2008 Notebook Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Ultraportables

by Reads (13,436)

Netbooks | ULTRAPORTABLES | General Use/Mainstream | Gaming and Multimedia | Business

Ultraportable notebooks, as the name would suggest, are those which are small enough to easily fit inside your backpack alongside books and paper and lightweight to not throw out your back. This category includes full-featured notebooks with screens that are smaller than 14″, right up to where the “general use” or “mainstream” notebook category would start. A key advantage of most notebooks in this category is the extraordinarily long battery life that many of these computers have, some coming close to breaking 10 hours. These computers are perfect for carrying into a classroom, fitting on a small desk surface, and above all not having to worry about sitting near a power outlet.

Less Than $900

Dell Inspiron 13


The all new Dell Insprion 13 (1318) follows the design direction of the new Studio series, as well as the XPS M1330 and XPS M1530. This sleek looking notebook offers a slot-loading optical drive, and is available at both the Dell website as well as Wal-Mart and Walmart.com. With a starting price of less than $700, this notebook is destined to be quite popular with students and average consumers looking for something more portable than a 15-inch laptop.
If you’re looking for a basic mobile companion with good looks and a low price tag then this is probably the right notebook for you.

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HP Pavilion tx2500z


The tx2500z is the update to the popular tx1000 and tx2000 series convertible notebooks. The term “convertible” means these notebooks have rotating screens that allow you to use the notebook as a “tablet” and write notes directly on the screen.
This tablet features an AMD Turion 64 X2 Ultra Dual-Core Mobile Technology Processor, up to 4GB DDR2 System Memory, ATI Mobile Radeon HD 3200 Graphics, and a 12.1″ WXGA High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Touch-screen Display – Panel rotates 180° and folds flat.

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$900-$1,200

Toshiba Satellite U405


This 13.3″ Toshiba Satellite notebook is sure to turn some heads with its highly reflective (and durable) Fusion finish. With its great screen, keyboard, touchpad, and winning performance there is little to complain about with this notebook. We felt it was worthy of an Editor’s Choice award in April 2008 and hated to see it leave our office. With close to 4 hours of battery life on the standard 6 cell battery, and an optional 9 cell battery available, this notebook is great for taking notes in the classroom or killing time between classes. With configurations starting as low as $815, it is priced to fit inside most budgets.

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Dell XPS M1330


The Dell XPS M1330 is an attractive 13.3″ notebook that comes in multiple stylish colors and brushed aluminum trim around a device worthy of being on display in an art museum. Options include a slot loaded DVD burner, dedicated graphics with HDMI output, and even cellular broadband for internet connectivity anywhere you might venture. With a NotebookReview Editor’s Choice award in July 2007, you can be confident that this notebook is a great choice if you decided to go with it. Prices start at $999 and go up from there depending on configuration.

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More Than $1,200

Sony VAIO TZ


The 11.1″ Sony TZ ultraportable is just slightly below 12″ limit for this category, but sticking it with the netbooks would be akin to grouping a Porsche with a Prius. This notebook combines extreme small size and power saving components to give users all day performance from a device that can almost fit in a cargo pocket. Offering a carbon fiber lid and super bright LED backlit display this ultraportable will stun onlookers, and perhaps even your wallet with a starting price of $1,899. For those who can afford this awesome piece of equipment, know that it comes highly recommended, winning our Editor’s Choice award in September 2007.

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The Lenovo IdeaPad U110 is one of the newest additions to the IdeaPad family and has recently been garnering a lot of attention. Lenovo might be famous for the ThinkPad line of notebooks, but most average consumers don’t find the traditional styling of the ThinkPad line to be very attractive.
Overall, the 11-inch IdeaPad U110 is a nice notebook with an amazingly stylish design and reasonable performance in a small footprint. The pricing on the U110 starts at around $1,899. Needless to say, this isn’t something the average consumer will be dropping their money on in place of an $800 Dell. Still, if having a stylish, compact notebook is important for you then the U110 makes an attractive choice.

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Apple MacBook


A notebook guide would not be complete with at least mentioning the 13.3″ Apple Macbook. Offering compatibility with OSX as well as Windows XP and Vista, it can be an invaluable asset to a student who might need to run software across many platforms.

The lack of ports and overly glossy screen make the MacBook a less than compelling option for students and road warriors. On the other hand, if you specifically need a “Mac” the new MacBook is an excellent value. Bottom line, if you need a Mac laptop for less than $1,500 then the new MacBook makes a good choice.

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ASUS U2E


The Asus U2E incorporates an 11-inch display with LED backlighting, ultra low voltage Core 2 Duo processor, thin built-in optical drive, a light-weight chassis with hand-polished stainless steel frame … and let’s not forget about the black premium leather.
The Asus U2E is one of the most impressive luxury business notebooks we’ve ever seen. Granted, the $2,000 price tag is more than most consumers are likely to consider … but this isn’t an ordinary laptop. If you’re in the market for a stylish, ultraportable laptop that makes a serious statement then the U2E might just be your perfect match.

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Keep in mind this list doesn’t represent every great notebook currently on the market. Our holiday buyer’s guide is designed to highlight a few laptops we believe appeal to a wide range of people.
Remember, to get advice on which notebook to buy don’t just go with what’s popular, visit our What Notebook Should I Buy forum to ask what everyone else thinks you should buy based on your needs.

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