth, yielding-just-enough typing feel. Thereare dedicated Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keysinstead of shifted cursor arrows, as well, though it takes

    some practice to adjust to their location in the key-board's top right corner.

    Lenovo also offers travelers a choice of IBM's famousoriginal or today's most common mouse alternatives --a textured TrackPoint micro-joystick stub embedded atthe intersection of G, H, and B, plus a touchpad in thepalm rest with vertical and horizontal scrolling zonesalong its right and bottom edges.

    Both the TrackPoint and touchpad have their own leftand right mouse buttons below. We found that, whenusing the X300 in our lap, the latter's mouse buttonswere often too close or pressed against our belly touse, so we happily relied on the joystick's buttons just

    above the touchpad.

    Let's Go GreenLenovo boasts that the X300 is the most environmen-tally friendly ThinkPad to date, consuming 25 percentless energy than older X Series models and meetingboth Energy Star 4.0 and EPEAT Gold standards for lowpower consumption and minimal impact on MotherEarth. Along with the LED backlit display and no-mov-ing-parts SSD, one of the key contributors to this statusis Intel's Core 2 Duo SL7100, a 1.2GHz processor withan 800MHz front-side bus, 4MB of Level 2 cache, and a

    thrifty TDP (thermal design power) of 12 watts.

    The CPU specs should clue you in that nobody's goingto use the X300 for hardcore gaming or video encod-ing, but the notebook's performance is perfectly finefor office applications. It scored 3,305 on PCMark05(CPU 3,279; memory 3,262; graphics 1,042; hard drive -- wildly skewed by solid-state -- 15,787), and renderedCinebench 10's test scene in six and a quarter minutes.

    Intel's GMA X3100 integrated graphics handled ourbenchmarks about as well as you'd expect, managing

    70 frames per second in our nostalgic Quake III Arenatest and 10 fps in the more demanding AquaMark3; its3DMark06 score at native 1,440 x 900 resolution withno antialiasing or other eye candy was 362.

    A View Without VistaLenovo's array of models with just slightly different IDcodes (6478-1VU versus -1TU, for instance) can make ithard to spot the exact configuration you'd like, but we

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    must confess that one thing we liked about our testunit was that it came with the simpler, quicker WindowsXP Professional instead of Windows Vista.

    A page on Lenovo's Web site (under the banner head-line "It's hard to say goodbye") says that systems withXP preloaded were available for purchase only throughMay 20, 2008, but that customers will be able to buy adowngrade DVD that wipes out the newer and installsthe older operating system. One of the company's techsupport pages adds that the downgrade kit will beavailable (though "fees may vary") until January 31,2009.

    The rest of our ThinkPad's preinstalled software ranged

    from the predictable (trial versions of Norton InternetSecurity and Microsoft Office) to the Picasa2 imageorganizer, Diskeeper Lite defragment utility, InterVideoWinDVD, and an impressive stack of utilities and con-trol settings arrayed under the ThinkVantage label.

    A pop-up ThinkVantage Productivity Center offersmaintenance, wireless (including location profiles for

    different networks and logons), hardware configuration,and security options presented so as not to frighteneven the technophobiest.

    Finally, the X300's light weight doesn't indicate awimpy battery pack as with some slimlines. The sup-plied six-cell battery lasted a good four hours during amultimedia-heavy DVD-viewing and music-playing ses-sion, while a less demanding word processingmarathon stretched to five hours.

    So what do we mean by best notebook ever? Simplythe best-engineered, most desirable, thin-and-light-without-compromises laptop we've seen in many longyears of testing, reviewing, and not infrequently buying.

    Out of all the PCs that have occupied the Labs,Weather, & Sports Desk, the ThinkPad X300 is the onewe most hate to send away.

    Ah, well. If you love something set it free. I

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    Talk to HP executives, and they'll tell you that the HP2133 Mini-Note PC targets the educational market.Ask about its place in the mainstream laptop segment,

    and they'll tie you to a chair and tell you it's meant for

    instructional use. Comment on its VIA processor or choice ofoperating systems, and they'll wrestle you to the ground andtell you it's designed with K-12 classrooms in mind.

    They're not fooling anybody.

    While it does compete withIntel's Classmate PC (and, toa much lesser extent, the$200 One Laptop Per Childnotebook), the 2133 is unmis-takably HPs response to the

    two-pound, $400 Asus Eeethat's been winning over busi-ness travelers -- and puttingSold Out" signs in retailstores -- since its debut.

    Like the Eee, the HP handlesdaily productivity tasks suchas spreadsheeting, e-mailing, and Wi-Fi Web browsinginstead of trying to be a multimedia or gamingmachine; it relies on a humble, single-core CPU andlacks a built-in optical drive; and it's priced far below

    the thinnest and lightest notebooks from the likes ofSony, Lenovo, Toshiba, Dell, or Apple. The base modelis $499, with our loaded, top-of-the-line test unit slatedto cost $749.

