Buying a laptop computer used to be difficult to justify; the hardware available lagged significantly behind that of its desktop equivalent. At present, however, the power of desktop computers far exceeds the average user's requirement. In this context, notepads are becoming an increasingly attractive option. Their flexibility represents a huge bonus, and well worth the trade off in terms of hardware. Sony's F801A has an excellently balanced specification, avoiding many manufacturers' tendency to focus on processor speed to the detriment of RAM and other components. What results is a system whose parts are perfectly complementary and the resulting performance is admirable. Specifically, the system is composed of a 533 MHz AMD K6®-2+ processor, 12.1" SVGA display, 64MB RAM, a 6GB Hard Drive, 56k modem, 24-speed CD-ROM and optional floppy drive. USB, Parallel, Serial and i-Link ports come as standard. The OS is Windows Millenium, and Sony bundles its own multimedia packages with it. (For further information, see the manufacturer's website @ http://www.vaio.sony-europe.com/eng/products/notebooks/f800_frames_top.html The keyboard is of good quality, and the touchpad has intelligent software to allow easy scrolling, minimizing and closing of active windows. The modem produces connection speeds to match any I have seen at 56k. The picture is sharp, though the 12.1" does make for a crowded screen at times. Also, the built-in speakers would not please any audiophile, but this is to be expected on such a notepad; a headphone jack is supplied. I have found this system to be exceptionally stable, more so than most desktop machines on which I have worked. It copes easily with a host of peripherals, from zip drives to digital cameras. For its simplicity of use and flawless composition, I have no hesitation in recommended the F801A to anyone considering an entry into the notepad market. It
may not be of the highest specification, but it is a great package at a very reasonable price (IR£1500 or less).