For me the two most important features for a portable are weight (I like less of it) and style (I like more of it). The problem with weight is that most portable machines feel 50 per cent lighter when you try them in the showroom than when you have been carrying them for 10 minutes. The problems with style are even more serious - it's a personal thing. The ideal laptop is therefore the one that weighs next to nothing, oozes style and has all the features of your powerful desktop machine. The Toshiba Portege 2000 makes a real attempt to overcome the weight problem with style, and provides all the power that you will need.
The Portege 2000 weighs in at 1.2kg (that's about 2.5lbs), which is really light - my Apple G4 weighs over twice as much. The Portege is the size of an A4 sheet of paper and less than 2cm thick. It hardly adds any weight to a briefcase full of paper. Toshiba has achieved this weight reduction by stripping out all the unnecessary bits and pieces. I don't know when I last used a floppy disk - the Portege 2000 does have a floppy drive - but it's an external device that can be connected only when needed.
The same is true of the CD drive - it's available as an external device when needed. There is also an external additional battery if you want one that adds about 25 per cent to the overall weight of the machine. So as a portable it scores very highly. In terms of performance it also does well with all the RAM and processor power that you might need. The machine has a 750MHz Pentium III processor and comes with 256Mb of memory, and amazingly for such a thin, light machine it has a 20Gb hard drive.
The Portege also has all the usual connectivity such as USB (x2) and video out, but it also has wireless networking capability. The wireless is 802.11 compliant and defines what this machine is really about. Most of the items in computers that add to the weight are to do with input and output of information. Input and output devices have just not kept pace with other components in the weight loss race - part of the answer to a lightweight machine therefore has to be to exclude them in the basic offering. Wireless networking means that for the weight of a small PCMCIA type network card you can have the network as your IO device and not put on serious weight. While wireless connectivity is still developing, it can deliver 11Mbps now - and connectivity to other people's networks is straightforward, given the necessary permissions.
The Portege 2000 therefore scores on both weight and connectivity and is powerful enough. On style, the slim metallic A4 box really looks the part. It also comes in an upmarket leather briefcase with compartments for all those external devices such as floppy and CD drives. The machine and the briefcase are to die for - the external devices I'd leave at home.
Les Watson is pro vice-chancellor for learning and information services at Glasgow Caledonian University
Toshiba Portege 2000 Fitness for purpose ****
Ease of use *****
Value for money ****
750MHz Pentium III processor, 256Mb RAM, 20Gb HDD, 12.1-inch TFT screen, built-in Ethernet, 56k Modem and WiFi networking, Windows 2000Windows XP
Pro Weight 1.19kg
Price: pound;1,699 + VAT