Posted by Lori Ayre on March 29, 2004

Network Computing, 3-18-04 issue has a buyer's guide on "untethered notebooks." Here's some highlights and my commentary. Standards: 802.11b is still the most popular but 802.11a and g are gaining ground fast. Used to be safe to invest in 802.11b -- at least safe in the sense that everything would be compatible for a year or two. But no more. Looks like it is time to purchase 802.11a/b/g products to get the kind of compatbility you need (in your library or your working laptops). Centrino: Centrino is Intel's processor with the Pentium-M 855 chipset plus Intel's Mini-PCI wireless NIC. Centrino currently only supports 802.11b. I knew that Centrino and wireless went together but hadn't clearly understood what made a Centrino processor a Centrino processor -- well there it is. But isn't it disappointing that it is limited to 802.11b? To get wireless in your laptop that is a/b/g, go with a Broadcom mini-PCI instead of Centrino. Atheros, Cisco and Intel also offer some alternatives. Dell offers a Centrino to Broadcom upgrade on their laptops. Battery Life: With your wireless NIC turned "on," you can expect your battery life to be reduced by half. Might be worth investing in laptops that have an off switch for your wireless, eh? Ports: Lots of port options available these days. With laptops, you can't just add them later by sliding in a new card so figure out which ports you may need and be sure they're included in your laptop: USB 2.0, PC card slot, headphone/microphone, integrated modem and Ethernet -- and for the person who wants it all -- S-Video output, IrDA, FireWire (1394), and your choide of portable storage (SD memory, memory stick, compact flash). This article doesn't mention BlueTooth but I'd be sure to include that in my laptop as soon as its available. Wouldn't it be nice to print from your laptop without a cable?