- Compact and lightweight
- 1,024 x 600 screen resolution
- long battery life.
- Cramped keyboard
- no built-in wireless connectivity.
JVC, the well-known electronics company, has added ultraportable notebooks to its portfolio of VCRs and hi-fi equipment. Weighing just under a kilogram, the Mini Note MP-XP7210 is the lightest ultraportable we've seen to date. It's built around an ultra-low-voltage 800MHz Mobile Pentium III-M processor, has 256MB of memory, a 30GB hard drive and runs Windows XP. A second model, the MP-XP3210, features a 650MHz Mobile Celeron processor, 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive.
JVC claims that the Mini Note, which will be available in the UK in October, is the smallest Intel-based notebook available. Anyone holding the system in the hand can hardly doubt this: its footprint is roughly A5-sized (22.5 by 15.2cm), and it stands as high as a thickish spiral notebook (2.8-2.95cm). An additional Li-ion battery is supplied, which increases the system’s depth from 15.2 to 17.7cm and the weight from 0.9kg to 1.1kg.
The keyboard is reminiscent of a clamshell-type handheld such as HP’s Jornada 728 or the Psion 5mx. There are 80 16mm-pitch keys, with all the usual functions accommodated. Although you can’t expect total typing comfort on a keyboard this cramped, accuracy is better than you might think -- only the shrunken Enter key is frequently missed. A trackpoint is used for navigation, as there’s no room for a more conventional touchpad.
The MP-XP7210’s performance is pretty reasonable, considering its dimensions. Its Business Winstone 2001 score of 28.9 shows that it will have no trouble running mainstream productivity applications, although a score of 15.9 on the Content Creation Winstone 2002 test suggests that high-end multimedia programs are not its forte. Multimedia is central to JVC’s strategy, however -- the company also makes digital camcorders –- and such devices can be attached to the MP-XP7210 via its FireWire port. JVC bundles a couple of multimedia applications -- Pixela ImageMixer and CC Converter for video and sound editing respectively.
The notebook has a built-in battery, and a second 2,000mAh Li-ion battery is also supplied. The latter plugs into the back, does not obscure any ports, and is absolutely necessary if you want to travel with the notebook. Using the internal battery only, the MP-XP7210 runs for a paltry 1 hour 14 minutes; with the second battery added, it lasts for a very respectable 3 hours 10 minutes.
As you’d expect on such a compact notebook, the MP-XP7210 is only adequately provided for in the I/O and expansion department. There are two USB ports as well as the FireWire port, plus headphone and microphone jacks. If you want to use an external monitor rather than the internal 8.9in. 1,024 by 600 resolution TFT screen, there’s a proprietary VGA port with a special adapter cable. The left-hand side of the system houses a Type II PC card slot and an SD card slot. There is no connection for a docking station.
The most comparable product to the Mini Note MP-XP7210 is Sony’s 733MHz Crusoe-based VAIO PCG-C1MGP, which also weighs a touch under 1kg, has a slightly larger screen resolution (1,280 x 600), features integrated Bluetooth connectivity but delivers poorer battery life (1 hour 57 minutes). The Sony product is also more expensive at £1,531 (ex. VAT).
Slightly bigger products weighing between 1 and 2kg also come into the competitive picture, the leading examples being Toshiba’s 1.2kg Portégé 2000 (£1,699 ex. VAT) and Dell’s 1.3kg Latitude X200 (£1,838 ex. VAT). These faster and more expensive notebooks offer better ergonomics thanks to their larger screens and more comfortable keyboards.
JVC’s Mini Note MP-XP7210 is suitable for travellers who find notebooks with regular-sized screens and keyboards too big and heavy, yet who need to run a variety of full-blown Windows software. Considering its diminutive size and low weight, the MP-XP7210’s build quality, performance and functionality are surprisingly good. There’s no wireless connectivity, no docking station and the keyboard is cramped, but otherwise it’s an impressive debut from JVC.