Introduction

Time was that choosing an ultraportable notebook for business meant sacrificing on performance and features, but no more. Jim Martin put eight ultraportable notebooks through their paces

Choosing an ultraportable notebook often meant sacrificing on performance and features over a bigger laptop. Now, you can have your cake and eat it. Not only are the current crop of ultraportables ultra-responsive - thanks to the dual-core processors on offer - but choose wisely and they'll last a full working day away from mains power without even having to swap batteries.

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You'll be able to access your files and the internet wherever you are thanks to integrated Wi-Fi, modems, Ethernet adapters, Bluetooth and - with Dell's D420, a Super 3G radio for broadband-speed access when on the move.

With hard disk capacities ranging from 60 to 100GB, there's the potential to be carrying a great deal of sensitive company information around with you, which means security is crucial. Measures vary widely, from a mere Kensington slot to fingerprint scanners, smart card readers and hardware encryption chips. And for protection from yourself, some models boast sensors which automatically stop the hard disk if they detect they're being dropped.

If compatibility with existing equipment is a priority, it's worth choosing a notebook which is built with this in mind. Some models here are fully backwards and forwards compatible with hardware and software from the manufacturer's entire range of business notebooks - Dell and Lenovo are good examples - while others are designed with the individual in mind and use proprietary interfaces or software.

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Naturally, there are some compromises with an ultraportable notebook, the major one being screen size. The majority here standardise on 12.1in widescreen and generally have a resolution of 1,280 x 800. This offers a decent amount of real-estate with which to juggle spreadsheets, web browsers and email clients, but you'll need relatively good eyesight to see all the detail. Others, like the Lenovo, stick with a 1,024 x 768 resolution which is more easily readable, but lacks workspace.

Sony's miniscule Vaio VGN-TX3XP proves a DVD writer can be integrated, but several manufacturers choose to prioritise other features and opt for a separate drive - this could be the make or break factor depending on how much you rely on CDs and DVDs, since it's inconvenient to carry an extra box just for the privilege.

Likewise, a poor quality TFT or keyboard can make the difference between a great notebook and a terrible one - yet another area where our in-depth testing leaves no stone unturned in finding the ultimate in ultra-light computing. To find out which you should be ordering, read on.

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