64-Bit Computing to Go

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.

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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.