The original example of the genre is Apple's MacBook Air, but those machines don't come cheap. Even with recent price drops, the MacBook Air still costs $1500.
That kind of pricing can be a bit rich for the blood of many smaller companies, so other vendors are rushing in to fill the gap. And Dell's new Vostro 1220 is a good example. With prices starting at $800, the Vostro includes an Intel Celeron 900 chip, a DVD writer (some ultraportables lack optical drives), 2GB RAM and a 160GB hard drive. Extra-cost options include upgraded processors, more memory, and bigger and faster hard-drives.
But unlike high-end ultraportables like the MacBook Air and the Lenovo Thinkpad X301 -- which boast 13.3-inch screens -- the Vostro 1220 has a smallish 12.1-inch display (only slightly smaller than the MacBook Air's 1200 x 800). And while netbooks have even smaller screens, they typically come with Windows XP, which works faster on underpowered machines. The 1220 comes with Vista -- an XP "downgrade" costs another $100.
On the plus side, Dell claims 9 hours of battery life from the standard 6-cell battery. And Dell adds its pre-installed videoconferencing software, Dell Video Chat, and a variety of security options and fast 802.11n connectivity.
These days, laptops come in just about every form factor imaginable. If you're looking for something powerful enough to be your primary computer but portable enough to take with you everywhere you go, a 12.1-inch ultraportable like the Vostro 1220 can make sense.
You'll find plenty of ultraportable laptop choices out there, and prices continue to fall as more manufacturers introduce new models. But the Vostro line is aimed squarely at small businesses, with 24/7 SMB-oriented support and less "trialware."
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