Laptops: one size doesn’t fit all


GiantlaptopJust a conversation starter here because this is one of those topics where the only right answer is the one that’s right for you. Still, I think it’s worth some discussion because we’re witnessing a trend towards smaller and lighter (and cheaper!) notebooks. Of course, that brings other compromises into play as well. For example, the smaller and lighter a notebook is, it generally follows that the battery tends to offer less power. At least until we have batteries that run forever and take up the size of a pin-head. We compensate for that by configuring notebooks with CPUs and other components that are more energy efficient as a result. And so on… it’s all about compromises with mobile tech, right?

(image: Crave)

So in terms of size, display and weight, what’s optimal for you in anotebook? I have a fairly powerful MacBook Pro that unfortunatelydoesn’t leave my desk much. Why not? With the 15-inch display and aweight of over 5.5-pounds, I just don’t like to tote it. So Icompromise with a device that offers less horsepower, but handles 90%of the same tasks. Currently, that device is the MSI Wind with the10.2-inch screen and weight just under 3-pounds. But maybe that’s toosmall. Sometimes I wish that 1024×600 screen resolution were just a tadhigher.

I’m thinking that for me, a 10-inch display with a higher res mightdo the trick. A 12-inch display might be the sweet spot and I had thatin 2004 with my Toshiba M205 Tablet PC. Maybe that’s why the new Toshiba Portege A600jumped out at me earlier this week. It has a 12-inch display, but theoverall device weight is 3.2-pounds and the price starts at under $1,400. Of course you have to factor inthe svelte machines like the Lenovo X301 I’m looking at too. It offersthe low weight advantage plus a nice screen size and resolution, butthe footprint itself is still that of a bigger machine.

I suppose I’m too fussy because like everyone else, I want it alland I want it for few dollars. What are your thoughts, i.e.: what doyou look for in terms of size, weight, footprint, screen size andresolution? If you change one of these factors more to your liking, youtend to suffer in another area. What fits you best?



Hi guys, see my post above about the Advent 4213. Come across an advert today for the Toshiba Portege R400 Tablet PC With 3G for £528 which I guess is around $900-1,000.

Can anyone give me an objective view on this machine. This is a third of the RRP and seems too good to be true AND you get a free Toshiba Camileo H10 HD camcorder (on cashback) from Toshiba.

12.1″ with 2GB 3G and 3.8lbs etc seems a fantastic price – any views?

Cheers Nick

Jon L

I like small and light, but to a certain extent. I bike to campus, and my path is strewn with numerous hills (more like small mountains), so weight needs to be manageable. Unfortunately, my desktop died, so I’ve been stuck with the Mini-Note as my primary computer over the past month or so. I’ve now come to deeply regret purchasing the Mini-Note. I don’t care what program you run, this machine is guaranteed to run it like molasses. It’s gotten so bad that given the choice between surfing the web on my Mini-Note or my Touch Diamond, the Touch Diamond wins handily. That experience has led me to wonder if there is a laptop discus event in the Olympics, because if so I would very much like to participate (and I’m pretty sure my rage would guarantee me gold).

In summary, this has led me to purchase a Lenovo X200. The price, performance, size and battery life seem to be converging at that perfect spot for me. At 3.6 lbs. with the nine-cell battery, it’s not the lightest on the market, but that’s offset by the fact that I’m guaranteed not to need to tote around an AC adapter. And the performance is better than most ultraportables that go for more money (X300, etc.). It is indeed more money than I would like to spend considering I have no money, but I literally cannot take this Mini-Note any longer. Once I get the Thinkpad set up, I will be spinning this HP off as quickly as possible, as I have no desire to see one of these machines ever again.

Oh, and I should point out that I could care less about the integrated graphics. I have no desire to play Crysis on my laptop. Laptops aren’t gaming machines in my mind, and the ones that attempt to be are less laptops than portable desktops.

Jon M

I consider my Fujitsu U810 almost perfect, because its size and its convertible nature and superb battery life fit the ultra-portable bill. My true love has always been my Toshiba Libretto U105. Undocked from its DVDRW drive, it has been the best balance of power and features in a small form factor. If I had to buy or look into a new ultra-portable the only one I have even considered has been a Raon Everun Note. It has the power and form factor that is similar to the Libretto, the only thing that gets me is the screen resolution at 1024×768. I wish these ultra-portables had 1280×800 like my Libretto does.

