The limbo bar for laptop height just got lower; Sharp's new $1,999 PC-UM10 shimmies under the .7-inch-high mark, making it the skinniest notebook we've ever seen. Despite its svelte frame, the PC-UM10 still includes a broad keyboard and a few expansion ports, including USB. But its very short list of integrated features ends there, so be prepared to haul around a bunch of external components should you buy this somewhat pricey system. The limbo bar for laptop height just got lower; Sharp's new $1,999 PC-UM10 shimmies under the .7-inch-high mark, making it the skinniest notebook we've ever seen. Despite its svelte frame, the PC-UM10 still includes a broad keyboard and a few expansion ports, including USB. But its very short list of integrated features ends there, so be prepared to haul around a bunch of external components should you buy this somewhat pricey system.
Thin is in
The Sharp PC-UM10's 11.1-by-9.1-by-.65-inch, 2.9-pound (base weight) chassis is like a stealth bomber's: paper-thin yet sturdy enough to offer exceptionally powerful components. The wide keyboard, which is as solid as a desktop's, serves up some of the best laptop typing we've experienced. The bright, 12.1-inch, active-matrix screen is big for an ultralight. And when it comes to primary storage, you'll get your money's worth with the system's big 20GB drive. Also, the slender chassis contains some useful expansion ports and slots, such as Ethernet, 56K modem, headphone, microphone, USB, and one Type II PC Card slot.
These features make the Sharp PC-UM10 seem like a dream, but the reverie will fade if you use CDs, floppies, or other peripherals often. To keep the weight down, Sharp made CD-ROM ($279) and floppy ($99) drives optional. Both of these devices include expansion cables that connect via the notebook's single USB port, which means you can use only one device at a time--unless you buy the $199 port replicator. The port rep includes two USB ports, one each of serial and parallel ports, and a standard VGA port for an external monitor. If you want to plug an external monitor into the system itself, you'll need yet another cable and a standard VGA adapter to plug into the notebook's proprietary VGA port. Fortunately, the latter adapter and cable are bundled with the system.
Satisfying speed and battery life
The Sharp PC-UM10 did a fine job in CNET Labs' speed tests. The system used its low-voltage PIII-600MHz processor, 128MB of memory, 4MB ATI Rage Mobility-M graphics chip, and Windows 2000 OS to run right alongside the similarly configured Fujitsu LifeBook B Series. Still, given the PC-UM10's price, Sharp could have included the more standard PIII-700MHz processor found in most ultralights today.
Battery life in CNET Labs' drain tests was equally acceptable. The Sharp PC-UM10 achieved a score of 133 minutes, which is especially respectable in light of its tiny battery. Many ultralights, including the LifeBook B Series, fall in the 90-minute range.
Ample phone support, but warranty needs work
While the Sharp PC-UM10 offers plenty of performance for basic computing tasks, the company's support policies fall short in some areas. The mere one-year warranty would be a thorn in anyone's side. And Web support is nearly nonexistent, save for warranty info and an e-mail form for contacting technicians; the site's FAQ revolves entirely around Sharp's LCD monitors. The one bright note is the company's phone support, which is unlimited, available 24/7, and toll-free.
The Sharp PC-UM10 is literally in a size-and-weight class by itself, making it a must-have if you want the lightest and latest laptop. But you might want to hold off for a few months to score a better price, and if you're in need of speed or a lot of peripherals, you should pass on this system.
100=performance of Dell Dimension XPS with a 600MHz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, and a GeForce 256 SDR graphics card
Longer bars indicate better performance
Battery life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Fujitsu LifeBook B Series
Windows 2000; Pentium III-600; 128MB RAM; Rage Mobility 4MB; Fujitsu 20GB 4,200rpm
Windows 2000 SP2; mobile Pentium III-600; 128MB SDRAM; ATI Rage Mobility-M PCI; Hitachi DK23CA-20 20GB 4,200rpm
The Sharp PC-UM10 ran neck and neck with its similarly configured competitor, the Fujitsu LifeBook B Series. And the Sharp's battery life was surprisingly good for a notebook with such a small power pack; most systems in this size-and-weight class hover around 90 minutes, compared to the PC-UM10's 133 minutes.