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Summer of the ultraportable laptop

A generous handful of exciting new systems are generating heavy buzz.

It's no secret that we have a soft spot for supersmall laptops. Ultraportables, as they're called, generally have 11- or 12-inch screens and weigh in at less than four pounds--perfect for lugging around all day or hanging at the local coffee shop with. Unfortunately, these guys are usually plagued by the twin devils of high prices and poor battery life (not to mention occasionally underpowered processors).

The Sony VAIO TZ150

This, however, has clearly been the summer of the ultraportable, with a generous handful of exciting new systems generating heavy buzz. But with all these new choices, which one is right for you?

First, we have Sony's VAIO TZ150-- we loved pretty much everything about this 11.1-inch laptop, which is less than an inch thick and weighs less than three pounds. Well, everything except the $2,299 starting price and somewhat sluggish performance (which we were able to improve by uninstalling a bunch of junkware).

Neck-and-neck was our most wanted laptop of the year, Toshiba's Portege R500. A bit larger than the Sony, and with a bigger 12.1-inch screen, it was actually slightly lighter and thinner. So light that one of our colleagues picked it up and asked if it was a dummy model.

The Toshiba Portege R500

Both of these systems include optical drives, which is something we wouldn't have seen in a laptop this size in past years. Both also offer excellent battery life, which is perhaps the most important thing for computing on the go.

Sadly, the Sony and Toshiba ultraportables range from $2,000 to $3,000 depending on options, including solid state flash hard drives, which are cool, but still way too expensive to be practical. If you're looking for a supersmall laptop without a supersize price, we managed to find a few slightly less flashy options. Averatec makes a handful of ultraportable systems that offer surprisingly good value for the money. You'll sacrifice the sub-one-inch designs and some battery life, but the company's 11.1-inch Averatec 1579 is $1,299, while the 12.1-inch, AMD-powered 2371 starts at $899, making it the cheapest ultraportable we can think of.

The Averatec 1579

Of course, all this info is useless if you're buying a laptop on the company dime and The Man won't let you get one of these snazzy consumer systems. HP has a pretty good new ultraportable, the HP Compaq 2510p, from their corporate line. It's still around $2,000 for a decent configuration, and the battery life is poor, but it adds security-friendly features such as hard-drive encryption.

There you have it, five new ultraportable laptops for the summer, with something for almost every budget. For a more detailed breakdown, check out our side-by-side comparison here.