capsule review

Sharp Actius RD20

At a Glance
  • Sharp Actius RD20 Desktop Repl P4/3.6 60HD DVD-R/RW/RAM &CD-R/RW (Sharp-PCRD20)

Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Buy Sharp's new Actius RD20 for its DVD burner--but not its performance. Its cheaper sibling, the Actius RD10 we reviewed in August, has only a CD-RW drive, but it's just as fast as the RD20 and lasts longer on a battery charge.

Equipped with a 3.06-GHz Pentium 4 desktop processor, the RD20 earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 123 in our tests. It's a good score, just as high as that earned by the average notebook we've tested with Intel's newer 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M mobile chip, but no better than the Actius RD10's identical score. Both of these hefty black-and-silver notebooks suffer from meager battery life but the RD10's is slightly better: 1.7 hours on one charge, 20 minutes longer than the RD20's 1.3 hours.

The RD20 offers most of the features you might want in a desktop replacement, including a DVD burner and a built-in floppy drive. You get big helpings of USB ports--four total--as well as three front-mounted card slots that take all the most popular memory cards: CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, and SmartMedia. Also included: an S-Video port and a FireWire port.

The big keyboard, which is firm and quiet, includes a light-gray touchpad and metallic mouse buttons. Although it lacks the standard extras of quick-launch and scrolling buttons, it does offer a handy screen brightness button.

Storage upgrades should be easy with the RD20's removable hard drive, located beneath a bottom panel and secured by a couple of small screws. The memory slots take a few more minutes to reach beneath the keyboard, but it's not difficult, and one slot remains open.

Some of the RD20's features seem at odds. The notebook is equipped well enough to satisfy those looking for an alternative to buying another desktop PC, yet Sharp sells no docking station to make desktop use more convenient. (Some users might also miss having a parallel port.) At the same time, the 10-pound-plus machine (not counting the 2-pound power adapter, which you'll need) is far too heavy to go hot-spot hopping, despite the built-in 802.11b card.

Unlike many heavy-bodied notebooks, the RD20 lacks good built-in sound. The stereo speakers, embedded in the lower screen frame, are weak and have no hardware controls.

The RD20 bundles a fairly comprehensive printed manual (we could find nothing on removing the hard drive), but no electronic references.

You may be able to happily trade in your desktop PC for the Actius RD20, but not if you need portability. The unwieldy case and subpar battery life make the RD20 a poor traveling companion.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Sharp Actius RD20 Desktop Repl P4/3.6 60HD DVD-R/RW/RAM &CD-R/RW (Sharp-PCRD20)

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