The World of Small and Not-So-Small Laptops

Carl Weinschenk

It's always fun to parachute into a topic and chuckle snidely at the hyper competition among people in the field. We had that uncharitable reaction while reading this InfoWorld story, which looks at the new Toshiba's Protege R500 (the U.S. model of the Dynabook SS RX1).


One configuration of the Protege weighs in at 768 grams (1.7 pounds), which is more than 100 grams lighter than the Sony Vaio G that was released late last year. A quick visit to ever-popular revealed that 100 grams is about 3.5 ounces. Folks who find that difference compelling should cancel their business trip, pick up a protein shake, and head to the gym.


Snarky comments aside, a lot of interesting things are going on in the ultralight laptop sector. Until relatively recently, of course, laptops were the only mobile computing game in town. Now, they must fight for customers against smartphones, PDAs and ultra mobile and tablet PCs. The vendors in the sector are picking up design tricks from the cellular industry, judging from this BusinessWeek story.


People tend to lump laptops together. Actually, there are two very distinct types. One, which includes the devices mentioned in the InfoWorld and BusinessWeek stories, is aimed at folks who truly are on the go. The most interesting element in the InfoWorld article is a description of the tricks that manufacturers use to make devices truly portable and user-friendly. For instance, the Protege R500 is designed to protect the screen if it is dropped, and the casing is thicker in areas on which it is likely to land.


The other type of laptop is desktop replacements. These are aimed at folks who travel sporadically. Somebody who spends part of each week in a home office and part at the corporate facility, but travels infrequently otherwise, may opt for a more robust desktop replacement instead of going to the trouble of making sure two desktops are synched. This week, Panasonic introduced the Toughbook 52, which the company says features Intel's Santa Rose chipset and is 3G-ready. For its part, HP released the 8710p, a desktop replacement, in mid-May.

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