THINMAN Rules

"Ooh, look how thin it is!" exclaimed my mother. "And the size of that screen--must be the equivalent of a 15" monitor," chimed in my father. They were talking about my Digital HiNote Ultra 2000 laptop. This system is the one you see in the television commercial in which people sing the praises of a thin laptop with a large screen. Everywhere I go with the Ultra 2000, people say, "Hey, check this out."

The Ultra 2000's case is less than 1" thick. (I dubbed the system THINMAN on the Windows NT Magazine Lab's network.) But the 14.1" Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display is monstrous for a laptop screen. The TFT display is bright and crisp; this system displays 16 million colors at 1280 * 1024 resolution. However, the nature of TFT prevents you from adjusting the brightness of the display. If the brightness irritates your eyes, you can tilt the screen back for relief.

My test unit came with 80MB of RAM (64MB of RAM is standard), a 266MHz Pentium Multimedia Extensions (MMX) processor with a hefty 1MB of Level 2 cache, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a 4GB hard disk, a touchpad mouse, and a short-throw keyboard with big keys any writer would love to tap. Add to this mix an integrated 56Kbps modem and a 10/100 Ethernet interface, and you've really got a system to brag about.

Digital integrated modem and Ethernet functionality into the Ultra 2000, but not in the way you might think--the functionality comes from a Xircom PC Card hidden inside the case. On the base of the system you can exchange the CD-ROM drive with a 1.44MB drive. Just above this area is a small L-shaped piece of plastic. When you remove this tab, you can access the Xircom PC Card.

The Ultra 2000 contains two standard PC Card slots, a setup you find on most laptops. To facilitate configuring these slots, the Ultra 2000 comes bundled with CardWizard Pro software. Considering that configuring PC Cards is typically a troublesome task for most NT users, including this software with the Ultra 2000 was an unfortunate choice. I could configure and run my test Ultra 2000 system with the PC Cards I wanted only after I removed the CardWizard Pro software from the system.

Because the Ultra 2000 comes with a 4MB OpenGL video card, I ran three viewsets from the Viewperf benchmark to test its OpenGL rendering capabilities: CDRS, which measures modeling and rendering capabilities for CAD; Data Explorer (DX), which measures scientific data visualization capabilities; and Lightscape, which tests a system's ability to realistically reproduce light waves. (For more information about OpenGL, and to compare the Ultra 2000's Viewperf scores with the scores of other systems, go to http://www.specbench.org.) In my testing, the Ultra 2000's CDRS score was 2.684, its DX score was 0.964, and its Lightscape score was 0.103. These scores aren't impressive for 3-D capability; however, I was impressed that the Ultra 2000 could run the Viewperf tests at all.

Speaking of running, as part of my testing, I considered throwing the Ultra 2000 down a stairwell to gauge its ruggedness. But my 100-pound Labrador retriever, Sarge, saved me from taking this drastic step. As I was working at home one sunny afternoon, Sarge came barreling past me on his way to the garden. As he passed by, he caught the telephone cord connected to the back of the Ultra 2000 around his neck. The laptop ripped out from under my fingers, smashed into the back of a near-by chair, and fell to the chair's padded seat after the 10Base-T connector disintegrated. The Ultra 2000 took a hard knock by any account, but it sailed through this unscheduled test and continued to perform perfectly.

The Ultra 2000 is one lean, mean machine. Windows NT Magazine columnist and author Mark Minasi uses an Ultra 2000, and my test unit is destined to become the personal laptop of Windows NT Magazine's publisher, Mark Smith. Which leaves me trying to find an even better system. I'm not sure I can. The Ultra 2000 is what I want for Christmas this year.

Digital HiNote Ultra 2000
Contact: Digital Equipment * 978-493-5111 or 800-344-4825
Web: http://www.digital.com
Price: Varies
System Configuration: 266MHz Pentium processor with Multimedia Extensions, 48MB of Enhanced Data Output RAM, 4MB of video RAM, 1MB of Level 2 cache, Integrated Xircom combination card with 56Kbps modem and 10/100 Ethernet support, 4GB hard disk, 24X CD-ROM drive