Sharp Actius AL3DU

We have to hand it to Sharp: While most notebook companies traffic in nominal variations to well-worn laptop designs and concepts, Sharp explores technological areas the other guys won't touch. Take, for instance, Sharp's Actius RD3D, the world's first notebook to let you view 3D images, no special glasses needed. Today, Sharp goes further down the lonely road of innovation with the release of the Actius AL3DU, the company's next-generation 3D notebook.

Upside: While the Actius RD3D had the cool, futuristic 3D display, the remainder of its components were decidedly old-school. Not so with the Actius AL3DU. In addition to the still-nifty 3D display, you now get a bevy of up-to-date specs, including a 1.86GHz Pentium M 750 processor; up to 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM; an Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 video card with 128MB of dedicated video memory; an 80GB hard drive; a multiformat, double-layer DVD burner; and all of the software, the features, and the connections you'd look for in a desktop-replacement multimedia notebook. The Actius AL3DU's 15-inch XGA 3D screen technology remains essentially the same as that of the prior version's; applications and images that were designed for 3D really pop out of the screen--we saw an amazing 360-degree model of a strand of DNA--and even normal games and movies viewed in 3D mode are a bit more engaging than on a 2D display (the screen also has a normal, 2D mode). Also nice: the Actius AL3DU weighs about two pounds less than the RD3D.

Downside: Price. At $3,499, the Actius AL3DU is at least $1,000 too expensive for even the high-end gamers that Sharp hopes to bring into the fold. Software companies seem aware of this and, to date, have not queued up en masse to design games or applications to take advantage of the technology.

Outlook: Sharp says that its Actius RD3D made inroads with the medical-imaging, 3D-modeling, and architecture communities, and we expect those audiences to embrace the newly upgraded configuration. Still, until the company figures out how to push down the price, the Actius AL3DU, available at, will remain a unique tool for niche professionals and an exotic knickknack to the rest of us.