64-Bit Computing to Go

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2003-07-21 Print this article Print

Tadpole's laptop packs power.

Sparcle 650SX
Tadpoles Sparcle 650SX can mobilize 64-bit Solaris workstation users by offering them a solid laptop option with a size, weight and feature set that compare well with Intel-based desktop replacement laptops. Ranging from $3,000 to $6,000, Tadpoles Sparcle line is an affordable, convenient way to untether the developers, engineers and consultants at whom these systems are aimed.
  • PRO: Mobile platform for Solaris applications; integrated 802.11b; full complement of ports; includes StarOffice 6.0.

  • CON: Interface is rough around the edges—bring your command-line skills.

    Nature Worldwide Technology Corp.s 888P Portable Server
    Mobility in computing is an intrinsic good. The question isnt whether youd want to take your computing to the streets but whether a mobile version of your chosen platform is available and affordable.

    Tadpole Computer Inc.s Sparcle 650SX provides developers, engineers and other high-end users of Sun Microsystems Inc.s 64-bit Solaris with the sort of mobility that Windows-based users have come to take for granted.

    eWEEK Labs tested the Sparcle 650SX, which shipped with a 650MHz UltraSPARC-IIi processor, 1GB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive and a DVD/ CD-RW combo drive. This laptop features a nice-looking, 15.1-inch, 1,400-by-1,050-pixel thin-film-transistor display and an ATI Technologies Inc. Mobility-M1 graphics adapter.

    As configured, the unit we tested sells for $5,995. Tadpoles least-costly Sparcle notebook is priced at $2,995 and is powered by a 440MHz UltraSPARC-IIe chip. To compare, Dell Computer Corp.s Precision M50 mobile workstation (see review) is priced in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. Also comparable to the M50 is the size and heft of Tadpoles Sparcle systems—the Sparcle measures 12.8 by 10.5 by 1.5 inches and weighs about 7 pounds.

    Unlike Windows-based mobile workstations, the Solaris 9 system that the Sparcle runs is not designed to be a mainstream desktop operating system—and it shows.

    For instance, Tadpole provides a wireless configuration tool with which we could set up the Sparcles integrated 802.11b adapter to use an available access point. However, we had to turn to a terminal to complete the setup with the ifconfig command-line tool. Although this wont prove inordinately strenuous for the Sparcles tech-savvy target audience, it would be nice if this could be handled from within Tadpoles graphical tool.

    Along similar lines, the Sparcle ships with a PC Card slot, a Secure Digital slot and a Memory Stick slot, but mounting and accessing memory cards in these slots will require some minor command-line tinkering. In addition, this notebook does not include software for burning CDs or playing DVDs with its included CD-RW/ DVD drive, although these applications are freely available on the Web.

    That said, the Sparcle comes with a nice GNU Network Object Model Environment 2 desktop interface and includes Suns StarOffice 6.0 office productivity suite. Along with the wireless configuration tool, Tadpole includes small utilities for managing location-based settings and for monitoring battery life.

    The Sparcle is powered by a lithium-ion battery that yielded about 2.5 hours of life between charges in tests.

    In addition, the Sparcle has an Ethernet adapter, a modem, three Universal Serial Bus 2.0 ports, two PS/2 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, and external VGA and parallel ports.

    Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks @ziffdavis.com.

    As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. Jason's coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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