Notebook Holiday 2009 Buyer’s Guide: Ultraportables

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Ultraportable notebooks, as the name would suggest, are those which are small enough to easily fit inside your backpack alongside books and paper yet lightweight enough 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.

The ultraportable category underwent significant changes in 2009 thanks to the arrival of Intel’s CULV processors. These “consumer ultra-low voltage” processors are designed to require only a fraction of the power needed by traditional mobile processors … meaning better battery life. Intel’s previous generation of ultra-low voltage processors carried a steep price premium compared to standard laptop CPUs, but these “consumer-grade” ultra-low voltage processors cost significantly less. The CULV-equipped laptops give you better performance than a netbook but less performance than a typical mainstream notebook.

A key advantage of most notebooks in the ultraportable or “thin and light” 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 $600

MSI Wind U210


The 12-inch MSI Wind U210 walks the fine line between netbook and full-featured ultraportable. Think of it as a netbook for people who don’t want a small screen, small keyboard, or slow Intel Atom processor. Powered by the AMD NV-40 Athlon Neo processor and ATI X1270 integrated graphics, it is very similar to the HP Pavilion dv2 … just smaller and lighter. With only 4 hours of estimated battery life, it might not give you all-day computing, but 4 hours is enough for many people.

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$600-$900

Lenovo IdeaPad U350


The thin and light Lenovo IdeaPad U350 features the Intel CULV platform, which includes processors ranging from the single-core Intel SU2700 to the dual-core Intel SU7300. Pre-built configurations offer up to 4GB DDR3 system memory, a 13.3 inch HD display, and either a 4-cell or 8-cell lithium ion battery. With its solid build quality and excellent keyboard, the Lenovo IdeaPad U350 is a perfect travel companion offering excellent battery life.

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ASUS UL30


The ASUS UL30 series is a thin and lightweight 13.3″ notebook powered by the Intel Core 2 Duo CULV processor. Aiming to compete against the Acer Timeline series, this model boasts an impressive 12 hours of runtime for true all-day computing. Offering a brushed aluminum lid and sturdy construction, it is designed to look great, but keep looking good day after day. Overall, if you are looking for a super slim and lightweight 13.3″ notebook with great battery life, the ASUS UL30A is well worth checking out.

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Toshiba Satellite T135


The 13-inch Toshiba Satellite T135 is an Intel CULV-powered ultraportable boasting long battery life, a thin chassis, and a very low weight. Powered by the 1.3GHz SU4100 and Intel X4500 integrated graphics this notebook is a big step above netbooks but still offers many similar features that are attractive to people who don’t want to lug around a full-size notebook.

The Toshiba Satellite T135 performed well in our tests, being very lightweight and portable while still providing excellent battery life (more than 8 hours). Priced just above $700 retail, this notebook provides plenty of value for users looking for something a step above a netbook without the added bulk of a full-size laptop.

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More than $1,000

HP EliteBook 2530p


If you’re a corporate road warrior or a student trying to fit as much computer as possible in the smallest space possible, the HP EliteBook 2530p might be the perfect notebook for you. This 12.1″ notebook won an Editor’s Choice Award in 2008 and features Intel low voltage processors and integrated graphics for extreme battery life, and plenty of ports and storage options inside an impressively durable shell.

Unlike most ultraportables, the EliteBook 2530p doesn’t sacrifice an optical drive, ports, or the touchpad in order to create a compact-yet-durable notebook. While the 2530p is technically a business notebook, its compact size and use of low voltage processors makes it a worthwhile addition to our ultraportable guide. Bottom line, if you’re looking for a business-grade 12-inch notebook then the HP EliteBook 2530p belongs at the top of your list.

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Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include every ultraportable notebook currently available on the market. This section of our buyer’s guide merely highlights some of the ultraportables we’ve reviewed that our editors think deserve your attention. Be sure to take a look at the other reviews published on NotebookReview.com.

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