Inspecting gadgets

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from MacBook Air challengers to Palm's latest smartphone offering.
Inspecting gadgets
By Imthishan Giado
Sat 26 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from MacBook Air challengers to Palm's latest smartphone offering.

Lenovo ThinkPad X300

It seems that the release of the MacBook Air has caused a case of handbags at dawn for major notebook manufacturers.

Lenovo is first out of the gate with its new ultra-portable ThinkPad X300 - and it's uncanny how it seems to take virtually every one of the MacBook Air's selling points and improve on them ever so slightly.

It's got an LED-based 13.3 inch 1440x900 display (1280x800 Air), three USB ports (just one on the Air), Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections (only Wi-Fi on the Air) and a 7mm thick integrated DVD-burner (which isn't available at all on the Air except as a USB add-on).

The CPU specs largely match up as well, with the X300 being powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.2GHz CPU and available with up to 4Gbytes of DDR2 memory, while the hard drive is a 64Gbyte SSD unit.

The X300 also trumps the Air by coming standard with a wireless wide area network (WWAN), GPS, a finger-print reader and a battery that's both removable - a key perceived flaw of the Air - and good for a claimed ten hours. All the above doesn't even mention the X300's trump card - it's both thinner (1.85cm) and lighter (1.33kg, without the DVD drive) than the aforementioned Air.

It's not quite game, set and match for Lenovo, however. What the Air has and the X300 lacks is a healthy dollop of want-me style.

While the X300 will definitely fit in Steve Job's now-famous manila envelope, it's safe to say that not as many would have been quite so stunned if he had plucked the very traditionally-styled Lenovo out instead.

But the business world is fundamentally different from the consumer one, and the carbon-fibre Lenovo is built tough for the demanding road user, who doesn't care what comments he or she gets when a passer-by gets an accidental peek of a half-exposed laptop. Palm Centro

No, this isn't the Treo 500v from January's Inspecting Gadgets, although one could certainly be forgiven for thinking that as the new Palm Centro is virtually identical to its forebear.

Similarities aside, the Centro goes the opposite way to the 500v and uses the PalmOS instead of a Windows Mobile operating system.

While this may lose users who are switching from another Windows Mobile smartphone, most users should be pleased with the operating system, which is consistent from application to application and includes a number of useful apps, such as Google Maps, as standard.

What users won't be pleased with is that many of the flaws of the old 500 remain - the Sim card and MicroSD slot remain trapped beneath the battery, the 1.3 megapixel camera is certainly behind the times and the Blazer internet browser is laughably ancient when compared to Opera and Safari.

The Bluetooth doesn't support AD2P either, but that's not a problem because there is neither a Bluetooth headset or set of earphones included in the box - for shame, Palm.

This may all seem a bit harsh but the truth is that the Centro is actually quite decent and manages its core functionality - phone, e-mail and SMS - quite well, certainly well enough for business users used to clunkier Windows phones.

It's just that it looks and works the same as Palms did in the last century - and in the shiny age of the iPhone, that may no longer be enough. Fujitsu-Siemens LifeBook P1620

Here's the second contender for the lightweight crown - Fujitsu-Siemens's snappily-named LifeBook P1620.

The 'new' challenger has a couple of key advantages on its side - the model range has been around a lot longer than the MacBook Air, and it's a Tablet PC, so the 8.9 inch touch-screen is able to rotate 180 degrees in either direction once opened.

The touch-screen's got another surprise-and-delight feature - it's very nearly the same resolution as the Air at 1280x768, which makes it remarkably sharp for such a small screen.

Nearly twice as thick as the Air, the P1620 won't be fitting into any envelopes, but it is lighter at 1.1kg and smaller in overall dimensions.

The specs aren't too shabby either with a 1.2GHz ULV Core 2 Duo CPU, 512Mbytes to 2Gbytes of RAM and 100Gbyte hard drive or 32Gbyte SSD available.

All the usual wireless and Ethernet connections are present and accounted for along with two USB ports and PCMCIA and SD card slots - though the miniscule size means that like the Air, the P1620 lacks a built-in DVD drive.

The battery is, as one would expect for a traditional ultra-portable not aimed at manila envelope carriers, removable.

Like the X300, the P1620 is aimed at the kinds of business people who really use their laptops while on the go, not fashionistas and gadget mavens.

Not flashy, but worth a look for those who don't need to watch films while travelling but need to punch out that vital report for the next morning.

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