300-MHz notebook speeds are hardly worth the weight

TEST DRIVE


Intel Corp.’s newest 300-MHz mobile Pentium II processor gives notebook computers
a 12.1 percent math benchmark boost.


But short battery life plagued the five units I reviewed for this Test Drive, just as
it did the slower Pentium II units reviewed on Page 21.


It’s a mystery why Compaq Computer Corp. added a whole pound of weight to its new
Armada 7400 with the 300-MHz mobile Pentium II.


I liked its predecessor, the Armada 7300 [GCN, April 6, Page 28]. For more than six months, I carried a 6-pound Armada 7350MT all over the
world. But the Armada 7400 has lost the balance between power and weight. With a larger,
13.3-inch display, the once-lightweight unit is now almost as heavy as the Armada 7800.


Meanwhile, Compaq’s brand-new, supposedly lightweight Armada 3500 with its
single-spindle design is a throwback to the old Armada 4100 [GCN, Dec. 9, 1996, Page 33].


The Armada 3500 weighs almost 5 pounds without access to floppy or CD-ROM drives. A
so-called slice unit provides the two spindles as well as speakers and an AC adapter. The
slice attaches to the notebook’s base, making it thick and weighty. It’s only 7
ounces lighter than the 7400. Compaq ought to sell a 6-pound, dual-spindle notebook
instead.


Both the Armada 7400 and 3500 performed pretty well on the lab’s GCNdex32TM
benchmark suite. But both units need better battery efficiency. The Armada 3500 barely
achieved the lab’s minimum eight-minutes-per-battery-ounce requirement.


Dell Computer Corp.’s Latitude CPi D300XT shows good benchmark gains over the
266-MHz version that earned a Reviewer’s Choice designation (see story, Page 21).


The price is right, and, as I noted about its 266-MHz little sister, the CPi D300XT is
a sophisticated unit with a low weight of around 61/4 pounds. The battery life is decent,
and the speakers give good sound.


The Gateway Inc. Solo 9100XL would have scored higher, but it’s too heavy. No
matter how glitzy its features, a 9-pound notebook is too bulky to tote around. The 1
1/4-pound battery did not survive even two hours of the lab’s maximum drainage test.
The DVD-ROM drive performed well, however.


The TransPort Trek II from Micron Electronics Inc. of Nampa, Idaho, felt toylike. It
performed well enough on the benchmark tests, but its battery life also was brief.


For the typical road warrior, the crucial factors are weight and battery life. On a
long flight, these 300-MHz notebooks would work until the midflight meal—maybe.
    

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