    If that's a couple of hundred bucks above the variousEee models, it's because the Mini-Note gives you morePC, beginning with a considerably more stylish andsolid-feeling aluminum instead of plastic case. It sur-passes the Eee's 7-inch, 800 x 640-pixel screen with a

    glossy 8.9-inch display with 1,280 x 768 resolution anda scratch-resistant coating.

    Asus' second-generation Eee has a larger screen, too,

    but won't come close to what HP boasts is a 92-per-cent-full-sized keyboard: The A through apostrophekeys on the 2133's home row span a bit over sevenand a half inches, versus our desktop's eight inches and

    the Eee's six and a half.

    The Mini-Note's Ctrl andDelete keys are in their prop-er bottom left and top rightcorners, respectively, insteadof being relocated on somedesigner's whim. And while

    the Insert, Delete, and func-tion keys and the cursorarrows are half-sized, thealphanumeric keys seem asbig as floor tiles at firstglance, as well as styled tomatch the 2133's aluminumcase.

    And Four To GoAt rollout HP offered the system in four configurations,with custom tailoring presumably available at thehpshopping.com Web site.

    The $499 model is the most Eee-like: It runs NovellSuse Linux instead of Windows and has a 4GB solid-state drive instead of a hard disk. Its modest 512MB ofmemory and 1.0GHz VIA C7-M processor ensure itsentry-level status, although budget buyers enjoy thesame spacious keyboard and screen as their deeper-pocketed peers.

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    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]

    HP 2133 Mini-Note: Eee-clipse?

    By Eric Grevstad

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    Next up are a pair of twins -- two Mini-Notes with a1.2GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 120GB (5,400-rpm)hard drive, as well as the 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and three-

    cell lithium-ion battery pack seen in the $499 config.The difference is that the $549 model comes with SuseLinux, the $599 unit with Vista Home Basic.

    For $749, the fourth and fanciest version offers a swifter1.6GHz version of the VIA processor; Bluetooth as wellas Wi-Fi; the system maximum 2GB of DDR-2 memory;Windows Vista Business; and a larger six-cell batterypack that, instead of fitting flush, props the HP's rear aninch or so off your desk to form a fair typing angle.

    Our preproduction version had a 160GB Hitachi hard

    disk (and an "HP Compaq 2133" label instead of thecorrect, Compaq-free moniker), but company specsheets list the $749 Mini-Note as having the same120GB hard drive as the middle two models. Optionswill include a 160GB, 5,400-rpm drive and faster 7,200-rpm drives in the same sizes (120GB and 160GB).

    With the 4GB flash drive installed, HP says, the 2133tips the scales at 2.63 pounds. Since our system had ahard drive instead, it weighed in at 2.88 pounds withthe smaller or 3.25 pounds with the larger battery pack.

    That's heavier than the 2.06-pound Eee, but notenough to notice the difference when lifting your brief-case; the Mini-Note is as much a pleasure to travel withas are far more costly featherweights like Lenovo'sThinkPad X300. At about 6.5 x 10.3 x 1 inches, the HPis almost as easy to fit into that briefcase as the Eee,though its AC adapter is bulkier and heavier (14ounces).

    Power and wireless on/off switches are handily locatedon the laptop's front edge. On the left side are head-phone and microphone jacks, a VGA monitor connec-tor, and a powered USB 2.0 port for an external storage

    device.

    A second USB port is on the right, as is an Ethernetconnector (what's that you say, Apple MacBook Airowners? You don't have these things?). You'll also find aslot for an SD flash-memory card and anExpressCard/54 slot -- suitable for the 3G broadbandwireless adapter the HP definitely needs.

    As we've already noted, the Mini's keyboard is down-

    right luxurious for a subnotebook -- its practically full-sized span makes up for a good-but-not-great (slightlyflat and soft) typing feel. The touchpad is wider than

    you'd expect, too, with large, rubbery mouse buttonson either side. Except for a finger repeatedly strayinginto the vertical scrolling zone at the right of the pad, itworked fine.

    Take a Long LookYour first sight of the 2133's screen will be a dim one --every time the system restarts or awakes from hiberna-tion, it's turned the backlight brightness off rather thanretain the level you set earlier for the sake of babyingthe battery. And we were happy with the LCD's bright-ness only at the highest or second highest of the set-

    tings available.

