Sharp PC-AR50

WHAT'S HOT: Because it has only one internal media bay, the Sharp PC-AR50 measures a relatively thin 1.3 inches tall and weighs only 5.9 pounds, not including the AC adapter. You can hot-swap the floppy drive and the 8X/4X/24X CD-RW drive you get at this price, or you can put a second battery in the bay.

The PC-AR50 also provides two USB ports (on the left and the back), as well as an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port for high-speed downloads from digital camcorders and other digital equipment. If you need to see more on a notebook screen, you'll like the PC-AR50's 14.1-inch display, which offers a higher-than-average resolution of 1400 by 1050 pixels.

WHAT'S NOT: Only one thin print manual comes with the PC-AR50, and you get no electronic documentation--which is always useful for looking up information on the road. To attach the floppy drive externally, you must shell out another US$49 for a housing with a built-in parallel port cable.

WHAT ELSE: Overall the PC-AR50 is an attractive notebook, but nothing makes it stand out, and its price of $2499 is only about average. It features an attractive case, silver and dark blue, with user-upgradable memory and storage. The keyboard is soft and quiet, with five dedicated shortcut buttons that are rather strangely labeled with archaic-looking Roman numerals, but useful all the same.

The PC-AR50 offers clear, medium-volume stereo speakers, but it lacks the audio controls that some notebooks have for easy music-CD playback. In terms of performance it lags behind the average Pentium III-850 laptop by a slim 6 percent, a difference you probably won't notice. Battery life also just skirts the average, at 2 hours, 44 minutes.

UPSHOT: Although the PC-AR50 would make a fine laptop for digital editors, it can't match its competition in the notebook price wars. For instance, the Toshiba Satellite 2805-S603 also reviewed this month offers a lot more--including a 15-inch screen, a combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, and a 30GB hard drive--for $100 less.

Sharp PC-AR50

PC WorldBench 2000 score of 135, Pentium III-850/700 CPU, 128MB of RAM, 256KB L2 cache, Windows Millennium Edition, 14.1-inch active-matrix screen, ATI Rage P/M Mobility graphics chip with 8MB of SGRAM, 20GB hard drive, 8X/4X/24X CD-RW drive, built-in V.90 modem and ethernet connection, touchpad pointing device, 6.6 pounds (including AC adapter and phone cord). One-year parts and labor warranty; free unlimited 24-hour toll-free tech support.$US2499; www.sharp-business.com

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