Mobile Computing: Ruggedized Notebooks

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Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

Notebook News: Sharp Ultraportable With Built-in Optical Drive

Most ultraportable notebooks, including Sharp's earlier Actius models, don't include built-in CD/DVD drives. Enter Sharp's new Actius MP30 ($1899), which weighs just under 3 pounds but includes a CD-RW/DVD combo drive, 802.11g Wi-Fi networking, and more. Another distinguishing feature: Like the earlier Actius MM20, you can use Sharp's newest ultraportable as an external USB hard drive for your main computer--which makes synchronizing files between the two easier, according to the company.

Consumer Advice: Best Places to Buy a Notebook

We did our own legwork, and we took a survey of our readers. We came to the following conclusions: The three best Web sites for buying a notebook (or any computer) are CDW, the Apple Store, and Dell. The best retail stores? The Apple Store, Best Buy, and CompUSA. Each retailer was ranked according to buying advice, pricing and rebates, selection, and return policies. Read "Best Places to Buy" for more findings.

Gadget News: Samsung's Portable Media Center Debuts

Not long after the Creative Zen Portable Media Center arrived, Samsung introduced its own PMC, the YH-999. The 20GB device plays videos and music, displays photos, features a 3.5-inch color screen, and is available for $500 from Best Buy.

For more about portable video players, read my column on the subject.

Gadget News: Digital Camera-MP3 Player Combo

Want to listen to tunes while you snap pictures? You can do it all with one device: the new Olympus M:robe series. The MR-500i (aka M:robe 500) combines a 20GB digital music player with a 1.22-megapixel digital camera. You control the device's many features using its 3.7-inch color VGA touch-screen, the company says. This gadget will be available in January for $500.

PDA News: Zaurus Now Includes a Hard Drive

It's always interesting to see what's coming out of Japan, right? Well, check this out: Sharp's latest Linux-based Zaurus PDA, available in November for about $730 in Japan only, has a 4GB hard drive.

The new Zaurus is 4.9 inches wide, 3.4 inches long, and 0.9 inches thick. It runs on a 416-MHz Intel XScale processor by Intel, and has 16MB of flash memory, 64MB of SDRAM, and a 3.7-inch VGA (640 by 480) screen that swivels and folds. The total weight, including built-in thumb keyboard, is 10.5 ounces, Sharp says. The PDA can act as an external hard drive to which you drag and drop Microsoft Office and image files, MP3 tunes, and more. Sharp is considering selling a version of the new Zaurus outside Japan, the company says.

Digital Camera Tip: Snap Before You Drive

Many of us rent cars when traveling for business. But sometimes, the car comes with preexisting conditions that the rental car later blames you for. To avoid that scenario, Mike B. of the Washington, D.C. area takes pictures of a rental car before accepting it. The images provide a visual record, with a date and time stamp, of the odometer and fuel gauge readings, any exterior dents or interior stains, and so forth. "The act of photographing the vehicle ... simplifies resolving any dispute that may arise," Mike says.

For more advice on using a digital camera for work, read my "Digital Camera Tips" column. For general tips on using digital cameras, browse Dave Johnson's Digital Focus columns.

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