    Once it's brightened up, however, the display is clearand colorful, if a bit prone to doubling as a makeupmirror. We're torn between cheering and complainingabout its impressively high 1,280 x 768-pixel resolution-- images and fonts look ultra-sharp, but small pull-down-menu text (and the cursor, until we resized it) wasalmost too tiny for our middle-aged eyes. Yes, we wearbifocals, but we'd never found ourselves sliding themup and down our nose and bobbing our head like a sit-com geezer before.

    Speaking of the battery, the 6-cell, 55-watt-hour batteryis an option that should be standard. The flush-fitting 3-cell, 28-watt-hour pack averaged just an hour and a halfin our real-world work sessions, while the protrudingbattery/keyboard prop lasted for a solid three hours,stretching to three and a quarter in non-heavy-dutyword processing and Web surfing sessions.

    Of course, we always wish for longer battery life, butthat isn't our greatest wish for the Mini-Note. Ourgreatest wish would be more horsepower under the

    hood.

    To be sure, the 2133 doesn't pretend to be a high-endgaming or video-editing platform, and it feels ade-quately responsive while you're typing documents orputting together presentations -- the 2GB of systemmemory sufficient to bear the ponderous weight ofWindows Vista, although we're dismayed that the HPcan't be upgraded above 2GB.

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    But our test system took a lazy two minutes to boot upin the morning, with even its audio stuttering or skip-ping a note in Vista's startup tune, and barely limped

    through a small subset of our usual benchmark tests.Given the oldest and easiest game in our toybox,Quake III Arena at 1,024 x 768 resolution, the Minimanaged 26 frames per second. PCMark05 refused toissue an overall score, but the HP's processor andmemory subtotals of 908 and 1,408 trail even theSamsung Q1 Ultra UMPC with 800MHz Intel A110processor that we tested last summer.

    The 1.6GHz C7-M and Chrome9 chipset graphics car-ried the subnotebook to a ground-floor 3DMark05score of 175, while Cinebench 10's scene-rendering

    test -- handled in one to two minutes by even theentry-level laptops we've sampled lately -- took 36 min-utes.

    Just for kicks, we compared the 2133's numbers tothose of the revved-up, quad-core Gateway gamingtower we reviewed a couple of weeks ago. PC Wizard2008's global performance score showed that the feistyunderdog was, well, more than one percent as power-ful as the Gateway.

    The bottom line? Seems those HP execs weren't entire-ly kidding about selling to the educational market:They could have waited until summer or fall to ship a

    Mini-Note with VIA's faster "Isaiah" replacement for thecurrent C7-M "Esther" CPU, or -- even more likely --with one of Intel's elegant new Atom (nee

    "Silverthorne") ultraportable processors. But that wouldhave missed school districts' budgeting and buying forthis September.

    Size, Price, and StyleSo should you buy an HP Mini now, or wait for a proba-bly improved version? That depends. The Eee still hasits picture in the dictionary under cute, but the 2133should be listed under style or glamour. You won't seea more chic handheld this year.

    Against that, when Asus unveiled the Eee at $400, the

    conventional notebooks available at that price wereeasy to shun -- or to rationalize, "Yes, I know I couldhave more screen, keyboard, speed, and storage, butI'll trade that for the convenience and portability of theEee." Today, the fully loaded HP faces some prettydarn nice conventional notebooks available at $750.

    But show us a configuration with a faster CPU,Windows XP instead of Vista, broadband wireless, andeven a smaller (80GB?) hard disk if necessary to stayunder $600, and we are so there. I

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    For mobile pros, skimping on a laptop purchase could

    certainly prove penny wise and pound-foolish. Budgetnotebook PCs are fine if you only occasionally tote the

    machine in a padded bag, but they lack the durable con-struction and security features offered by a higher-endmodel aimed at road warriors. That could spell disaster ifyour machine takes a hit or takes a walk when youretraveling.

    So if you spend most of the time out of theoffice, you need a notebook like the HPEliteBook 6930p. This business-ruggedmachine has features to keep its components

    safe from knocks, as well as hardware andsoftware security measures to keep your datasecure.

    Sleek, HandsomeDesignThe first thing youll notice about theEliteBook 6930p is its anodized aluminum skin.The brushed metal looks tasteful, gives the 4.7-poundmachine a solid feel, and it conveys a professional, pol-ished air to clients. Vanity aside, the aluminum cladding

    also protects the notebooks 14.1-inch screen betterthan the typical plastic lid. The aqua LEDs used spar-ingly around the unit add to the machines modern feel.

    For added strength, HP employs lightweight magne-sium alloy for the chassis, which makes the notebookless prone to bending and thus better protects interiorcomponents. The hard drive's accelerometer senses ifthe machine falls or bounces (as during turbulence on aflight) and parks the hard drive heads. This keeps the

    heads from impacting the drive surface, avoiding

    potential data loss.

