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In pursuit of the perfect portable

If you're hunting for a new laptop, you're spoiled for choice. You can plump for a model with two screens, another that runs for 24 hours on a single battery charge, or a bargain machine that costs less than £200. It's easy to see why the versatile laptop has become the format of choice for the majority of computer buyers.

The third quarter of 2008 marked the first time more laptops were sold than desktop PCs worldwide, a milestone described by an analyst from iSuppli as signalling "the start of the age of the notebook". In truth, however, the concept of a battle between desktop PCs and laptops is rapidly becoming outdated as we are faced with an increasing number of alternative hardware formats. Whether you need a device for word processing, accessing the web or sending emails when you're on the move, you no longer need a laptop to do it.

Apple's iPhone, Google Android handsets and Palm's Pre can do many of the things we used to need a desktop for, and in a format which fits in the pocket. In the laptop category itself, meanwhile, traditional designs are being shunted out of the limelight by even more portable netbooks.

And then there are ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) and mobile internet devices (MIDs), which sit somewhere in between, and products such as the Celio Redfly, which masquerades as a netbook but is really a piece of dumb hardware designed to bring a big screen and keyboard to Windows Mobile smartphones.

While the proliferation of mobile computers is great news for technology fans, all these categories are fairly new and remain vague. It's not immediately obvious who a netbook, UMPC or MID is designed for, and it's tempting to dismiss them as gimmicks.

But the likes of Intel are convinced that, rather than the dawn of the laptop age, we're now at the beginning of the everywhere and anytime computing era, and it's becoming increasingly obvious that there's no such thing as the holy grail of mobile computing.

In the past, members of the PC Advisor editorial team have been advocates of devices such as the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet and the PocketSurfer2 - gadgets which others in the office have looked at in bemusement while struggling to see why anyone in their right mind would give them a second glance.

But if in the future, as expected, everyone has a powerful portable with them at all times, it's likely the world will need various types of gadgets to satisfy each individual's different requirements, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

Go mobile

We've had our hands on mobile computers of all shapes and sizes this month, and what's clear is that there really is something for everyone. If you're on the lookout for a new product, and can't decide between the various models you've seen advertised, the answer will be in our Best mobile computers feature.

As well as the gadgets that promise to deliver everywhere and anytime computing, we also look at every conceivable category of laptop. From netbooks and ultraportables to standard format laptops, ranging in price from £220 to £2,539, we've got a great selection of systems to choose from.

So whether you're searching for a cool new gadget or a mobile PC to carry out traditional tasks, pick up a copy of our July issue today and check out the best products on the market.

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