Picking the best of a group of systems is always difficult­especially when several machines perform comparably. The vendors that participated in the Windows NT Magazine Lab's NT-on-laptops experiment are AST, Broadax Systems, Compaq Computer, Digital Equipment, FutureTech Systems, IBM, Polywell Computers, and Texas Instruments.

And the Winner Is...
Who took home the trophy? The Lab picked winning systems in two categories: high-end machines (portables designed for power users) and low-end machines (reasonably priced portables with just enough features to run NT). We picked the IBM ThinkPad 760ED as the high-end winner, for its overall features, performance, and support for NT. The Lab's configuration cost $5614, but for the money, you get quite a system­ features such as extensive multimedia capabilities, a superb display, long battery life, and power management. For the low-end machines, the Lab didn't identify a clear-cut winner between the two participants­Broadax's BSI NP8620D and Digital's HiNote VP 535. Each portable exhibits winning attributes: The Broadax BSI NP8620D has an excellent price for its features and performance, and the Digital VP 535 has the best battery life (of all the systems we tested). Both systems come with high-quality graphics adapters, comparable performance (which you can improve with more memory), and equivalent sets of features.

Selection Criteria
We judged the systems on the following criteria: performance (SYSmark/32 for NT composite score), price, performance per $1000 cost, CPU speed, Level 2 cache, upgrade capability (memory, disk), display (size, resolution and color depth, video memory, external resolution and color depth), CD-ROM speed, multimedia (audio, video), battery (type, life, support for NT APM and PnP), case (weight, dimensions), and NT 4.0 support (vendor sells NT, provides drivers, offers technical support).

The bold entries in Table 1, "Summing Up the Laptops," page 58, identify the winner (or ties) in each category. We weighted the criteria equally in our decision because what one of us might consider important (e.g., display quality), someone else might find trivial (e.g., compared to CPU speed). The IBM ThinkPad 760ED leads in performance at 800*600 resolution (we tested all systems at 800*600; the ThinkPad scored 30 percent lower at its maximum resolution, 1024*768), memory expansion capability, hard disk space, display size and quality, multimedia features, and NT support.

Picking the high-end winner was tough: Almost all the systems perform excellently, offer great features, and make fine power-user laptops. IBM, Compaq, and Digital sell for $5000 to $6000, and although these machines are marvelous, that's a heap o' dough! Therefore, special mention goes to the Broadax BSI NP8620A, which costs less than $3500 fully configured and has the best performance-per-price ratio. The BSI NP8620A's upgrade capability is less than that of other systems, and its technical support infrastructure is not as strong. However, the BSI NP8620A is a fast performer that offers excellent video, works without a hitch, and maintains reasonable battery life.