Originally created 06/03/01

A good notebook for road warriors



Ultra-thin notebook computers have been all the rage lately, with computer manufacturers bombarding us with slimmed-down, lightweight models, tipping the scales at less than half the weight of their older siblings. But, as often goes along with shedding excess poundage, manufacturers of these computers have had to make a few sacrifices.

Everything that could add to the weight of the computer was shed - CD-ROMs, floppy drives, parallel, USB and serial ports, built-in modems, etc. You could attach external versions of these "extras" to your notebook, but that meant lugging them around along with the computer.

Now KDS (Korea Data Systems), better known for its monitors, has entered the fray with its ThinNote 2300 series of notebooks.

I've been playing with the ThinNote 2370iPT ($1,999), weighing in at 4.3 pounds, and its optional FlexBase module ($285), which adds another 2.5 pounds. And, except for one or two minor inconveniences, I was quite impressed with this metallic blue beauty.

This 1.1-inch-thick notebook outweighs its competitors by a pound or so, because it features what most of them have sacrificed.

The unit I played with came with an Intel SpeedStep 700 megahertz Pentium III processor; a huge 13.3-inch TFT screen;128 megabytes of SDRAM; a 10-gigabyte hard drive; an ATI 3D graphics card; built-in parallel, serial and USB ports; a built-in 56K modem and 10100mbps LAN card; a Type II PCMCIA slot; a sound card and built-in speakers; and a host of other features that are lacking on other ultra-thins. Also, there's an EIDE port to accommodate external floppy, ZIP and CD-ROM drives.

But hold on. I'm not done.

Its optional FelxBase docking station adds firewire capability, two bays for your drives, another USB port and other features that transform the ThinNote into a fully equipped notebook computer. You can even use it to charge a second lithium-ion battery.

The FlexBase attaches to the bottom of the notebook and its capabilities are instantly recognized by the Windows ME operating system. It's truly plug-and-play. There's also a lever and release button so it can be instantly disconnected and left at home or in the office when you don't need it.

Gone is this need for lugging around external drives. Gone is the flimsy plastic attachment that contains all your ports. Let's face it: KDS has found the perfect compromise between portability and capability.

But, alas, there are one or two things that keep this from being perfect.

It took me a while to adapt to its keyboard, the layout of which could send touch typists everywhere to the loony bin. I also found that the keys were a bit slick, due to their shiny finish, causing me to misspell more words than I normally do.

Also, sound reproduction is poor, probably due to inefficient speakers and their poor location below the computer's wrist rest. They make up for this by including an external speaker port on the side of the computer and on the FlexBase module.

Battery life is also a problem. I was able to get about 2.5 hours out of a charge after "stepping down" the computer's processor to 550 megahertz, but that's a lot less than we've come to expect from ultra-thins. Adding the FlexBase (with a floppy and CD-ROM drive installed) and running the computer at full speed (700 megahertz) greatly deteriorated times between charges.

The bottom line is, if a lack of features has kept you from buying an ultra-thin notebook, your prayers have been answered. Its capabilities far outweigh its inefficiencies, making it a logical choice for today's road warrior.