I love my Macintosh iBook, but it's a heavy, akward little beast. I tried using this seven-pound digital gumdrop on a plane once, but the front edge pressed into my gut, forcing me to contort my hands and wrists into a weird praying mantis-like position. Now I leave it at home, and take the Toshiba Portégé 3480CT ($2499, www.shoptoshiba.com) instead. This 3.4 pound, 3/4-inch, silver-topped sub-notebook is about the size of a thick spiral-bound notebook. Despite its diminutive size, it packs a giant oomph with a 600MHz Intel processor, 64MB of RAM (expandable to 192MB), 8MB video memory, and a 12 Gigabyte hard drive.
Naturally, there are some tradeoffs for the small size and weight. Its monitor is only 11.3 inches, but it does have a resolution of 1024 x 768 and is bright and clear (if viewed directly from the front). It doesn’t come with a CD-ROM, DVD, or floppy drive, so if you want to watch a movie on the plane, for instance, you’ll have to bring along an optional "Multimedia Port Replicator" ($399) which is about the size and weight of a hardback book. Don’t forget to bring the bulky power adapter along too if you plan on using the Portégé after the batteries conk out (in a couple of hours). You can buy an extended battery, advertised to live for nine hours, for $460.
Let’s not get too negative, though, because this little screamer is a wonderful machine for away-from-home Web surfing, email, and general productivity. It comes pre-installed with Windows 2000 and the internal modem worked without a hitch. The keyboard is nearly full-sized and the pencil-eraser cursor control starts to feel natural after about an hour of getting acquainted with it. The Portégé has just about every imaginable port on either the main unit or the included "LAN Port Replicator," making it easy to plug in a full size keyboard, mouse and monitor for home or office use. In fact, it’s probably more powerful than the desktop machine you’ve got right now. Think of all the extra room you’ll have for coffee cups and candy bar wrappers!