"That's just like a computer, only smaller!" a friend exclaimed when he spied the preproduction version of Toshiba's new $1999 (£1,050) Libretto U100 mini-notebook (UK prices have not yet been determined).
About the size of a video cassette and weighing just over 0.91kg, the Libretto is small in everything except power and performance.
The U100 features a 7.2in widescreen LCD and an integrated LED backlight. The crisp, bright 1280x768 resolution screen offers a luscious concentration of colours. But the fonts and icons were so tiny it was rather difficult to read anything.
The keyboard is a tad too small, making it hard to even point and click. The minute, integrated touchstick mouse was equally difficult to manoeuvre.
Fortunately, there are two USB ports on the side to add an external mouse. There are also ethernet, modem, FireWire, a headphone jack, fingerprint security pad, 802.11b/g, Bluetooth and a docking port.
The optical drive dock is considered optional, so you'll need to cough up extra if you want Toshiba's DVD Multidrive. I tried it out and enjoyed its versatility--it can be used as a DVD player independently with no PC bootup necessary.
Battery life was about 2 hours and 20 minutes with a DVD playing and close to 3 hours and 30 minutes without the DVD drive operating. The 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M 4 Ulta Low Voltage 753 processor and standard 512MB of DRAM provided enough oomph for looking at photos, cruising the web or using Office applications. The 1.8in hard drive sports 60GB capacity.
Unique to the Libretto U100 is the integration of a 3D accelerometer that senses sudden movement in any direction and parks the hard drive to protect data loss. On my test unit, it was so sensitive that if the desktop surface was not even, the alarm would trigger, interrupting my work. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
Overall, it's the Lilliputian size and weight of the Libretto that will attract road warriors who want to travel without being encumbered. My advice: try out the keyboard and touchstick before you buy. If you can deal with them, you've got an otherwise worthy and powerful portable PC.