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There is a rather large subcategory among notebook users who just don’t have a permanent work place due to business trips, to the necessity of always being on wheels, etc. And when you have to change your headquarters several times a day, you cannot but realize that an advanced and thoroughly rigged-out model of an office notebook with a screen diagonal of 14-15 inches is simply inconvenient. Dimensions and weight seem to be the main reasons for that inconvenience, besides some other factors. So, any user who carries his/her notebook on longer distances than from the house to the car and from the car to the office, sooner or later begins to think about purchasing a compact model.

Unlike typical 14-15” models, compact notebooks with a screen diagonal of up to 12 inches fit easily into the briefcase with your papers, weigh no more than 1.5-2 kilos and let you solve the same tasks as their more cumbersome mates do. By the way, no one could really think of purchasing such a sub-notebook just a little while since. In fact, the compact class was born a couple of years ago with the release of early Pentium M and Pentium M ULV processors which made it possible to build truly mobile devices that would be no worse or even better than some desktop systems as concerns comfort of use and performance.

A common argument against the compact notebook is that it has a very small screen. This is not as serious a drawback as it seems, however. You can just take a look at the specifications to see that ordinary sub-notebooks offer the same screen resolutions as classic office models, and widescreen sub-notebooks have even bigger resolutions! The smaller physical size of the screen may only be inconvenient in some particular applications like watching movies or playing games, but this can hardly matter for compact notebooks which are positioned as office tools designed for work rather than for entertainment.

Another important function of this class of devices is their distinguishing the owner and contributing to the creation of his/her personal image. A notebook costing something like $2000 just can’t be a purely utilitarian device – it is going to emphasize its owner’s status just like top-end cell phone models do. The fact that a bulk of such devices are bought for their looks alone is no secret for the sellers, by the way. A person who can easily shell out a couple of thousand bucks for a notebook will hardly bother to examine the specification and compare the parameters of the two dozens of available models. The only thing this person cares about is the brand, the exterior of the device, and its ability to perform the tasks he/she needs. And only then such parameters as battery life, price and others are taken into view.

The name of the manufacturer plays an important role, too. In some circles people just won’t understand you if you come to a business meeting with a notebook from LG or Samsung. Such prejudices have nothing to do with the real technical and ergonomic qualities of the notebook which may be actually good, as those of the LG and Samsung models tested in the context of this review.

We won’t focus on the exterior design of the portable computers included in this review since users each have his/her own opinion about what looks better. Frankly speaking, there are no ugly-looking models in this price category. Instead, we will try to cover exhaustively the objective parameters like configuration, convenient placement of the interface connectors, quality of the screen, and the design and layout of the input devices (touchpad, keyboard, etc).

The results of our comprehensive testing of compact notebooks are going to be presented to you in two installments. They are written by different authors so that you saw both parts in about the same time.

We hope to test a dozen or more notebooks and to cover all the popular brands available on this market. The first review will show you products from Acer (TravelMate 3004WTMi model), Dialogue Technology (FlyBook A33i), Fujitsu Siemens (Lifebook P7010 model), IBM (ThinkPad X40 model), LG (LW20 model), MSI (MegaBook S270), and Samsung (Q30 model). The second review will deal with such brands as Asus, Dell, Sony and Toshiba. There will probably be other brands included, but we haven’t yet settled on the full list.

 
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