Sony Vaio X505
around $3,000, www.sonystyle.com
We need a laptop version of Moore's Law to explain how they shrink but still pack plenty of power. Case in point: the Vaio X505, a gorgeous, nickel-carbon affair that a fashion model would tote - and carries a price tag to match.
Thanks to Intel's Centrino Pentium M processor, this fancy featherweight (less than two pounds with battery) zips through everyday computing tasks. We also like the Memory Stick mouse. But the 20GB hard drive seems a bit skimpy in this age of digital music and photography, and the absence of a modem and wireless networking will alarm the always-connected. (Sony does include an external Wi-Fi card.)
The X505 will draw admiring glances while delivering solid performance. If the economy has been very, very good to you lately, go for it.
IBM ThinkPad X40
from $1,500, www.ibm.com
Speaking of small wonders, IBM keeps shrinking its well-respected ThinkPads. The X40, Big Blue's newest ultraportable, weighs just 2.7 pounds with the four-cell battery option. The X40's hard drive is smaller than previous models', but 20GB isn't exactly tiny. And users still get a full-size keyboard, 256MB of memory, and even a sensor that minimizes damage if the machine is dropped.
Choosing the eight-cell battery stretches running time to more than seven hours (though it also stretches the weight to 3.2 pounds). Also attractive for anyone worried about crashes and viruses is IBM's Rescue and Recover utility suite. Think you're frozen out? Press the blue IBM button on the keyboard and an embedded operating system lets you access the hard drive.