Ultralights grab spotlight at CES

The move toward more powerful ultralight and compact computers is clear at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Although nearly every computer maker is offering a new ultralight model, two in particular stand out from the crowd.

It is obvious from the outset that Toshiba’s Portégé R400, which will start shipping at the end of the month, is different from other computers in the line. The scratch-resistant white case – which has sharp enough edges so it doesn’t look like an iMac – makes the point visually that the R400 is something new.

The result of a collaboration with Microsoft, the R400 offers several firsts. For starters, it is the first notebook we’re aware of to take advantage of Microsoft’s Active Notifications to automatically synchronize e-mail and calendar events, even if the unit is in suspend mode.

We also liked the unique Toshiba Edge Display. This small display panel, located along the front edge of the R400, allows users to scroll through the inbox and calendar quickly without ever opening the computer. That can be particularly handy if you’re on the road and your computer is in a briefcase.

Another unique feature of the R400 is its wireless docking station. An optional item, the Toshiba Wireless Port Replicator uses ultra-wide band to sync the R400 with a desktop system.

And, oh, yes – you can also swivel the R400’s 12.1-inch display to make the unit into a tablet PC.

The R400 will have a base price of $2,599 and will ship with Microsoft Windows Vista.

We were also impressed with Samsung’s new Q1, although not many details on the unit, which is scheduled to ship in April, were available at CES. The slickly designed tablet is not much bigger than a paperback book, but it offers a nice, high-resolution display, a separate keyboard, a solid-state hard drive and a Windows Vista operating system.

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