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Long-haul laptop that bubbles with real class

If you thought laptops were slow to boot up and had short battery lives, think again. Jack Kenny checks out the classy Compaq Aero 8000.

The invention of the laptop was a great step forward for computers. It let you work away from your base with the convenience of having all your stuff in one place. Never mind that they're also used to look smart on a train or sad on a beach, what limits them is a meagre few hours of battery life and the minutes to start them from cold.

The Compaq Aero 8000 works round all this. It uses CE, a portable version of Windows, and it is ready for work as soon as you open its lid. This is a slim, light and very well made laptop for those who need to write, take notes and handle e-mail during their day. For a life filled with interruption, the seven hours before recharging the battery, could give days of intermittent use. It offers productivity for those who already use a desktop machine and maybe a laptop too to look at CD-Roms, go surfing or do creative stuff.

The Aero is classy - with its neatly protected sockets, catches and a great keyboard. Its screen is the largest and best of the Windows CE machines - though it's not the type you can tap - you move the pointer with a regular touchpad. It has sofware you could liken to "light", less featured versions of Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel and Access. And when you connect it to a regular machine it will synchronise mail, documents, addresses, appointments or databases usefully. You can even convert PowerPoint shows and show them on a projector.

Like most machines of this type, it was designed for a job and no more. You could scour the Internet to find software to fill the gaps, although Compaq includes a disc of demo software that, say, copy Internet settings from your main computer, or let you make PowerPoint slides.

The unexpected downside is ironic: although it's ideal for travelling, you'll want to leave behind its heavy duty cabling for power and phone. Seemingly, that's the price of good build quality, but this should not deter busy heads or advisers.

Compaq Aero 8000 available from Time Education

Windows CE notebook with 10in screen, recorder, 16Mb memory, 56K modem, Lithium battery, Microsoft Pocket Office Suite. Ports include PC card; compact flash card; serial; monitor.

Price: pound;700 + VAT

Tel: 01282 77 77 99

Online star rating

Suitability for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Value for money *****

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