Ultra-portable Notebook Computer Recommendation?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Commuter, Sep 8, 2007.

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  1. Commuter

    Commuter Active Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    I know this isn't directly travel-related (I hope I'm not breaking any rule here), but I thought I'd post here to ask your opinion because a lot of you seem to be rather well-informed about just about everything there is that has a slight connection to travelling.

    I'm here, there and everywhere and also due to hand luggage restrictions, I'm looking for an ultra-portable notebook computer. I would like the weight to be under 1.6kg, although the lighter the better. I would also like a relatively long battery life (although not essential), and at least a 12" screen (I do like the weight and design of Sony Vaio with 11.1" screen ones, but they do feel a bit too small for working on some of the things I do).

    Does anyone have any recommendation please?

    I have been thinking about Toshiba Portege R500, but one of the reviews that I read said that the lid was quite flimsy, which worries me somewhat.

    Any help would be gratefully received.

  2. Mal

    Mal Enthusiast

    Dec 25, 2004
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    #2 Mal, Sep 8, 2007
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2007
    I've had a little look around myself for something similar recently.

    A few things you should keep in mind when looking:

    • Decide whether you want a small form 'tablet' or a small form laptop. Both have their advantages.
    • Some extra small laptop's don't include a CD-ROM/DVD in the laptop - it's included in the "docking station" not the laptop.
    • Watch the screen resolution. A lot of small laptop screens can't handle good resolutions.
    • Some manufacturer's skimp on the CPU in ultra-portables due to heat/weight concerns.
    • The Ultra-portables are often pretty expensive compared to normal laptops.
  3. Commuter

    Commuter Active Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Thanks for your reply, Mal.

    I've decided against tablet - I just want a normal laptop.

    I would prefer a built-in CD/DVD drive, although not essential.

    13.3" is preferable to 12.1" but 12.1" wide screen would be quite OK, especially in consideration of weight.

    Ultra low voltage Core Duo CPUs (e.g. U7600) do seem to be slower, but I would have thought it would still be faster than the Pentium M 1.6 that I'm using at the moment - could someone please confirm?
  4. Matthew Bawden

    Matthew Bawden Junior Member

    Jun 28, 2007

    Have you had a look at the Apple Macbooks? 2Ghz Intel core duo processor, 1 Gb of ram, Combo drive which can be upgraded to DVD burner, wireless, bluetooth, 80Gb hard drive and 13 inches in size.

    Personally I use the Macbook pro which is a bit bigger and has a few different features but it all depends on what you are going to use the laptop for.

  5. Evan

    Evan Established Member

    Dec 26, 2006
    SIN / MEL
    I am somewhat annoyed the macbook in 13.3" not longer has a pro model, i find the current unit rather heavy, but may be more perception rather than fact.

    Sony impressed me but expensive (especially since i get a good discount usually from IBM / HP)
    IBM X61 is a nice unit, we use them for work, my personal light notebook is a little old now a HP NC4000 but have always liked them.

    For what i can buy the IBM X61s models for that would be my current choice.

    Of course i am experimenting with my Nokia N800 internet tablet with some mods like VNC and xterms as a possible alternative to a notebook at all.
    All other UMPC sized machines to me seem too expensive.

  6. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    I agree. The Macbooks are heavy relative to a comparable Windows based system of similar dimensions.

    I would highly recommend the Macbooks though. With Bootcamp, you can install a Windows partition, and have a dual-boot system.
  7. opusman

    opusman Senior Member

    Jun 27, 2006
  8. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
    There are new macbooks coming which are thinner I think.

    However I am sat here with a Dell Latitude D410 at the moment. The CD drive is external - but I hardly use that anyway. It is incredibly light with a 12in screen and good enough for what I do. Battery life is pretty good - I usually can get a couple of hours of watching TV/movies that are running off the HDD.

    The European CFO has a widescreen version of this which is newer and even lighter - sorry no model number at the moment.

  9. spiggy_topes

    spiggy_topes Member

    Nov 9, 2006
    Sunshine Coast
    I've been using a Samsung Q30 for the last two years. It weighs about 1.3 Kg and is ideal for frequent travel - weight is hardly noticeable, which makes a huge difference when walking around airports. Screen is about 12 inches, but you hardly notice after a while, the keyboard is good and it has built-in wireless. So far it's been on about 8 RTW trips without any problems (the one time something broke was when it fell off my desk at home).

    Plus the top is metallic red, which always creates a stir at meetings; it sounds silly but having a 'sexy' laptop can help make an impression on some kinds of customer; rather like turning up in a Porsche.

    If you're doing a lot of travel, go for low weight above all else; your arms will thank you for it.

    Another alternative is the Dana from Alphasmart. This is more like a PDA with a full-size keyboard. You just turn it on and it's ready for word processing, and it goes for about a month on a single charge. Doesn't run Windows apps but is ideal for note taking.
  10. Dave Noble

    Dave Noble Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2005
    Whichever you decide on, I would suggest looking around on where to buy it. I just purchased a new Thinkpad T61; purchasing in Australia, the spec I got would have cost $3500 though purchasing in the USA , I got it for USD1380 ( AU$1688 ) . Quite a decent saving.

