Lighten your load

10th September 2004 at 01:00
Finally, a laptop that really is portable. Merlin John puts RM's new UltraLight notebook through its paces

RM nBook UltraLight

Pentium M (Centrino 1.5GHz) with 12.1-inch screen, 256Mb of memory, 20Gb hard disc, DVD-CD-RW, PC and SD card slots, Ethernet network connector, WiFi networking (Intel 802.11g), modem, three USB connections, one FireWire, video out and headphones and microphone connections

Weight: 1.67kg (3.7llbs)

Price: pound;759 ex VAT (pound;743.82 online)

Entry level system: Celeron M processor (1.3MHz), 256Mb of memory, otherwise same features throughout the range. Intel 802.11g

Price: pound;658 (pound;644.84 online)


Tel: 08709 086969 (Primary)

08709 086868 (Secondary)

RM nBook UltraLight

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Features ****

Value for money *****

Anyone who has ever had to haul around a hefty laptopnotebook computer must wince when they hear glib references to "a laptop for every child".

Access to technology for all learners? Of course. But be careful about condemning anyone to carrying around a chunky laptop.

The simple truth is that most laptops are not truly portable, even for big strong people - they are too damn heavy. Purposeful portability, from workplace to home once a week, perhaps. But casual portability every, or every other, day? No thanks.

Which is why it's good to report that Online's quest for an ideal laptop appears to be getting nearer its goal, thanks to the launch of the RM nBook UltraLight notebook computer. It's not that we have found the ultimate portable, but it is certainly the best balance between powerperformance, weight and price we have seen since Toshiba launched its Portege A100 earlier this year (Online, March 12).

It's almost as if RM has used Toshiba as a benchmark to produce its own Portege-killer. The UltraLight is well designed, compact (with 12.1-inch screen) and light (3.7llbs) and extremely quick and powerful. Anything smaller would be fiddly and anything bigger a burden.

The review model, a cool design in charcoal, grey and dark blue plastic, came with an Intel Pentium M (Centrino) chip (1.7GHz), 512Mb memory and 20Gb hard disc, and was more than adequate for all tasks (for those needing more capacity the 40Gb hard disc is an extra pound;30). The full keyboard was comfortable and the track-pad firm and efficient, with power button and wireless network switch (to save power) next to the base of the screen.

Connectivity is as flexible as that of the Portege, with Ethernet network port, modem (on the left side with DVDCD-RW drive, PC disc and Secure Disc slots) and wireless capability (the faster 802.11g standard). The right side houses headphone and microphone sockets, two USB connections, video out (for a larger screen or projector) and Kensington lock point. On the back are the power and FireWire connectors and the detachable battery.

The distribution of these facilities is as simple and helpful as you could expect. As with the Portege, there is neither infrared nor Bluetooth capability, but those who need them can easily purchase add-ons.

The only obvious feature missing in a comparison with the Portege is an external volume control, not a key point when making a purchase. Oddly, it is present on the front of the much-awaited new RM One all-in-one PC (see cover offer - review in Online, November 5).

The nBook UltraLight certainly puts RM right up with the household brands for light, powerful notebooks. While the review model, with its faster processor and extra memory (pound;864) was more expensive than the Portege (Toshiba has slashed its price to pound;799), it is noticeably lighter (by a full pound), faster and has double the Tosh's memory. However, the two basic models in the UltraLight range both beat the Toshiba price, the entry-level machine by more than pound;100.

Competition in this part of the laptop market is clearly having positive results, and while there are plenty of other machines worth checking out, RM appears to have left its conservative (with a small C) image far behind.

Notebook computers are beginning to deserve their title - and this one ran for four hours on one charge.

* In next month's Online (November 5) Gail Robinson will check out bags and rucksacks for laptops.

We would be pleased to hear from teachers and educationists about their ideal laptop (email

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