Ultraportable Notebooks That Compete With The MacBook Air

The MacBook Air has people buzzing, but the truth is, there are several worthy ultraportable notebooks already out there. All of these notebooks offer a host of cool features, compact form factors while not compacting your spine. All offer backlight technology, which not only provides better visibility but also helps conserve power consumption for improved battery life. Many also feature solid-state hard drives, the next big thing in laptop development.

Presented as the climax of Jobs' keynote at Macworld, the MacBook Air is currently the thinnest notebook on the market. But the Air weighs in at 3 lbs., which is actually on the heavy side for an ultraportable notebook. The MacBook Air also lacks an internal optical drive, but consumers wanting to play CDs and watch DVDs on their MacBook Air can pay extra for an optional external drive.

The sleek and ultra-portable VAIO TZ notebook is incredibly small and lightweight, and features a carbon-fiber casing for enhanced durability. The device offers an extra support layer below the bezel to increase the structural integrity of the keyboard and to provide stability to the keys. The VAIO is a favorite in the graphics arena, because Sony's backlight technology (XBRITE-HiColor) helps display images with darker blacks, brighter whites and realistic color. Battery life is estimated at between 4 to 7.5 hours. The only rumored knock on this is nothing new: Sony's pre-installed bloatware.

Lenovo's stylin' ultraportable won't be available until April. The product is aimed at users who are constantly on the move, and who will be drawn to the textured (is that a floral pattern?) fliptop. The unit has an additional battery and features Dolby Home Theater sound (minus a subwoofer). Users can obtain optional solid-state flash drives. What's particularly of note for those who perhaps move around too much: Select configurations will have Lenovo's Active Protection System, an air bag-like device that parks the hard drive to help protect data during a fall.

Due out next month (February), the new model offers many Fujitsu business-system features already available, such as a DVD burner and the Shock Sensor hard-drive protection system. An optional built-in camera can be centered above the display for video messaging. According to Fujitsu, the P8010 battery will provide power for up to 6.5 hours. Security features include the Trusted Platform Module, and a fingerprint reader for James Bond types. Further, should Mr. Bond tip over one of his martinis, the keyboard is spill-resistant.

Ultra-light, the ASUS model is aimed squarely at the Macintosh and Sony computers for which this OEM manufactures chassis. The company's exclusive Splendid Video Intelligence technology is particularly aimed at providing true color replication to users. Data is secured through the Trusted Platform Module. The only ding against this model is that in the company's zeal to reduce the U1F's weight, its optical drive is external,

The lightest configuration (1.72 lbs.) of the Portege has a 64-GB solid-state drive, and a three-cell battery, designed for long life. Other Portege models include DVD-SuperMulti (optical) drives. It is the slimmest of these models available with a built-in optical drive. Incredibly light, the Portege could be extremely popular with the school crowd, excepting the fact that it lacks mobile broadband access.