The notebooks included in these charts cover a wide range of prices and specifications. Low end machines starting at under £500 offer moderate specifications but generally are quite bulky and have quite basic 3D graphics capabilities. Further up the price range buyers are presented with a choice of power and portability. Lighter machines are more expensive but usually compromise on processor speed, whereas more powerful processors tend to result in heavier systems.
Once hailed as the next big thing in portable computing, tablet PCs are still struggling to find a place in the market, with many major manufacturers writing them off completely. A few manufacturers still sell a handful of tablet models, and those are listed here, but the number of devices is dwindling and it seems unlikely that more will be launched onto the market in the near future.
Dell Inspiron 1000
Dell’s entry level model provides a good base specification at a very low price. The machine should be perfectly capable of handling routine tasks such as word processing, web and email access and so on without any problems. The battery life is not very long, but other than this the machine offers good value.
Dell Inspiron 1150
A slightly more powerful specification than the Inspiron 1000, providing low cost access to the Pentium 4 processor. The machine also offers significantly improved battery life over its cheaper sibling. Although it offers a good overall specification the machine’s weak spot is its low end graphics capabilities which will not be able to handle any particularly taxing 3D graphical applications.
NEC I-Select M3210
One of the few machines based on AMDs Mobile Athlon XP processor, which means that it should deliver relatively strong performance at a low price. The machine comes with a 15 inch screen as standard and while the 2.5 hour battery life is not brilliant, it should be serviceable for most people’s needs.
Toshiba Satellite Pro A60
An entry level device from one time market leader Toshiba. Although it is based on a Celeron processor the overall specifications is quite respectable and this machine should make a perfectly usable workhorse. The memory can be expanded to a maximum of 2Gb, which is impressive by any standards.
Acer Travelmate 2301LCI/WLMI
A fairly low power processor and short battery life put this device in the shade compared to some of its competitors. However, whereas most other machines in this price bracket provide wireless LAN as an optional extra, this model includes the technology as standard.
Dell Latitude 100L
A run of the mill entry level work-horse from Dell, offering Pentium 4 or Celeron processors running at a choice of speeds. 2.6Ghz and 2.4Ghz Celerons are available and since there will be practically no difference in their overall performance it may be as well to choose the cheaper option. The Pentium 4 variety will offer noticeably better performance for those who wish to spend a little extra.
Dell Inspiron 5160
Sporting a Pentium 4 processor of up to 3.2Ghz, a maximum memory capacity of 2Gb, a 15 inch screen and a hard drive of up to 80Gb, the Inspiron 5160 is a lot of computer for the price. It also offers very respectable battery life of up to 4 hours and built in wireless LAN as standard. The 3D graphics subsystem is not exactly cutting edge, but is nevertheless superior to many machines in this price range.
Toshiba Tecra A2
Toshiba’s Tecra A2 offers a reasonable all round specification and manages to keep its weight down to a relatively light 2.6kg. This is achieved by using a choice of processors with low clockspeed which require less cooling hardware than their faster counterparts. While this means that performance might not be quite as zippy as machines with more powerful chips, the overall speed difference should not be particularly noticeable when running ordinary office applications.
Available with either a Celeron or Pentium processor, users can expect to pay an extra £100 for the Pentium version and should notice a significant performance increase over the Celeron. Battery life appears strong, and the ATI chipset with integrated graphics should deliver above average 3D performance.
IBM ThinkPad R50E
Massively popular with corporate users, IBM’s ThinkPads are amongst the most technically impressive laptops on the market. The R50E offers a choice of processors, screen sizes and hard drive capacities. The machine ships with a copy of Microsoft Office small business edition.
Acer Travelmate 2701LC
The TravelMate 2701LC is based on a fast Pentium 4 processor and cores bonus points for offering a base memory of 512Mb rather than the more usual 256Mb, but the lack of built in wireless LAN is a small flaw. Also, the one hour battery life is very unimpressive.
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pro V7010
With a choice of Celeron or Pentium 4 processors and hard drive capacities between 40Gb and 80Gb the V7010 offers buyers a fair selection of specifications. The machines also includes a three in one memory card reader and comes with the earlier, 802.11b, implementation of wireless LAN.
NEC I Select M4610
The M4610 provides a good mid-level specification based on the Pentium M processor and in addition to this it should deliver respectable 3D performance thanks to the Radeon 9600 chip and 64Mb of dedicated graphics memory. This, combined with the wide format screen, should make the machine popular with consumers as well as business users.
NEC Versa M340
A more business focused machine than the I-Select models from NEC. This is reflected in the lack of 3D graphics, conventional format screen and choice of a lower capacity 20Gb hard drive. The machine’s weight is reasonable for a mid range machine and the battery live of over 5 hours is very respectable.
HP Compaq NX9105
Based on AMD’s Athlon 64 processor this machine is one of the few laptops to offer 64-bit computing capabilities, making it very much a model for users with specialist requirements. A choice of conventional or widescreen formats are available and the nVidia GeForce graphics processor should provide better than average 3D performance.
Dell Latitude D505
The Latitude D505 offers users a choice of 30, 40 or 60Gb hard drives with the option of adding an additional 40Gb drive for users who need extra storage. The base weight of 2.17kg is fairly light for a machine of this class, although not quite in the ultra-portable category.
RM NBook UltraLight
Research Machines specialise in supplying computers to educational and government organisations. The UltraLight weighs just 1.5Kg yet manages to cram in a fairly punchy specification based on either a Celeron or Pentium M processor. However, the 12.1 inch screen is somewhat small compared to the standard 14 inch devices.
Sony Vaio PCG-K315B/S/Z
This model features a 15.4 inch wide format screen and uses ATI’s Radeon graphics chipset to provide a reasonable level of 3D graphics performance. Wireless LAN is not featured as standard but comes as an optional extra on the Z model.
Acer TravelMate 2702WLMI
A high performance device based on a 3.0Ghz Pentium 4 and 512Mb of memory as standard. The device also features a 15.4 inch wide format screen and built in wireless LAN. The battery life of just one hour is quite disappointing, but this is the consequence of using a high speed processor.
Acer TravelMate 4501LCI/WLMI
Using the Penitum M Centrino system this Acer device is able to deliver considerably better battery life of 5 hours. The Radeon 9700 graphics processor provides the highest standard of 3D graphics quality currently available in the notebook form factor, and the WLMi variant with its wide format screen should, therefore, prove ideal for home as well as business use.
Dell Inspiron 9100
A high performance machine based on a choice of fast Pentium 4 processors and hard drives of between 40 and 100Gb. The system has a wide format screen and top quality Radeon 9700 graphics processor along with built in wireless LAN capability. A high specification, which is reflected in the machine’s chunky 4Kg weight.
HP Compaq NX9110
Based on the mobile Pentium 4 and a choice of 30, 40 or 60Gb hard drives this machine has a 1200 by 800 wide format screen and a powerful graphics subsystem with 128Mb of dedicated graphics memory.