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Portable One SXS37 review: Portable One SXS37

Portable One SXS37

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
6 min read

A 13-inch, thin-and-light laptop running Windows Vista Business typically would come outfitted with sparse features and a staid design for buttoned-up corporate users looking for a lightweight mobile work machine. Not so with the Portable One SXS37. This $1,399 laptop offers surprisingly powerful components--highlighted by a 256MB Nvidia GeForce graphics card--inside a sleek and polished chassis. Just make sure you opt for the battery upgrade, because the standard battery offers meager performance, at best.


Portable One SXS37

The Good

Sturdy and attractive case; excellent mix of components for the money, including Nvidia graphics card; quiet and cool during operation; cheap memory upgrade to 4GB; eSATA port is an unexpected bonus; Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n (draft), and Trust Platform Module add to its allure as business machine.

The Bad

Disappointing battery life.

The Bottom Line

If you need a graphics workhorse packed inside a portable 13-inch laptop, the Portable One SXS37 delivers the goods.

When reviewing a laptop with a 13.3-inch screen, it's hard not to look at Apple's 13-inch MacBook for comparison. While the Portable One SXS37's overall design doesn't match that of the MacBook, it does get points for trying. Often we see laptops from smaller vendors using an OEM case that's rough around the edges. The Portable One SXS37's chassis features an attractive, glossy black lid with rounded, tapered edges similar to those found on the MacBook. It's also blissfully free of branding; the only Portable One signage comes by way of a small, silver badge below the display. Open up the laptop, and you'll find a wide-screen display with a silver bezel, a silver keyboard tray, and a black keyboard. (Befitting our MacBook comparison, the Portable One is also available with white trim; unlike with Apple, both colors cost the same.) On the whole, the chassis feels very solid with little flex, particularly the lid, which is always a comforting feeling--it helps knowing that your laptop's display is well protected against the daily abuse heaped upon a laptop.

The tale of the tape reveals that the Portable One SXS37 is slightly lighter (4.9 pounds vs. 5 pounds) and thicker (1.3 inches vs. 1.1 inches) than the MacBook, while also featuring a more square shape. The MacBook's power adapter is lighter than the SXS37's, however, giving the MacBook the edge with total travel weight. The Portable One SXS37's touchpad is on the small size, especially compared with the MacBook's generous trackpad, but it's very responsive and easy to use. It features the always welcome vertical scroll area along the right edge, but it lacks the admittedly less useful horizontal scroll area. Lending to the Portable One SXS37's minimalist design, the touchpad is slightly depressed from the rest of the keyboard tray but made from the same material. HP's Pavilion laptops feature a similar design, but because Pavilions, such as the just reviewed tx2000, feature a glossy coating, it's less practical because of the drag it creates. The SXS37 uses a plastic with a more matte finish, which makes the touchpad design excel in both form and function.

All is not perfect in touchpad land, however. Between the right and left mouse buttons sits a fingerprint reader (which works with the system's TPM chip). I've never liked this design, because it shortens the buttons. Perhaps I'd get used to it over time, but in the time I've been using this model, I hit the fingerprint reader instead of the right mouse button. I'd prefer the fingerprint reader reside off to the right and out of the way. The keyboard itself is very comfortable, with good travel and no shortened keys. Lastly, we found the SXS37 to be remarkably cool and quiet during operation, which isn't always the case with laptops that feature dedicated graphics.

Price as reviewed $1,399
Processor 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250
Memory 2GB 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel 965
Graphics 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400MG
Operating System Windows Vista Business
Dimensions (WDH) 12.5 x 10.0 x 1.3 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.9 / 5.9 pounds
Category Thin and light

The 13.3-inch wide-screen display features a typical 1,280x800 native resolution. The display delivers a bright image, and Portable One has a $399 upgrade for what it calls TrioView, a transflective finish for presumably better outdoor viewing when you're battling direct sunlight. Above the display is a 2-megapixel Webcam, and while it looks a bit clunky, it's able to rotate 240 degrees so you can use the laptop like a camcorder and capture the action on the opposite side of the screen. On the front edge of the laptop you'll find the stereo speakers, which is the best placement for directing audio to you, the user sitting in front of the laptop. The sound was decent for an integrated pair of speakers but far from filling the room.

The Portable One SXS37 provides a standard allotment of ports and connections, with one notable exception: an eSATA port for faster data transfers to external hard drives. As is becoming more common, the laptop also provides 802.11n (draft) wireless.

The Portable One SXS37's specs compare favorably with the MacBook's, particularly when you consider that the SXS37 comes standard with a 256MB graphics card. Looking at Dell's 14-inch Inspiron 1420, however, tells a different story. I configured a nearly identical Inspiron 1420 on Dell's site (main difference being the GeForce 8400 card on the Dell has only 128MB of video RAM), and with the "Instant Savings" currently being offered, the Inspiron config comes in at $1,294, or $105 less than the Portable One. Still, the SXS37 represents a good value. Plus, I've never seen a cheaper memory upgrade than the $100 Portable One charges to double the RAM to 4GB. Moving in the opposite direction, you can shave $100 off the baseline price if you trade in the dedicated Nvidia graphics for integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics.

In CNET Labs, the Portable One SXS37 turned in a bit of an uneven performance, scoring better on our Photoshop benchmark than it did on our Multitasking test. Though its 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7250 processor is clocked at the same speed as the T7300 chip found inside the Dell Inspiron 1420 and the HP Pavilion dv2500t, it features half the L2 cache (2MB vs. 4MB), which is likely the cause of its lackluster scoring on our Multitasking benchmark. The MacBook bested the SXS37 on all tests, but to be fair, our standard benchmarks don't take the graphics subsystem into large account. In anecdotal testing, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time with F.E.A.R. with smooth gameplay.

Battery life is the biggest drawback with the Portable One SXS37. Using its standard six-cell battery, the laptop ran for only 1 hour 40 minutes on our DVD drain test, which is barely long enough to get through a 90-minute romantic comedy on battery power. Our battery test is especially grueling; when the system isn't constantly spinning its optical drive, you can expect it to run longer. Still, we recommend you opt for the $100 upgrade, which adds a second and larger nine-cell battery to the package.

Portable One backs the SXS37 with a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty. For a very reasonable $49, you can add onsite service for that year, and three-year plans are also available.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

DVD Battery Drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Apple MacBook
OS X 10.5.1 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz; 2,048GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 144MB Intel GMA X3100; 160GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron 1420
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS; 160GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dv2500t
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS; 160GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Portable One SXS37
Windows Vista Business; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400MG; 100GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Hitachi 5,400rpm


Portable One SXS37

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 7Battery 5Support 7