Sharp Actius MM20
The Sharp Actius MM20 is a quintessentially ultraportable laptop. At just less than $1,499 (as of October 2004), it's also one of the least expensive laptops of its size, weighing just 2 pounds and measuring 0.62 inch thick at the front and 0.78 inch at the back--fractionally bigger than the sexier but much more expensive Sony VAIO X505. While the Actius MM20 is adequate for basic productivity tasks, it skimps on computing power, has a short battery life, and lacks a number of features found in laptops that weigh just a pound or two more, such as the Dell Inspiron 700m. In fact, its performance and battery life fall significantly short of other comparably sized systems--most notably, the high-octane .
The Actius MM20's 10.4-inch screen, with a 1,024x768 native resolution, is too small to serve as your primary monitor but big enough to use while away from your home or office. Likewise, the Actius MM20's keyboard features small but usable 17mm keys. Unlike the VAIO X505 and the ThinkPad X40, which both have tiny pointing sticks poking out from the keyboard, we prefer the Actius MM20's small but functional touch pad with two petite mouse buttons underneath.
It's a fact of life for small-form-factor laptops: they come with relatively few features and connections. The Actius MM20 comes with the basics: 802.11b/g wireless networking (plus a feature called Mobile Mode that lets you slow the processor and dim the screen to preserve battery life); two USB 2.0 ports; modem and LAN ports; a headphone jack; one type II PC Card slot; and a VGA converter output. There's no FireWire and, of course, no optical drive (same as with the ThinkPad X40 and the VAIO X505). Included with the Actius MM20 is a connection cradle, which, once attached via USB to your desktop PC or another laptop, lets you plug in the laptop to sync up to it from your desktop, just like a regular USB drive. The system also comes preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Home. The ThinkPad X40 and the VAIO X505 both offer comparable features and connections, though the ThinkPad X40 comes with a fuller array of productivity software.
The Actius MM20 is not made for power computing. It features a 1GHz Efficeon TM8600 processor that's inferior to the Pentium M processors in the VAIO X505 and the ThinkPad X40; likewise, the IBM and the Sony have more powerful graphics chips. All three systems have 512MB of DDR SDRAM. The Sony and the Sharp both have small, 20GB hard drives, while the IBM we tested had a more useful 40GB drive. With the weakest specs of the three systems, it's no surprise that the Actius MM20 got pummeled in CNET Labs' test suite, falling well behind the ThinkPad X40 and the VAIO X505. The Actius MM20 has enough performance power to get you through basic computing tasks, such as e-mail and word processing, but not much more. Its battery life isn't much better--it lasted a mere 148 minutes in our test; not terrible, but not particularly useful for a cross-country flight.
Sharp backs the Actius MM20 with an industry-standard warranty: one year of free parts and labor. The company offers good toll-free tech support by phone 24/7, plus fairly responsive tech support via e-mail (our simple test question was answered within one business day), online product registration, drivers and PDF manuals, and particularly basic and general online resources, including a FAQ and a glossary.