by August 2, 2008 0 comments

As a long-time sub-notebook user, there were three devices I keenly awaited
during the course of this issue’s shootout. And I was thrice disappointed.

I’ve always used ultraportables, starting with a Compaq Aero 4/25 over 15
years ago, then a ThinkPad X22, then a Toshiba Portege 3010, then a ThinkPad X31
and X40…and now an ageing X60 (Core Duo, two years old already).

So I waited for the super-slim X300, for which Lenovo went to the drawing
board to create the most advanced ThinkPad ever, in the thinnest and lightest
package possible, said BusinessWeek in rare cover story (search for “Building
the Perfect Laptop”). Inspired by the uber-cool MacBook Air that Steve Jobs
dramatically pulled out of an inter-office envelope, they tried the same test on
the X300, and it worked. (The Air is striking and sexy and sub-90k…but
impractical, sans any ports, even Ethernet.)

My disappointment was about the Rs 1.4 lakh price tag, and the screen format.
It’s widescreen.

I hate widescreen. On 16:9 LCD TVs, you have to stretch-distort the 4:3 TV
picture to fit. Or expand the picture, losing some of it. But all flat TVs above
20”are widescreen, so I’m stuck with a 32” wide TV. I now intend to buy a 20”
LCD TV instead.

Prasanto K Roy,
president. ITCC Publishing Group, CyberMedia

And I think widescreen laptops suck. “You can see DVD movies so well”! the
salesman says. Wow. Now why didn’t I think of that?

A widescreen sub-notebook is useless. I briefly used an 11” Sony Vaio. The
screen was unreadable. (Widescreens also tend to have all kinds of issues with

But the world has gone widescreen. Supposedly due to user demand, but more
due to economics and availability of LCDs.

Then I waited for an ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) running on an Atom–Intel’s
low-power processor for low cost computing. It came in the form of a tiny
coatpocket-size device from Fujitsu. Price unknown, but expected to be over Rs
70k. Low cost computing? Intel sources informally say this is ‘skimming the
market’, and that we should expect to see sub-20k devices on the Atom out soon.

Just as terrible was its usability. A tiny, cramped keyboard. And Windows
Vista in 1,024 x 600 resolution, but on a tiny 5.6” widescreen…and I got
squinty, watery eyes. Nice that it was a tablet, but this ain’t for me, not even
if someone gifts it. Sure, there’s GPS, but give me my smartphone any day.

The third was Lenovo’s brand-new 11.1” Ideapad U110. Slim, light and bright
red, very un-Lenovo-like sex appeal (it came too late for this shootout). Nice,
but trackpad-only (I love the TrackPoint ‘nipple’)…and close to Rs 1 lakh…

Oh, and did I mention the mirror finish, even on the plasticky keypad? I got
smudgy fingerprints all over, squinting to see the display through the
reflections in my cabin.

Yes sir, if there’s anything I hate more than widescreen, it’s a shiny,
reflective screen.

What are vendors thinking of? From Dell to HP to Lenovo, they’re putting in
glossy screens on their “consumer” laptops because of so-called user demand.
Yeah, sure. We users are idiots, so we’ll love a display we can’t read except in
a darkened room? Maybe we love mirrors? Who are the vendors kidding?

For now, I hold on dearly to my elegant black X60, the last of a lineup of
sensible, 12”, 4:3 standard-display portables with a nice, readable matte-finish
screen. They won’t make them like this any more.

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