This monster notebook PC edges its competition aside

The RD10 from Sharp Systems never choked, even when it was continuously streaming media or processing eight large images in Adobe Photoshop.

Olivier Douliery

If you need everything in a notebook PC, regardless of weight, the Sharp Actius RD10 is for you. It's either the largest notebook or the smallest desktop computer on the planet.

Measuring 13.9 by 11.7 by 2 inches and weighing 10 pounds, 2 ounces, the RD10 isn't quite portable. But with a 2.08-GHz desktop Pentium 4 processor and 512M of double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM expandable to 768M, I'd call it a serious workhorse.

It could even double as a Web, print, file or media server with its 60G hard drive, 15-inch LCD and an nVidia GeForce 4 420 Go video card with 32M of video RAM.

I never encountered any processing hangups even when the RD10 was continuously streaming media. I tested it at desktop level by processing large, detailed images in Adobe Photoshop. It could crunch up to eight 7M to 10M images before I saw any significant slowdown.

That many Photoshop images completely crashed the GCN Lab's baseline Pentium 4 desktop with 512M of RAM.

With grace

The RD10 handled whatever I threw at it with relative ease. And I had no trouble throwing things because there were so many ports. It came standard with CompactFlash, SecureDigital, SmartMedia and Sony Memory Stick ports in front. At the sides and back were four Universal Serial Bus 2.0 ports, Digital Video port, IEEE 802.11b antenna, 10/100-Mbps Ethernet port, 56-Kbps modem port, one Type II PC Card port, FireWire port and TV-out connector.

So many ports plus a standard floppy drive might lead you to consider booking a plane seat for the notebook when you travel. If you don't, the good news for your neighbors in coach is that the battery doesn't last long.

When I used the CD-rewritable drive or watched a video in the DVD-ROM combo bay, the battery died in as little as 45 minutes.

The RD10 scored 6,027 on the lab's benchmark suite from Alterion Corp. of Conshohocken, Pa. That's 2,662 points higher than our baseline 1.1-GHz Celeron with 256M of RAM. Measured against top-of-the-line desktop PCs, the RD10 came in only slightly below the 7,501 average of PCs rated in our last high-end desktop roundup. That's not bad for a notebook.

Compared with the last roundup of desktop replacements, the Sharp RD10 outscored them all, earning 29,088 against the average of 23,862 on the processor-specific benchmark.

The native resolution of the 15-inch XGA screen was 1,024 by 768 pixels, but the video card was powerful enough to match most resolutions. That's handy on the road for connecting to various projectors or presentation monitors.

Sharp's proprietary DVD picture-optimization software made videos look better than on any other notebook or desktop I've seen.

One design feature that accounted for the RD10's speed was good air circulation. Even after five hours of benchmarking, the RD10 didn't break a sweat, and the surface beneath the machine didn't warm up, as is the case with most notebooks.

But cool came at a cost. The good venting made the RD10 the loudest notebook ever when the fan came on, which happened a lot.

The best thing about the RD10 was the price. A unit with specifications nearly identical to the one I tested recently dropped from $2,100 to $1,899. That aggressive price point should give high-priced lightweights with Pentium M chips a run for their money.

If you want the kitchen sink plus speed and don't mind a workout when you move it around, the RD10 is unmatched.


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