Half-size HP notebook earns full-size scores

The 334-pound OmniBook 800CT subnotebook squeezes in most of the goodies of a
full-scale Microsoft Windows 95 notebook: 133-MHz Pentium chip, 16M RAM, 128-bit video
controller and 1.3G hard drive.


To stay under 4 pounds, it makes certain sacrifices: shorter battery life, a smaller
keyboard and active-matrix display, and a mini-mouse on a Popsicle stick-like extension,
which Hewlett-Packard introduced on subnotebooks in the early 1990s.


About the size of a Matchbox car, the two-button mini-mouse tucks in at the right side
of the 800CT and comes out of its garage at the touch


of a key. It's connected to the computer by a thin plastic bar, which determines the
way the cursor moves.


In cramped spaces, the mini-mouse just won't do. But given a little room and a flat
surface, the mini-mouse works fine, although large hands need time to adjust to its
subtleties.


With displays growing ever wider, we'll see portables with 13-inch screens later this
year. However, the 800CT's 10.3-inch diagonal display is sufficient to show 256 bright
colors at 800- by 600-pixel resolution.


The 800CT turned in excellent scores on our GCNdex32TM benchmark suite, ranking fourth
out of 20 Pentium 133s reviewed in the past six months.


In fact, the 800CT had better scores than Hewlett-Packard's full-sized OmniBook 5500CT
[GCN, Aug. 5, 1996, Page 40]. And the 800CT's light weight makes it even more
attractive.


Less weight means less battery. The little lithium-ion cell gets drained quickly by the
Pentium chip, active-matrix display and big hard drive-114 hours was as long as it could
operate under our ultimate battery drainage test. Normal use should net up to 212 hours.


The external 312-inch floppy drive attaches by a cable. A $393 optional docking station
clamps onto the 800CT. Sometimes it doesn't let go.


You can manually release the drive by pressing the dock button. I used a paper clip.
But the first time I tried, nothing happened.


After I slipped a credit card through the junction, as you would to unlock a latched
door, the dock began responding to separation orders.


An external four-speed CD-ROM drive is also available for $393. The drive's SCSI cable
connects to the 800CT, but the plug doesn't fit the SCSI connection on the docking
station.


Need compact computing power at minimal weight?


If you don't mind fairly short battery life compared with that of most standard
notebooks, the HP OmniBook 800CT is a good answer.


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