PRODUCT REVIEW: NT on notebook computers -- who's leading the pack?

The time for Windows NT notebook nervousness is over -- standardisation suddenly looks good. We tested a few of the cutting-edge portable powerhouses to find out who's got the best mobile computing platform for NTWe ran each notebook through a series of tests designed to simulate real-world mobile use. Our benchmark is composed of the following applications: Adobe PageMaker, CorelDraw 6.0, Lotus Freelance 96, Lotus WordPro 96, Microsoft Excel 7.0, Microsoft PowerPoint 7.0, Microsoft Word 7.0, and Paradox 7.0. To measure how the notebooks' processing power stood up to handling NT, we ran performance benchmarks simulating typical office application use.

Results at a Glance

With few exceptions, we found that current notebook hardware makes Windows NT palatable -- if not yet ideal -- for portable use. The battle for best portable NT platform boiled down to a close race between the Hewlett-Packard and Dell notebooks. HP's OmniBook 4100 led the way in our performance testing, but still lagged by 15 per cent vs a reference desktop system. HP also bested the rest in our battery life tests. The Dell Latitude CPi D266XT's svelte form edged out HP in the usability category despite its huge display. No other solution was in its size and weight class. The manageability was a toss-up -- all the notebooks were Desktop Management Interface (DMI) 2.0-compliant. Dell's pricing was the most attractive by a long shot, and this was the deciding factor that pushed Dell into first place.

HP OmniBook 4100

Bottom Line: 6.1

A clear winner in the performance and battery life categories, the OmniBook 4100 is also an unusually thin and light package. Its 14.1-inch screen was the largest in the comparison but made for the widest form factor as well. The availability of both a touchpad and pointing stick was a bit schizophrenic, but appreciated. Unfortunately, all this good stuff came at a list price that was higher than low-cost leader Dell. We were vastly impressed with the multitude of great things HP has packed into such a small footprint. But the OmniBook 4100's price was too high to overlook in the final tally.


(1) Outstanding performance

(2) Longest battery life

(3) Very large screen

(4) Thin and light, with choice of preferred pointing deviceCons(1) Widest dimensions at close to 13 inches(2) Lofty price tagHP OmniBook 4100Hewlett-Packard -- 13 1047$7525 (inc tax)Dell Latitude CPi D266XTBottom Line: 6.6Dell showed that its growing reputation as a top-tier supplier of corporate PCs is well-deserved. The Latitude CPi is well-designed and ultraportable, but it lagged behind the slower CPU Toshiba solution in our performance tests. Battery life was second only to HP's notebook (by a mere six minutes). The real clinchers were price and usability, however. The Latitude CPi's light weight and slight dimensions made it the unanimous favourite.


(1) Lithe dimensions, attractive form factor(2) Outstanding relative price(3) Top-tier battery life(4) Fully loaded docking stationCons(1) Slower performer(2) Becomes a bit hot during extended useDell Latitude CPi D266XTDell Computer -- 1800 808 312$5789 (inc tax)Digital HiNote VP 765Bottom Line: 5.2The HiNote VP placed third overall due to its boxier, bulkier physique and its relatively minimalist docking solution. Performance was strong, but like Dell's Latitude CPi, Digital's HiNote VP lagged behind the slower Pentium II CPU in the Toshiba. Battery life was decent, just 15 minutes short of leader OmniBook 4100 and 10 minutes behind the Latitude CPi. The power management software and combination CD-ROM/floppy drive were helpful time savers.


(1) Competitive price

(2) Best Windows power management software(3) Combination CD-ROM/floppy driveCons(1) Cumbersome; thick and heavy(2) Bare-bones docking solution(3) Outdated NT Service Pack 1Digital HiNote VP 765DEC -- (02) 9561 5252$6724 (inc tax)NEC Versa 6260Bottom Line: 4.6NEC took a gamble on submitting the only Intel Tillamook CPU-based solution, hoping to come out ahead in cost. It lost, receiving the expected pounding in the performance category and a surprising beating in price as well. The other Achilles heel was its physical bulk; it was the thickest, deepest, and heaviest solution. Battery life was underwhelming. Intel's LANDesk Client and a great bootable factory restoration CD-ROM were the only bright points.


(1) Bootable CD-ROM quickly partitions drive and restores NT disk image(2) Intel LANDesk Client for DMI manageabilityCons(1) Slowest performer(2) Shortest battery life(3) Thickest, heaviest notebookNEC Versa 6260NEC Computer Systems -- 13 1632$7688 (inc tax)Toshiba Satellite Pro 490CDTBottom Line: 4.4The Satellite Pro came in at a stunning second place in our benchmark tests despite having the second slowest CPU. Battery life was relatively respectable, but the Satellite Pro included no PC Card hot-swap enhancements to NT.

Toshiba's Accupoint pointing stick proved the most accurate; however, the Satellite Pro's screen was the smallest in the roundup and only supported 800 x 600 resolution.


(1) Strong performer

(2) Best pointing device

(3) Strong security features


(1) Small screen with limited resolution support(2) No PC Card hot-swap enhancements for NT(3) Relatively thick and heavyToshiba Satellite Pro 490CDTToshiba -- (02) 9887 6000 $6543 (inc tax)

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