    The Thinkpad X61 is quite a light laptop at 1.68Kg; the AU top end model costs $3699; the same specification model from US is USD1269 plus around $70 in tax approx USD1339 ($1633) . You would need to have somewhere to get it delivered to in the US though.

  11. Commuter

    Commuter Active Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Thanks very much for your input everyone.

    MacBook - quite fancy it and I looked at it yesterday in fact, but it's quite a bit heavier than I was hoping for.

    Dell Latitude D410 looked promising, until I looked into the hard drive. Otherwise it seemed good but unless PATA can be replaced by SATA (I'm guessing not), 4200rpm drive would be a bit of an issue for me. If it can be replaced by SATA, then I'd buy a 7200 rpm SATA drive and it seems to become a near-perfect machine for my purpose. Does anyone know if a SATA drive can somehow be connected to this PATA thing?

    X61s - I like most things about it, except for the 'red thing in the middle'. I am not good with those (I'm rather uncoordinated and find it fiddly).

    Spiggy_topes, is Samsung still making notebooks (or selling them in Australia)? I tried to look it up, but I couldn't find it on their website.

    Dave, thank you for the pointer. I'll try and see if I can source one from the US when I finally decide what I'm getting.

    Please keep your suggestions coming...

    Has anyone got a Toshiba R500 and how are you finding the lid?
  12. futaris

    futaris Established Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    You might want to look at the Latitude D420 and D430.

    I have a D820 which uses a 7200rpm SATA drive. D410 is PATA only I think.

    You'll probably find that it's cheaper in the USA...
  13. Dave Noble

    Dave Noble Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2005
    D430 in Australia is $2595 whilst in the US it is USD1249 ( approx $1512 ) so quite a large saving

  14. littl_flier

    littl_flier Active Member

    May 1, 2007
    We use the IBM's at work and our current model being rolled out is the T61 (not X61). I've had mine 18 months (T43) and are due for replacement in November. The whole IBM range seem to be incredibly durable- I've dropped mine several times now and nothing has happened. They don't tend to like or water or red wine but that figures. If you use it every day and consistently work off site, then these are a great computer. I have a DVD writer built in and its quite small, although probably a little heavy for what you're after.

    As for the red nipple, I hated this to start with but now find it incredibly hard to use my sisters Toshiba without the nipple. I have my mouse set to ultra-sensitive and find the nipple incredibly easy to use.
  15. drron

    drron Enthusiast

    Jul 4, 2002
    Sunshine Coast
    If you are going to the states i think Dave noble has good advice for you.i went for the sony vaio and got a model that here with 1 gig memory was close to $3300 but in NYC got the same specs with 2 gig memory for $2150.Best yet did it through AA shopping and earnt AA miles.however Sony US is another that wont accept Aussie credit cards on line so had to go into their Manhattan store and get a gift certificate for the correct amount(in store they accept Aussie cards)then bought on line.I also have a US address for delivery so much easier for me.
  16. ioki

    ioki Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    dell oz has introduced a 13' notebook, XPS M1330 and priced to start from AUD $1500
  17. jasonja3

    jasonja3 Member

    Sep 12, 2005
    Mate, try and use one for a few days, and you will find it is much better then touch pads etc. You will never go back!!

    I have had an IBM X41 (ultra light model) for two or three years now and it has been a faultless workhorse. Strong recommendation for the IBM from me.
  18. Mr_Gimlet

    Mr_Gimlet Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I have a Dell D420 (now replaced by the 430) and am very happy with it. My wife has an XPS1210, bit thicker and heavier, but performance wise it's a powerhouse.
  19. Dave Noble

    Dave Noble Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2005

    I do like the IBM Trackpoint and also find it a hell of a lot easier than using a touchpad ( I have disabled the trackpoint on my current T60 .... when the T61 arrives in the next week or so , I will be disabling it on that too :) )

    T Series , if going for that rather than X, there is both the trackpoint plus touchpad available ( in the US, the trackpoint is optional ) . The fingerprint authentication I also find really good

    Prior to the T60 I had a T42 and have had no problems with them and found them v resiliant

    What I would avoid is Dell

  20. NM


    Aug 27, 2004
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    I agree completely. I have used Thinkpad Trackpoint for many years. Last year I was using a Dell D820 for about 6 months and could not use its inferior trackpoint at all and had to resort to a USB mouse. Now I am back to Thinkpad (T60) and have not connect the external mouse at all and have disabled the touchpad.
    I have had T21, T41 and now T60 and love my Thinkpads. Mrs NM now has my Dell and I too would avoid unless you just cannot afford the Thinkpad. My D820 has been mostly reliable. I had a minor hardware issue (the Infra-red port failed) and Dell service was fantastic (way better than IBM) and sent a tech out to my home the following day and replaced the mother board. But I still believe the thinkpad is the best made laptop on the market.

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