WHAT'S HOT: The 1-inch-tall, aluminum-skinned WinBook X1 is perfect for tucking into a briefcase or under your arm on the way to the local coffee shop. It weighs only 5.2 pounds, including its internal 8X DVD-ROM and 8X/4X/4X/24X CD-RW combination drive (but excluding its AC adapter). Our 800/650-MHz review model came with a fixed 8X DVD-ROM drive and a 24X external CD-RW drive, but WinBook has since discontinued that configuration on all but its 700-MHz X1 models. Thanks to an eight-cell lithium ion battery, the X1 lasted almost 3 hours on one charge, impressive for a small laptop.
WHAT'S NOT: WinBook charges $99 extra for the X1's floppy drive (an external USB device) and cuts some design corners. The X1 lacks the convenience of a modular bay, a standard feature on laptops of this class that lets you swap in other devices, such as a second battery, as needed. The 13.3-inch screen falls short of the 14.1-inch screens offered by IBM's ThinkPad T series and Acer's TravelMate 600 series, both of which weigh roughly the same as the X1.
To get at the memory slots or the hard drive, you must remove a dozen screws and the entire base of the notebook. Its built-in sound is weak, and an overdone index makes the otherwise excellent documentation unnecessarily difficult to use. Poor indexing extends to the electronic manual, which includes vague choices like "miscellaneous problems 1" and "miscellaneous problems 2." Documentation with better indices is supposed to begin shipping this year, according to Winbook. Whereas many competing vendors offer around-the-clock telephone support, WinBook works the phones only 13 hours on weekdays and 7 hours on Saturday.
WHAT ELSE: Well-equipped overall for its class, the X1 includes all standard notebook connections, most of them tucked neatly into the back. The single PC Card slot and one of the two USB ports sit on the left side. Though a few small keys may annoy typists with large hands, we found the X1's near-full-size, dark-gray keyboard to be quiet and comfortable. Two handy shortcut buttons and the programmable mouse buttons provide various ways to launch your favorite Web sites or files. WinBook sells a $99 USB port replicator that duplicates everything on the X1 but the network connection. In our speed tests, the X1 performed a bit better than similarly equipped models loaded with less RAM (the standard 128MB instead of the X1's 320MB).
UPSHOT: The X1 is not the most flexibly designed or generously equipped 5-pound laptop around, but it offers an affordable configuration and its long-lasting battery makes it a compelling choice for frequent fliers who need a light laptop for the road.
By Carla Thornton