Lots of notebooks are either too big or too small, but the $1,799 Sharp M4000 WideNote is just right for business travelers looking to slim their load for the road. With its 13.3-inch wide-screen display, midrange Pentium M processor, and high-capacity battery, this system takes Sharp's notebooks to new heights of practicality and economy--although the machine's range of ports, amount of memory, and networking might be limiting to some.
Looking at the M4000 WideNote's magnesium case with brushed-aluminum accents, we can see why this sleek laptop is the hottest laptop in gadget-crazed Japan. Measuring 12.3 inches wide, 9 inches deep, and 1.2 inches thick, its dimensions are similar to those of the thin-and-light Averatec 4200 and the Sony VAIO VGN-S470P--but, at 3.7 pounds, the M4000 WideNote is almost a pound lighter than both models. Going by weight, the Sharp is more in league with smaller laptops, such as the Acer TravelMate TM3002WTCi. Even with its small AC adapter, the M4000 WideNote weighs a remarkable 4.3 pounds.
The M4000 WideNote's wide case accommodates an excellent full-size silver-color keyboard, as well as surprisingly full-sounding stereo speakers. Unfortunately, the notebook's touch pad is remarkably small, and its two mouse buttons are tiny; there's no scroll button or scrolling strip. One of the growing number of notebooks to use the wide-screen 13.3-inch display format, the Sharp M4000 WideNote offers a 1,200x800 native resolution screen that looks brighter and richer than the Averatec 4200's display, which is the same size and resolution.
Around its periphery the M4000 WideNote has most of the ports that business users need, including headphone and microphone jacks, a VGA port, and two side-by-side USB ports, as well as Type II PC Card and Secure Digital card slots. The laptop lacks S-Video and FireWire ports. There's also a combo CD-RW/DVD drive, although it can't be swapped for a second battery or hard drive. Users can get online via the M4000's modem, 100Mbps Ethernet (not the faster Gigabit Ethernet that corporate buyers like to see), or an Intel 802.11b/g Wi-Fi data radio. In our anecdotal tests, the laptop was able to stay online for a longer-than-average 150 feet from a base station. Unfortunately for a system aimed at business travelers, the M4000 WideNote lacks corporate-level security features, such as a fingerprint reader or a Trusted Platform Module.
The system comes with Windows XP Professional; it also ships with Drag'n Drop CD+DVD 4.0 for burning CDs and InterVideo WinDVD for watching DVDs. In addition, the M4000 WideNote includes Sharp's excellent network and power-management utilities.
For $1,799, the Sharp M4000 WideNote offers midrange components, including a 1.73GHz Pentium M processor, a decent-size 80GB hard drive that spins at a slow 4,200rpm, 512MB of swift 400MHz RAM (it can hold up to 1.5GB), and an Intel 915 graphics accelerator that swipes up to 128MB of memory from system RAM. Those components carried the M4000 WideNote to a decent, but not remarkable, performance on CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. The compact system ran 40 percent faster than the low-performing Averatec 4200, which has a slower, 1.6GHz processor. But the M4000 WideNote scored 11 percent slower than the VAIO VGN-S470P, which included a dedicated graphics card but had otherwise identical components for the same price. If you can make do with a slightly smaller screen and no optical drive, you might also consider the similarly configured Acer TravelMate TM3002WTCi, which performed as well as the VGN-S470P but costs $500 less.