Dude, Youre Gettin Less Dull

Dell notebooks have traditionally earned high marks for speed and value, but they weren't much to look at. However, Wireless Supersite Editor Ross Rubin reports, its latest Latitudes no longer trade style for substance.

Now that the dust is starting to settle over all the initial Centrino notebooks, you may be surveying the field to have a ready response to the question, "If you were buying a notebook today, which would it be?" This question hasnt actually come up for me yet, but maybe I need to go on more "stress interviews".

With notebook PCs so competitive, its easy to be nitpicky on design in the Windows camp. Compaqs just arent sexy, and their reviews tend to be lackluster. While the expanded touchpads on HP laptops are a clever input aid, they tend to look like UFOs with all those blue LEDs aglow, and quality problems with the early Vaios have kept me away from Sony.

I was tempted when Sony introduced the adorable SRX line, but stayed away, concerned that a 10.4-inch screen just wouldnt cut it. (While a new Japanese SRX is available through Dynamism, it appears that Sony has abandoned the line for now in the United States.) And while Gateways 450 line is an impressive homage to Apple Computers PowerBook G4, I wonder if Gateway will survive to service an extended warranty at this point.

Historically, Ive been partial to IBM ThinkPads, if other parties were paying, and Toshiba notebooks if they werent. Ive had mixed feelings about the TrackPoint pointing device, which invariably develops a tendency to wander like a high school valedictory address, but overall the ThinkPads excellent design and quality made up for it. Besides, IBM has started including touchpads on most models that can accommodate them now. If youve got funds to burn on an "ultaportable", the X series is a great package.

However, the last Toshiba Satellite that graced my home network had enough problems for its own Harry Chapin ballad. A 1-GHz Pentium III-based model that was purchased when that represented the top of the line, the paint wore off the wrist rest, leaving huge dark patches. (This put off observers who would question the wrist hygiene of its owner.) Worse, the machine had to be completely gutted save for the hard drive. The AC adapter blew, and the motherboard fried, taking its 3Com Wi-Fi card down with it. Thankfully, Toshiba was pretty lenient with the warranty period.