January 25, 2008

Battle of the Ultraportalbe Laptops

Being a “mobile” fanatic, I am always on the lookout for cool portable laptops (albeit I have never actually bought one, and have always said I would). However, I have strictest requirements for my ultraportable standards. It has to 1). look good, 2). have good power (ULV processors just don’t cut the cheese), and 3). Must be under 4lbs.

Based on all the contenders out there, I have three ultraportable laptops on my radar. All three of these machines must have the basic requirements for me:
1. Extremely lightweight, beautifully designed, with razor thin LED-based LCD screen that is also very energy efficient.
2. Real Intel Core2Duo processors
3. Offers solid state drives to save even more battery juice.
4. Built-in Webcam and Mic

Please find my quick comparison below to help you choose the best one for you.

1. MacBook Air - $1,799 (1.6GHz, 80GB HDD) or $3,098 (1.8GHz, 64GB SSD)
Pros: Thinnest laptop ever!
Pros: Georgous design
Pros: Runs OS X and Windows via Bootcamp (its like having 2 machines in one)
Pros: Did I mention it being absolutely goregous?
Pros: Weights in at 3lbs. Lightest 13.3” ultraportable on the market today.
Cons: Weakest CPU of the three. 1.6 and 1.8 is a bit weak
Cons: Weak HDD options (80GB HDD and 64GB SSD)
Cons: Integrated everything: Battery is non-removable (atleast not easily by user), integrated RAM (2GB max), 1.8” HDD (very expensive to upgrade)
Cons: Lack of expansion options (no SD/Memory Card reader), USB drive is known to be too narrow to allow 3G modems to be connected (via Engadget), lack of ethernet
Cons: Lack of a CD/DVD drive built in. So the weight savings is kind of cheated.
Cons: Priced at $1800 and $3100

Bottom line: This newest laptop to date is a statement for the ultra-cool guys or gals (or atleast you can pretend to be).

2. Sony SZ-791 $2,499 ($200 Price Drop already... Did MacBook Air caused it?) Winter 2008 Model
Pros: This beast has the 2.5GHz CPU with 6MB of L2 Cache (that is faster than my MacBook Pro w/ 2.4GHz and 4MB L2 Cache which was the fastest out there). This could be the first laptop to finally able to man-handle Windows Vista.
Pros: Simple minimalist design using carbon fiber with a good business look to it
Pros: Sony always managed to squeeze in so much technology to their design
Cons: Sony’s insane amount of bloat ware
Cons: Priced at $2700

Bottom line: The most powerful laptop on the market today comes with a hefty price tag. I’d take this over MacBook Air, however!

3. Dell XPS M1330 - Price Starting $999 (Well-Equipped at $1,600)
Pros: Sleek design, slot loading DVD drive, very thin and light weight
Pros: Great entry price, starting at $999. Well equipped at around $1600
Pros: Decent CPU power. Up to Core2Duo 2.2GHz
Cons: Must buy 6 cell battery adds more weights (approx 4.5lb) if you upgrade video card.
Cons: Dell quality can be questionable, especially from first batch users
Cons: No option for blue-ray or HD DVD drive

Bottom line: While the best CPU it offers is no longer king of the hill, I would consider this to be the best value/performance/design in this class. I’d take this one if I hadn’t already bought a MB Pro. It would not surprise me to see Dell up the CPU to 2.5/2.6GHz in the next month or two. Winner!

Noteworthy :
Asus EeePC – is a $300-$400 range ultra-compact machine. Running on Linux on a 7” screen with built-in Webcam and Mic, making this the cheapest ultraportable solution bar none. If your objective is just to use a machine to surf the web and check emails on the go and would like to stay below 2.8lbs., this would be it. Again, for its price, it easily blows the Sony UX and Samsung UMPC’s out the water.

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