Despite its valiant attempts at creating a carnival atmosphere, when Microsoft launches a new operating system, it seldom feels like a world-changing event in the world of design. Even the considerable hoopla surrounding the introduction of Windows XP was hardly like the introduction of the bikini or the Volkswagen Beetle - or, dare we say it, the iPhone.
Instead, Windows fans tend to get their kicks from the solid virtues of better use of multithreaded processing, incremental increases in usability and a few nods towards the fun stuff. Next to the beauty of, say, a carved aluminum laptop casing packaged with matte black boxes, most PCs feel a bit utilitarian.
At least, that's how it used to be. But the latest wave of portable PCs that's due to break when Windows 7 ships this month seems to be adding a touch of style to the all-business outlook that used to be the PC's stock in trade. Sure, productivity and practical considerations are there in spades, but there's a hint of glamor in the air too.
From the small and thin (the HP Mini and Toshiba Satellite T100 lines) to executive bling (Dell's Latitude Z and Sony's Vaio X), these Windows 7 portables are a far cry from the beaten metal beige boxes that we used to call IBM compatibles. Here's what to expect.
Microsoft has made faster boot-up times a selling point of Windows 7, as have PC manufacturers such as Lenovo. And that's only the beginning of the overall go-faster design of the next wave of notebooks.
Toshiba paid close attention to restore time when designing its new Satellite T100 line. These ultrathin notebooks weigh in at 3.5 pounds and are 1 inch thick (albeit without internal optical drives), and can wake up from hibernation to productivity in a little over two seconds. Toshiba achieved this almost-instant-on capability with a series of little BIOS tweaks, each of which shaves a fraction of a second off wake-up tasks.
The T100 line includes two models: the almost-a-netbook 11-inch T115 for $US449 and the subcompact 13.5-inch T135 for $US699. Both are engineered for long battery life, making a nine-hour work day without recharging a real possibility.
For people who want an even faster boot-up time, the HP ProBook 5310m (starting at $US699) takes things one step further. This 0.9-inch-thick notebook features two applications that let you get online without even booting the system up at all: They operate outside of the notebook's operating system. Press a button and in around 20 seconds you're using a secure connection to the Internet to browse Web sites. Another utility, QuickLook3, handles e-mail, calendar and contact information, also without needing to boot up Windows 7.
And to add a little glamor to the ProBook 5310m's productivity gains and 3.7-pound feather-weight, this 13.5-inch ultra-slim model comes in black anodized aluminum with a magnesium frame.