    Add in a spill-resistant keyboard that can help themachine withstand a few ounces of errant liquid, andyou have a machine that is as tough as it is handsome.In fact, HP notes that the EliteBook 6930p meets

    Military Standard 810F for drops from 30 inches,vibration, dust, high and low tem-perature and humidity.

    Peace of MindThe EliteBook 6930p also has thelatest security features to keep yourdata safe. You can set the machineso that it requires a password, aswipe of your fingerprint, or bothbefore it will boot or resume toWindows. You can also use the

    included Privacy Manager utility toautomatically encrypt e-mail and instant

    messages.

    HP has also included its File Sanitizer applet to let yoube sure that deleted files are truly and completely

    deleted. When you delete a file in Windows, its nameis removed from the hard drive directory and its spaceis made available for new files. But until a new file isactually written in that spaceand with todays largehard drives, that could be a while the deleted filecontinues to reside on the hard drive and can be recov-ered. File Sanitizer overwrites a deleted file up to seventimes with random data, permanently expunging thefile.

    20 Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers, An Internet.com Personal Technology eBook. 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.

    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]

    HP EliteBook 6930p: Keep YourData and Hardware Secure

    By Jamie Bsales

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    Helpful SoftwareBeyond the security utilities, HP has included otherthoughtful software that makes your life a little easier,especially if you dont have a dedicated IT department.Press the i icon above the keyboard to launch the HPInfo Center. Here youll find links to a host of usefulapplets, including the

    HP Connection Manager and HP Wireless Assistantfor easily setting up network connections HP ProtectTools Security Manager to help you setbackup and recovery options, fingerprint authentica-tion, data encryption, passwords and more Presto BizCard electronic Rolodex

    Another button above the keyboard launches thePresentation Settings utility to help you quickly set themachine for use with a projector or other external dis-play. In addition to the components that come with thecomputers Windows Vista Business operating system(you can also opt for Windows XP), HP includes

    Roxio Creator Business for creating CDs and DVDs InterVideo WinDVD for plying DVDs PDF Complete for creating documents in that for-mat

    A Pleasure to UseIn our hands-on evaluation, the EliteBook 6930pproved a pleasure to use. Its full-size keyboard has acrisp feel ideal for long bouts of typing, and HP hasincluded both a pointing stick nestled in the keyboardand a touchpad below. Because of the two sets ofmouse buttons, the touchpad is a tad smaller thanusual on a machine this size, but its still usable. Abovethe keyboard youll find a touch-sensitive strip for con-trolling the volume for the notebook's stereo speakers.

    The EliteBook 6930p uses a 14.1-inch widescreen LCD,and the high-resolution (1440 x 900 pixels) panel isbright and exceedingly crisp. You can even read tinyon-screen text, although the high resolution meansdefault text sizes on some Web sites and in Windowsmenus (like the All Programs list) can be pretty small.The LCD delivered vibrant colors in Windows apps, aswell as good motion reproduction for video.

    Above the screen youll find an integrated Webcam,ideal for video chat, video e-mail and videoconferenc-

    ing applications. HPs easy-to-use utility lets you set thecameras resolution to eight different levels rangingfrom 160 x 120 (good for grabbing a tiny snapshot of

    yourself to append to your e-mail signature line) all theway up to 1600 x 1200 (for taking a photo as good as a2-megapixel camera might). At the default 640 x 480resolution, the camera showed good color accuracy,though lots of motion resulted in lots of blur. Icons atthe bottom of the utility let you take a still picture, cap-ture video or capture audio only.

    Choose Your HardwareThe EliteBook 6930p has all the requisite ports andconnectors, including three USB ports, a memory cardreader, a FireWire connector, LAN and modem jacks

    and an ExpressCard/54 slot. It includes 802.11a/b/g/nWi-Fi, and the platform supports the addition of anintegrated wireless broadband module to let you con-nect to the leading high-speed 3G cellular data net-works.

    Starting at $1,199, the base configuration includes anIntel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor (running at 2.26-GHz), 2GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Mobile IntelGMA 4500MHD graphics chip and a multi-format DVDburner. Those components have more than enoughpower to run even demanding business applications

    without breaking a sweat. If you need even morespeed, the top EliteBook 6930p configuration comeswith a 2.4GHz processor and dedicated ATI MobilityRadeon HD 3450 graphics.

    HP backs the EliteBook 6930p with a generous three-year warranty on parts and labor and toll-free 24/7 techsupport. That alone goes a long way to making the fewhundred extra dollars youll spend on an EliteBookworth it compared to a budget laptop. Figure in thepowerful components, extra security and durability fea-tures plus the great looks, and the machine begs to be

    on your short list. I

    Holiday Guide to Laptop Computers[ ]