Dave P

I want ultra small and ultra light. Netbooks just don’t do it for me because they are too big.

I am willing to pay extra for something that will fit in my pocket or in a case on my belt. So I shelled out the big bucks for an OQO. One pound and the size of my hand. That’s the size that fits me.

Victor C.

My choice is the 13.1″ Sony VAIO Z. It’s nearly on par with the highest end MacBook Pros but has a gorgeous, higher screen resolution (1600×900), weighs 3.3lbs, has Blu-ray capabilities, and both real HDMI + VGA connectors for easy hookup to monitors without the need for a dongle.

The form factor is just a little bigger than the largest “netbook” but you get desktop level performance and functionality while sacrificing very little in such a lightweight package. In fact, due to the widescreen aspect of the notebook, it feels smaller than your typical 13.3″ notebook.


Interesting read, and I agree one size doesn’t fit all. Right now I’m at two extremes, I’m using a HP mininote alongside a 4-year old zd7000. The zd has been my power workhorse doing everything I need including games. The mini right now is my handheld (literally) multimedia/web/office platform, and it does that beautifully.

Sadly, though, I need a replacement for the power of my 17″ and I’m finding the choices extremely difficult. The problem is finding a 17″ with a decent video card, and a manufacturer that offers XP drivers.

The HP HDX18 is a great machine with a mobile quad core cpu, but the 9600M gpu is half the power of the 8800M that was used in the old 20″ HDX. At $2400, I want something that will run 2009’s games, not give me a slideshow. I guess HP never got that memo about the 9800M…

HP has XP drivers available for every business laptop they sell, but offer no support for consumer laptops. I can understand them not “selling” XP in lieu of Vista, but offering drivers shouldn’t be a big deal – the same chipsets/hardware found in their montevina business laptops are used on the consumer side. I don’t hate Vista at all, but the audio software that I depend on only runs on XP.

Pam T.

The best mobile computer I had was the Fujitsu P2010 – a 10″ screen, integrated DVD, full powered processor. I’m gazing longingly at it now, wishing the Crusoe chip on it wasn’t so…slow…these..days. The form factor was perfect and Fujitsu has tinkered with the thing now so it’s a 12″ display and too big.

The Mini Note has perfect speakers and a great keyboard, but I expect I’ll be lusting over an upgraded model if they bump that screen up another inch or so…my eyes sometimes have to work too hard to read web pages on that small screen.

Anton P. Nym

And here I am, still using the heck out of my “old” Samsung Q1. It chugs a bit running my Zune, and some web sites get annoying by insisting on a screen height greater than 600 pixels, but other than that it easily covers 90% of my day-to-day computing chores and 99% of what I’d want to do when on the move. (And at the size and weight of a trade paperback book it’s easier to carry than one of those anvil-class “laptops” being pushed today, especially in Coach/Economy seating.)

Then again, I’m not trying to compress HD video on the move either. I use it for email, web browsing, document work, portable media, and light photo editing. It all depends upon your needs, I guess.

— Steve

Gordon Cahill

I keep buying machines looking for the perfect combination. At the moment I’m stuck with my TX2000. It’s the best compromise of portability and power for me. I often NEED the power as I work every day on large photo files. I travel with my Mini Note but miss the power and dual core processor while I’m away.

But I’d rather have a smaller (footprint) machine with power and would happily sacrifice weight, thickness and some battery to get it. Say like a tablet version of the Mini Note with a 2.4GHz dual core processor and an optional slice battery. I hook my laptops up to 24 inch monitors in the office and I have good eyesight so screen size are less important. I’d sell one of the children to have a high power version of my old Acer C111 and a slice battery. Now that would be the ultimate machine and the oly compromise would be the weight of the slice battery.



Anything over 4 lbs is too heavy for me.
Anything over 12″ is too big.
Modern laptops have plenty of power and SSDs will give another nice boost.

I curse intel integrated graphics. They are the bane of mobile computing!


Hi Kevin, like you have always advice “the right machine for the right job” for that reason I bought a Toshiba r100 that is perfect for writing, internet, and school. It has a 12 inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768, a battery life of 7 plus hours, a real full size keyboard, as good as Lenovos, and all for the magical price of $150 dollars. You could use it with (3.2lb) or without (2.4lb) the extended battery. This “perfect” laptop for my usage is incredible and keeps me from jumping into the Netbook market, which I’m always tempted to do. keep up the good work and buy yourself a Toshiba r600, I’m dying to see a review of that “more perfect” laptop.


