MPC tailors notebook for feds

If government users could build their own notebook computer, what would it look like? Chances are it would look a lot like the TransPort X3000 from MPC Computers LLC.

In designing this notebook, MPC officials asked government customers what they wanted. The reply included full support for existing applications and a three-spindle design that allows for use of an optical and floppy drive simultaneously.

In a market in which the trend has moved toward two spindles as floppy disk use declines, the X3000 is in a class of its own. It turns out floppies are still prevalent in the government, and many new notebook designs were leaving floppy users

behind.

Reflecting the government's emphasis on security, this notebook features MPC's first integrated smart card reader in addition to a fingerprint scanner.

TransPort notebooks have featured fingerprint scanners in the past, but this is the first model to come with a sweeper scanner. Instead of placing and holding the fingertip on a capture window, users vertically swipe across a small rectangular window that scans the fingerprint in sections. The scanning process creates a sequence of horizontal image frames that are reconstructed into one fingerprint image.

One advantage of this type of scanner is that it can capture more data than a traditional capture window because it scans more of the fingertip's surface area.

You can use your fingerprint to replace passwords and encrypt files by storing them in a special folder accessible only with the fingerprint, although you must enter a backup password to be used in case of problems with the biometric.

Another feature designed for government users is quick, tool-free hard drive removal. Government officials told the notebook's designers that the unit should have a hard drive that could be removed in 15 seconds or less to encourage security practices such as locking it in a safe. And the TransPort X3000 delivers: This is the fastest, easiest hard drive removal we've seen.

The hard drive isn't the only component that is easily removed without tools. The battery, optical drive and floppy drive slide out easily with the help of grooves that give fingers traction.

MPC has given attention to other usability details, too. Our notebook came with a miniature optical USB mouse, which was a nice touch. In addition, one of the two USB ports is helpfully located on the right side of the unit; the other is in the back.

Another feature we liked was the wireless on/off button located above the keyboard. A second button near it provides one-touch Internet access.

The TransPort X3000 uses Intel Corp. Centrino technology. Our unit shipped with a 1.7 GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512M of memory that is expandable to 2G and an 80G hard drive.

Both drive bays are impressively modular. The first, which came with a floppy drive in our unit, also accepts a second hard drive. Our second bay contained a DVD-RW drive, but it also accepts a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, DVD/CD-RW combo, a second hard drive or a modular six-in-one media reader. The reader supports the following cards and devices: Secure Digital, CompactFlash, MultiMedia, Smart Media, MicroDrive and Sony Electronics Inc. Memory Stick.

The display is available in two sizes: the 14.1-inch display features 1,024 x 768 resolution, and the 15-inch one, which we received, features an impressive 1,400 x 1,050 resolution. Our unit also shipped with 128M of memory on the ATI Technologies Inc. Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics card.

For audiophiles, the notebook comes with AC 97 stereo sound with 3-D effects and a Sony/Philips Digital Interface out port.

Ports include two USB 2.0, parallel, serial, PS/2 with a Y-adapter for simultaneous mouse and keyboard use, VGA, S-Video, RJ-11, RJ-45, microphone in, audio in and FireWire.

Retail pricing for the X3000 starts at $1,900. Customers who don't need three spindles can purchase another model, the T3000, starting at $1,800. Aside from the number of spindles, both models offer the same features.

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