Ultraportable computers-like some of those that weigh in under 3 pounds-can certainly seem attractive. But how small can you go without sacrificing speed and usability?
There's no way around it, the smaller the device is, the more compromises you'll have to make. Mininotebooks are less powerful than full-sized systems. But it's important to note that many of them, like the Wedge Minibook, can do a great job. Yes, the battery life is shorter, the keyboards are smaller, and you'll have to forgo an onboard floppy drive and a CD. And, no, these machines cannot effectively fill in for either a desktop unit or a desktop replacement notebook.
All that said, the Wedge MiniNote is a fine machine specifically targeted to vertical markets such as inventory and field sales operations where the need to run Microsoft Windows 95/98 applications is just as important as the weight-saving benefits of a smaller footprint. The MiniNote nicely bridges the gap between Windows CE-based handheld devices and bulkier standard-sized notebook PCs.
Wedge's MiniNote is cleverly designed to make the most of its limited footprint. The display is a "letterbox" style 10.4-inch screen with a native 1024 by 600 resolution that supports a simultaneous display (LCD and CRT) with dual-view capability. The MiniNote has a decent display that is consistently bright across the entire panel, with good color saturation and contrast that holds up even when viewed under direct sunlight.
Cutting back on the wrist-rest area allowed Wedge to build in an ergonomically correct full-sized keyboard that's easy on the fingers, even for quick touch typists. The integrated pointing stick is placed in a great position-directly above the "B" key, which allows users to point and click without moving their hands from the keyboard.
The Wedge MiniNote runs on a 266 megahertz Tillamook CPU with MMX Technology and 32 megabytes SDRAM. It includes both parallel and serial ports, an external CRT port, external mouse/keyboard port, infra-red support, AC adapter plug, ear and microphone jacks, a 56.6K fax/modem and a USB port. The machine is backed by a one-year warranty.
When small is good
Overall, the system performance is surprisingly snappy for a small notebook. Where the Wedge MiniNote does fall short, like many of its petite peers, is in battery life. At best, virtually all ultraportables deliver about two hours of life when unplugged. By using nickel metal hydride batteries, however, instead of the longer-lived lithium-ion batteries, the Wedge barely delivers an hour and a half of battery life. Since lithium-ion batteries are more expensive, many budget-priced minibooks have cut costs there.
Despite a few minor flaws, this is a solid machine and a good performer. If a full-sized unit isn't needed for on-the-road work, the Wedge is a good choice.
The MiniNote lists for $1,795. Contact Wedge Technology at www.wedgetech.com or (800) USA-WEDGE.