For me, 13.3 is the sweet spot.

It’s large enough to use all day without eye strain. It also maintains a full sized keyboard.

It’s also small and light enough to carry daily (which I do).

I’ve tried larger machines. I’ve tried smaller machines. I see the use for all of them. But, for a main machine that’s used all day, but needs to be carried, 13.3 is the perfect size for me.


After much thought and debate I purchased the new Advent 4213 in PC World UK for £350 (c$650) this is the newer model than the 4211 which was a MSI Wind clone.

The main reason for choosing the 4213 was the integrated 3g slot (under the battery). I convinced myself that this was the size/weight I needed…. anyway after a couple of weeks I am thinking again – don’t get me wrong it is a great little netbook and does everything I ask of it… but for me the killer is the keyboard it’s just too small for everyday use.

I have concluded that what I actually want is a really thin light laptop with a screen size of around 12-14″ but with the bigger keyboard. So I am now eyeing up the new Macbook at 2KG and also the Dell XPS.

When I carry a laptop it is normally in a bag and so it doesn’t really matter if the footprint is bigger it is the weight and thickness that I care about.

Any suggestions…

Love the site BTW JK on it all the time from my beloved iPhone.

Cheers Nick


The price is a killer for me. Before I got a 1000h, I was very interested in a few laptops which include Macbook pro and Fujitsu tablet pc. But, at the end of the day, I had really hard time to justify spending more than $1000 for those laptops when 90% of my work can be done with 1000h which also provides much better portability. I am very happy with 1000h now and I won’t likely to spend more than $500 for my next laptop either. One more benefit of low price: Peace of mind. I am not too worried about taking care of may laptop. When your laptop costs $400, extended warranty is a joke and resale value is not a concern either. Not that I like that happen, but I wouldn’t be deeply saddened if my 1000h is damaged or lost as long as my data are safe.


My personal computer has a 13.3″ screen and dedicated graphics card and, aside from switching form factors to a tablet or pocketable device, I don’t see myself leaving its combination of size vs capabilities. I had a smaller computer before (one of the R505 VAIOs), and the lack of dedicated graphics was my main reason for purchasing a new computer at the time.

If I was still in college and could have better taken advantage of the ability to write notes, though, I would be in a major quandary, unless there’s a convertible tablet with dedicated graphics out there somewhere.

Eric C Rusch Jr

I’m with James. 95% of the time my x61 tablet is all the power I need and I take it with me pretty much everywhere. But when that other 5% strikes I shake my fist in the air and curse the very idea of integrated graphics. On the other end of the scale my brother was a winner during the 31 Days of the Dragon. His Dragon can handle anything you throw at it, he’s an avid gamer and on cross platform games I swear the graphics are better than on his Xbox 360. The down side is he rarely moves it and it almost never leaves the house. When you look at the fact that just his power adapter weighs more than my entire system including my power adapter it’s downright funny. In the end though our systems perfectly reflect our uses and needs, and neither of us would ever think of trading with each other.


11.1 is perfect, with 1366×768

tho notebooks in this cateogry are too expensive for me to entertain buying.

the ideal netbook that i would/could buy would be a HP mininote v2 using:
> Via Nano
> nVidia MCP79 ulv (aka 9300M)
> 10″ screen @ 1280×768
> same magnesium chassis

I am hoping for something very like this around xmas. ;)


I have a 1000H and it is OK for casual use. Engadget is reporting that Dell has a 12″ Mini product page up. I would love a 12″ with 1280 X 800 Mini if it had a dual core Atom processor. I’m retired and all my computers are just toys but I like nice toys.

Walter Wise

Anything over 4 lbs is too heavy for me. I have a Toshiba U205 laptop as the primary work device (at least it was until the HDD failed a couple weeks ago) and an HP desktop in the office as well. For travel and out of the office meetings, etc., I use an Asus Eee PC 1000H. Like you a bit better resolution would be nice, but the for factor and battery life is what I really need.


I really wanted small and light, but I also wanted really low cost. I could have got an Acer aspire or an EEE Asus, but the performance just didn’t match up to my hopes. So I went with a slightly lighter 14 inch Acer, that still is more full featured than the aspire. Maybe next time I’ll have the money for something that is light and high quality!

James Kendrick

Most of the time small and light rules the day. The problem is that in those rare instances when you need performance you tend to REALLY need performance. Mobile tech is always about compromise. Sigh.

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