It seems the term ‘laptop’, as used for a portable computer you can rest on your lap, may be falling into disuse. Acer, Apple, Compaq, HP, NEC and Panasonic are among the major brands who studiously avoid the L-word these days.
Maybe it’s because many notebooks – the now-popular name – will become fearsomely hot as you put them to task, and corporate manufacturers would like to avoid lawsuits for scorching owners’ legs after suggesting that was a good place to site said computer.
As has been covered in these pages in recent months, there’s a snowballing trend to go so small that the notebook would be lost in the lap anyway. Witness the ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) at the executive end of the market, or the new wave of similarly portable but entry-level machines, such as Asus' Eee PC 701, at the other. Meanwhile, the ultraportable market has a new reference point in the shape of the Apple MacBook Air, which is focusing the attention of people outside the usual IT circles on the possibilities of a slim and attractive computer that can be carried everywhere.
This month we've tested a wide selection of portables, from petite laptops running full versions of Windows, albeit often with short battery lives, to UMPCs, with cut-down operating systems (OSes) to suit equally down-sized dimensions.
We’ve also looked at four models that are aimed squarely at the traditional laptop buyer, and all run Vista Ultimate. This is the only version of Vista to include all the features of Microsoft’s current OSes, of course, while the Business and Home versions each have features removed. Most people won’t miss features they don’t think they need, but am I alone in thinking Microsoft churlish in depriving the majority of people who can’t justify spending up to £370 for Vista Ultimate of its full feature list?
Now that the final version of Windows Vista SP1 has officially seen the light of day, for many people Vista has itself come of age. So how well does Vista Ultimate fit into the setting of a modern laptop? While the hardware requirements of Vista are set relatively high, most recent dual-core models with a healthy wedge of RAM should be up to the task. The bigger challenge is probably for the manufacturer to include the pricey Ultimate OS and still keep component quality high – and price competitive.