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Sharp Actius MV series review: Sharp Actius MV series

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MSRP: $1,899.00
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The Good Very thin and light; built-in swappable bay; image optimizer for DVD movies; integrated 802.11b wireless.

The Bad Expensive; small keys with limited pitch; speaker located underneath laptop; limited upgrades.

The Bottom Line Travelers who want an internal, swappable bay in the lightest laptop possible should check out the Actius MV series.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7
  • Support 6

Review Sections

Frequent fliers who can't bear to live without extra storage should consider the Sharp Actius MV series. This 4.1-pound laptop is the lightest notebook available with a swappable bay for drives such as a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. It also offers other advantages for road warriors, such as integrated 802.11b wireless and a cool, 12.1-inch display that automatically optimizes DVD movies. These movies come off without a hitch, too, thanks to the Sharp's fast-for-an-ultralight 1.13GHz Pentium III-M processor. Alas, you won't go far beyond a single showing, due to the midrange, 166-minute battery life. All told, the Actius MV is a good choice for travelers who want an internal modular bay in an extremely petite case. Wanderers more interested in conserving cash can go with the cheaper, slightly heavier Fujitsu LifeBook S series.



The small speaker on the bottom.
The Sharp Actius MV's 11.1-by-9.4-by-1-inch, 4.1-pound, magnesium-alloy case is just a shade bigger than that of its brethren in the 3-pound ultraportable category, strictly speaking. But this thin-and-light notebook includes the convenience of an internal swappable bay for drives such as a combo DVD/CD-RW, minimizing the need to haul around peripheral units. You can also insert the bay's bundled plastic weight saver to decrease the mass to a mere 3.7 pounds. The only laptops with comparably small designs are the Fujitsu LifeBook S series and the Toshiba Portégé 4010, both of which come in at 3.8 pounds with their weight savers.

Unfortunately, with the Actius MV's lightness comes some disadvantages. The 18mm key pitch and 2mm stroke of the Sharp's keyboard make it noticeably smaller and less comfortable than the boards of other thin-and-lights. And the system's XGA screen measures only 12.1 inches, whereas most thin-and-lights manage at least 13.3 inches. The screen benefits from the company's own preloaded optimization software, which dynamically improves DVD-movie images. In our test unit, the technology made a visible difference in the brightness and the clarity of movies as compared to DVDs displayed on other notebooks. One catch: The software works with the WinDVD player only. Equipped with just a touchpad and two mouse buttons, the Actius MV also lacks application quick-launch buttons. Finally, it features one tiny, dim-sounding speaker oddly located underneath the laptop.

The Sharp offers more ports and slots than the average ultraportable but fewer than most thin-and-lights. The left edge contains slots for Ethernet, one Type II PC Card, headphones, and a microphone, as well as a volume wheel and a 56K modem. The right edge includes only the swappable bay opening, and the back edge sports FireWire, S-Video-out, proprietary parallel, and two USB 1.1 ports. (A standard parallel port wouldn't fit on this small design.) Unlike most notebooks with limited connectivity, Sharp does not offer a port replicator with the Actius MV, though we wish it did.




The DVD/CD-RW combo drive.
Sharp features two configurations of the MV series on its Web site: the MV12W and the MV10W. The MV12W we tested carries a nearly unchangeable configuration: a 1.13GHz Pentium III-M processor; 256MB of 133MHz SDRAM; a 40GB hard drive; an Intel 830MG graphics chip that borrows up to 48MB of video RAM from main memory; integrated 802.11b wireless; a 12.1-inch XGA display; and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. The MV10W comes with identical specs with the exception of a 1GHz PIII-M and a 30GB hard drive. While these components do a fine job for frequent-flier tasks--sending e-mail, surfing the Web, and light editing--we wish Sharp gave a few more choices for components.

The only options you have in this matter include the memory, which you can configure up to 768MB, and the battery; you can order a high-capacity cell ($199) that snaps on beneath the system. Unfortunately, the swappable media bay doesn't support a secondary battery, which could've provide the Actius MV12W with another needed boost; the system earned just middle-of-the-road scores in CNET Labs' battery tests.

The Actius MV series' software options are scant, limited to just Sharp-fx, the company's LCD optimization application; Drag 'n Drop, a CD-writing application; and WinDVD for DVD playback. Sharp provides just one operating system, Windows XP Pro, which should satisfy the laptop's largely corporate audience.


The Sharp Actius MV12W beat two rivals in mobile application performance, scoring 6 points more than its closest competitor, the Sony VAIO PCG-R505GL. The Sharp also beat the 1.13GHz WinBook X2 by more than 30 points, mostly thanks to the WinBook X2's shared memory architecture, which degrades performance. All in all, the Sharp Actius MV12W was able to come out on top thanks in part to its unencumbered (nonmemory-sharing) architecture.

Mobile application performance
Longer bars indicate faster performance
Sharp Actius MV12W
117 
Sony VAIO PCG-R505GL
111 
WinBook X2
83 


Find out more about how we test notebook systems.

System configurations:

Sharp Actius MV12W
Windows XP Pro; Pentium III-M-1.133GHz; 256MB SDRAM; Intel 82830M 48MB; Hitachi DK23EA-40 30GB 4,200rpm

Sony VAIO PCG-R505GL
Windows XP Home; Pentium III-M-1.2GHz; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830 graphics controller-0 32MB; Hitachi DK23DA-30 30GB 4,200rpm

WinBook X2
Windows XP Pro; Pentium III-M-1.133GHz; 240MB SDRAM; SIS 630/730 16MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm


The Sharp Actius MV12W, with its 11.1V, 3,600mAh cell, tied for longest battery life in this roundup, along with the Sony VAIO PCG-R505GL, which has a 14.8V, 2,600mAh unit; both churned for 166 minutes. The WinBook X2, with its 14.8V, 3,100mAh battery, came in right behind them with 158 minutes. All three systems cranked for more than two-and-a-half hours--good but not spectacular battery life.

Battery-life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Sharp Actius MV12W
166 
Sony VAIO PCG-R505GL
166 
WinBook X2
158 
 
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Sharp Actius MV12W
Windows XP Pro; Pentium III-M-1.133GHz; 256MB SDRAM; Intel 82830M 48MB; Hitachi DK23EA-40 30GB 4,200rpm

Sony VAIO PCG-R505GL
Windows XP Home; Pentium III-M-1.2GHz; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830 graphics controller-0 32MB; Hitachi DK23DA-30 30GB 4,200rpm

WinBook X2
Windows XP Pro; Pentium III-M-1.133GHz; 240MB SDRAM; SIS 630/730 16MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm


Sharp offers a typical one-year warranty with the Actius MV series. The term includes free return-to-depot service on parts and labor, plus toll-free, 24/7 phone support for one year. Web resources are scant, including the same five, random FAQ entries for both the MV10W and the MV12W. Worse, unlike other major notebook manufacturers, Sharp doesn't offer useful Web-support services such as a user forum or real-time chatting with a tech-support rep.

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