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-- by James E. Powell
Hollywood, meet the PC. The Sharp WideNote's 11.2-inch screen, at 1024x600, looks more like the silver screen than your average 800x600 notebook screen.
The display's unique 16-to-9 aspect ratio lets you see extra columns in a spreadsheet, view landscape documents without scrolling and put two applications side by side without compromise. The WideNote uses 2MB of video memory and an Aurora 64V+ graphics and video accelerator with DuoView technology from the video chip mavens at S3. It can handle 64,000 colors, and the display is surprisingly sharp, with good viewing at various angles. I looked at active-matrix preproduction units (W-100T); a dual-scan model (W-100D) is also available.
A 133MHz Pentium powers the WideNote. It includes a 1.08GB hard drive, 16MB of EDO RAM (upgradable to 32MB), 256KB of level 2 cache and built-in 16-bit stereo sound (the 1-inch speakers are located at the display's hinges). There are also two Type II and one Type I PC Card slots. I liked the feel of the full-sized Windows 95 keyboard.
The external floppy disk drive connects to the parallel and PS/2 ports. The notebook lacks a CD-ROM drive. On the back you'll find connectors for a serial port (not functioning in my unit), audio in/out jacks and a 15-pin videoport.
On our Wintune tests, the system measured 245MIPS and averaged 1.83MB-per-second uncached disk throughput. Our Word macro completed in an average 27.33 seconds, Excel in 13.33.
The WideNote comes loaded with Win95, but the rest of the software bundle is limited. You get TranXit for transferring files via the 4Mb infrared port, import/export software to work with Sharp's Zaurus palmtop, and, to take advantage of the built-in 28.8 voice/data/fax modem and microphone, SuperVoice for voice mail and fax/data communications.
To test the lithium ion battery, I ran Word and Excel, saving my work every 5 minutes to both hard disk and floppy. The battery lasted for just 1 hour and 50 minutes, well under the promised 3 hours. Recharge time is 2.5 hours.
Measuring 1.6 by 11.6 by 7.75 inches, the unit weighs 4 pounds, 11 ounces (with battery). Even after adding 14 ounces for the floppy disk drive and another 13.5 ounces for the power cord and transformer unit, the WideNote is still lightweight and a pleasure to use. However, I'll reserve final judgment until I see a shipping unit, as one beta had a dead floppy and another a noisy hard disk.
Once you see the WideNote's screen clarity and work with a spreadsheet or two applications side by side, you won't want to go back to your standard desktop monitor.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.