The Sharp Actius MP30 joins the ranks of a new breed of ultraportable laptops that packs a full set of features into extremely lightweight designs. At 2.8 pounds, the Actius MP30 is just as portable as the competition, including the Fujitsu LifeBook P7010D and the Sony VAIO VGN-T150. But at $1,899 (as of January 2005), it's far more affordable.
First the bad news (if you can call it that). As Sharp did with the previous model, the Actius MM20, the company again uses a low-profile, low-cost Efficeon processor from Transmeta. This pays dividends in terms of price and design but detracts from the system's overall performance. The Actius MP30 just couldn't hang with the Pentium-based LifeBook P7010D or the VAIO VGN-T150 in CNET Labs' tests. Still, the Actius MP30's performance is adequate for sending e-mail, Web surfing, and working on typical office tasks. The laptop's 3-hour, 37-minute battery life is decent, especially in light of its small battery. Also absent are a FireWire port and a flash-memory card reader, features critical only to photographers and video editors.
There's a lot that's right with the Actius MP30, particularly its slick look. Taking a page from Apple's design manual, the Actius MP30 is simple, understated, and white--an iBook for the PC crowd. Look inside, and you'll find all the features you'll need: 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, built-in wireless networking, and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive (Sharp does not offer a DVD-burner option for this system). You'll also find some unexpected innovations. Foremost among these is Sharp's DirectHD technology, a simple utility that lets you drag and drop files between your Actius and another Windows-based computer via the included USB cable. We set up DirectHD in less than two minutes, and it worked flawlessly.
We also like the Actius MP30's Instant Play feature, found on other laptops such as the HP Pavilion dv1000 and the Averatec 6200. Instant Play lets you watch DVDs or listen to audio CDs without booting up Windows. The feature worked perfectly in testing; we could pause, skip ahead, fast-forward, and rewind all with the nifty remote-control pod attached to the included earphones. DVD playback on our unit looked good and was stutter-free.
We're big fans of the Actius MP30's Mobile Mode switch, which instantly ratchets down the screen brightness and the processor speed to save on battery life. However, to preserve the laptop's clean design, some system functions, such as mute and screen brightness, lack dedicated switches or buttons, leaving you only key-combination controls. We wish there were a hardware volume control somewhere.
Powered by ATI's Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics subsystem, the 10.4-inch screen on the Actius MP30 looks bright enough, if not overwhelmingly so, and offers a 1,024x768 native resolution that may take you to the cusp of eyestrain. Touch-typing on the Actius MP30 is doable but not exactly pleasant. While it has a good key layout, with decently sized backspace, enter, and tab keys, the keyboard is small, and it could cause you to make more typos than usual.
Sharp's support and upgrade options are limited. The company offers a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor and a three-year extended warranty for $199. While Sharp's site offers a few optional accessories, such as a $559 1GB RAM module, you cannot purchase any additional software, and we found the support Web site poorly designed and bereft of much useful information.
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Fujitsu LifeBook P7010D
Windows XP Professional; 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel Extreme Graphics 2 For Mobile (up to 64MB); Fujitsu MHT2060AT 60GB 4,200rpm
Sharp Actius MP30
Windows XP Home; 1.6GHz Efficeon TM8800; 512MBMB DDR SDRAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Fujitsu MHT2040AT SP 40GB 4,200rpm
Sony VAIO VGN-T150
Windows XP Professional; 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M ULV 733; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel Extreme Graphics 2 For Mobile (up to 64MB); Toshiba MK2004GAH 40GB 4,200rpm