capsule review

Sharp Actius MP30

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sharp Actius MP30 Notebook

Sharp Actius MP30
Photograph: Rick Rizner

"Aw, how cute!" might be your first reaction to the 2.8-pound, all-white Sharp Actius MP30. This uniquely designed ultraportable looks toylike, but it performed well for its class.

The MP30's fixed, front-mounted DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination drive doubles as a personal DVD player--albeit an expensive one. Press the aquamarine DVD/CD button on the left side of the case, and watch movies or listen to CDs without starting Windows. The MP30 comes with only one speaker, which is typical for an ultraportable, and the monaural sound is lousy. Sharp bundles earbuds and a small remote control; that gives you more stuff to keep track of, but it's better than using the keyboard to control volume and music tracks.

The MP30 performs one other neat trick: It functions as a USB hard drive. Using Sharp's built-in DirectHD technology and a bundled, proprietary USB cable, you can view the laptop's contents on another PC. The MP30 shows up as a drive letter in the host PC's Windows Explorer; just drag and drop files between them just as you would with any other external storage device.

The well-designed MP30 has all the connections you'll need for work. The only major omissions are a video-out port (for using a TV as a monitor) and a parallel port. The only significant problem we encountered was with the optical drive: Its drive tray occasionally wouldn't stay shut, forcing us to push it in repeatedly. The 10.4-inch LCD looks sharp.

The keyboard, which features a petite silver-skinned touchpad, felt a little cramped and shallow with its 17mm key pitch and 1.7mm keystroke (compared with a full-size laptop's 19mm key pitch and 3mm keystroke). Some important functions, such as Page Up and Page Down, require combination keystrokes. On the bright side, however, the all-important <Ctrl> and <Delete> keys are located in opposite corners for quick access. Overall, the layout is good enough to support touch typing after some practice.

The MP30 managed e-mail, word processing, and basic spreadsheet and graphics work reasonably well, but its WorldBench 5 score was among the worst registered by an ultraportable notebook. Equipped with a 1.6-GHz Transmeta Efficeon TM8800 processor, the MP30 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 50. Laptops we've tested with a more mainstream ultraportable processor, the 1.1-GHz Pentium ultra-low-voltage chip, earned a score of 56 on average; that's about 12 percent faster. An IBM ThinkPad x40 equipped with a 1.2-GHz Pentium M low-voltage chip earned a score of 55, about 10 percent faster.

The entire ultraportable class is slow compared with full-size laptops carrying Intel's fastest mobile chip to date, the 2-GHz Pentium M. Those laptops have earned scores as high as 92 in our tests, indicating that they're nearly twice as fast as the MP30. The rear-mounted battery lasted 3 hours on one charge.

Like many ultraportables, the MP30 limits users' upgrade options. The 40GB hard drive is not user accessible, and the only memory slot is located in a compartment on the bottom of the notebook.

The Sharp Actius MP30 is for people who prefer low price, high style, and small size to pure performance.

Sharp Actius MP30

WorldBench 5 score of 50, 1.6-GHz Efficeon TM8800, 512MB of DDR333 SDRAM, Windows XP Home, 10.4-inch screen, 40GB hard drive, DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, built-in V.92 modem and 10/100 ethernet, 802.11g, touchpad pointing device, 3.7-pound weight (including AC adapter and phone cord). One-year parts and labor warranty, continuous 24-hour toll-free support.

Carla Thornton

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sharp Actius MP30 Notebook

Shop Tech Products at Amazon