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The Contenders

I've come to turn to the folks over at Engadget to keep up with the latest in notebooks and virtually everything else new and techy, so I scoured their Laptops section for ideas. I also consulted with my colleagues over at TomsHardware for their recommendations, taking a look at their mobile product reviews and asking for their recommendations. And, of course, I turned to our present-day oracle - Google - to see what it came up with, too.

Before I give you my short list (and to try to head off the "why didn't you..." mail that's sure to come), I'll first tell you the machines I considered, but that didn't make the list. The IBM Thinkpad X40 and Sony VAIO T-series certainly are light enough and attractively small, but waaay too expensive. The Thinkpad's use of an external USB-cabled optical drive didn't appeal to me either and established another criteria - a built-in optical drive, preferably swappable for an extra battery.

I used Dell's Notebook Advisor which, based on my preferences, quickly directed me to their Inspiron 600m, Latitude D600 and new Inspiron 700m. But the Inspiron 600M was too beefy for my taste at just shy of 5 lbs with its "Dell TravelLiteTM module" (never did find out what that is...) and 5.3 pounds with CD drive. The Latitude D600 was also rejected for fuzziness around its weight when configured to do real work (it started out at 4.68 pounds with 4-cell battery and "travel module").

The Inspiron 700m might have made the cut, but reviews about its short battery life and lack of information on weight with the extended-life battery that seemed universally recommended (and info on how / where it mounted) prompted me to move the 700m to the "maybe" pile that I never got to.

Turning to my short list, Averatec's 3250 was one that made the cut. But although Averatec said they could supply one for review, they didn't follow through and actually deliver. So my real short list turned out to contain just three: the Apple iBook, Fujitsu S2020, and Fujitsu P7010.

I'll get into my likes and dislikes for each of the finalists in a bit, but first thought it would be good to let some pictures do the talkin' for some size comparisons.

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