Real Portable Computing

by Wayne Kawamoto

KDS 2370PT
Rating 88

When it comes to notebook computers, small and light is the goal, and in that sense, the compact KDS ThinNote 2370PT is a sure winner. With its 1-inch-thick case, spacious and attractive 13.3-inch display, and 4.3-pound weight, the KDS ThinNote 2370PT is a sleek notebook. Unfortunately, the notebook’s portability comes at a price. Both the floppy and CD drives are external and connect one at a time via cable to a dedicated port. The two drives also fit into the FlexBase docking station simultaneously. This could be a problem for mobile users looking to carry as little as possible.

Our test system was equipped with 128MB of RAM, a 700MHz Pentium III processor, and a 10GB drive — enough horsepower to run virtually any business application. At $1,900, the notebook’s price is competitive with similar systems.

The KDS LCD did a great job of displaying resolutions up to 1024 by 736 pixels and could be viewed from most angles, except from directly above. It comes with a built-in modem, a four- and six-pin IEEE network port, as well as USB, PC Card, and one serial and parallel port.

The keyboard makes typing comfortable and is responsive, but it lacks the firm feel of a high quality keyboard. The touchpad has two convenient sets of buttons so users can use either a finger or a thumb to manipulate the cursor.

In our tests, the lithium-ion battery produced around two hours of use, a respectable amount of working time.

In all, the KDS ThinNote 2370PT is a lightweight and compact notebook that’s available at a competitive price.


PROS: Compact size; excellent display; lightweight

CONS: CD and floppy drives are external and need to be connected via cablesSierra Wireless Aircard 400Red Hot Speed DemonSteve BennettSierra Wireless Aircard 400
Rating 92

If you want to access metricom’s high-speed 128Kpbs Ricochet modem, you now have a new option: The Sierra AirCard 400 for Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, and Pocket PC.

The 400 is actually a wireless NIC card, rather than a modem. Pop it into your laptop, and Windows will detect it as a network adapter. The advantage of this approach is that it directly connects to your computer, rather than first making a serial connection as modems must do. Overall, the AirCard 400 is built for speed — and it delivers.

Our installation of the AirCard 400 drivers and the AirCard Watcher software went off without a hitch. The Watcher software logs users onto the network, provides signal status information, enables them to change preferences, and automatically loads whenever users insert the AirCard 400 into a PCMCIA slot.

Once logged on, the AirCard 400 tends to consistently stay connected, provided that the signal strength from the service is adequate.

While the card performs extremely well, it does pose a few minor annoyances including the battery drain. Although the AirCard 400 has a power-saving mode, it has an insatiable appetite for battery juice when it’s active. Users may also notice significant interference with landline phones within a few feet of the AirCard 400 at log-on (not unique to the Sierra Wireless product), so users may have to move the laptop from the phone to talk and surf at the same time. The nuisances, however, are a small price to pay for the luxury of enjoying reliable high-speed access on the road.

Sierra Wireless

PROS: Consistent high-speed performance, ease of use

CONS: Heat, battery drain, easy-to-lose antenna

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.
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