Joining the throng of compact-and-affordable notebook PC makers is Toshiba, with its little Toshiba NB100-11R laptop.
The Toshiba NB100-11R really is small, at only 225m across and weighing a shade over 1kg.
While Linux was the de-facto operating system on the first generation of netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 701, most models now forsake the penguin in favour of Windows XP Home. Microsoft gave its ageing OS a small reprieve, tacitly conceding that Vista was useless for use on low-power laptops. But with the Toshiba NB100-11R, Toshiba has chosen wisely by installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix, a new and specially developed version of the popular open source Linux OS; and this time it's optimised in layout for the limited 1024x600 resolution of most such noteboots.
The rest of the Toshiba NB100-11R features list mostly follows the netbook norm, with an Intel Atom processor, no optical drive, integrated video graphics, webcam in the lid and a couple of USB ports.
Less usual is the Toshiba NB100-11R's choice of storage medium, an 80GB 1.8in hard disk drive, the same technology used in iPods before Apple started migrating toward flash memory. This means good capacity in a small space for a cheap price; but these drives are somewhat slow, and suffer from the usual drawback of HDDs - a moving part to go wrong and potentially lose data.
Also missing from the Toshiba NB100-11R's feature list are any form of card reader, and Bluetooth. It does include Wi-Fi wireless of course, in the form of 802.11b/g.
The Toshiba NB100-11R feels solid and well put together, even in its small toy-like way, like a ‘real' laptop that's been through the wash. In use, the display was found to be sharp and bright although Toshiba has elected to make this screen glossy, so beware of distracting reflections in daylight conditions.
Where some customised versions of Linux look somewhat child-like, the Ubuntu Netbook Remix is slick, grown-up and eminently usable. Pre-loaded on the Toshiba NB100-11R you'll find OpenOffice for office productivity, Firefox for the web, Thunderbird for email, Pidgin for universal IM, F-Spot for digital camera integration, and plenty more to keep you going without fretting about Windows' absence.
And it's also a doddle to switch back to the regular Ubunto desktop interface, more closely resembling XP perhaps, although the Remix launcher panel is so well featured there's little need.
The Toshiba NB100-11R is a well-made and smart-looking example of how to make a powerful mini laptop – not powerful in the sense of raw processing power but by covering most users needs, out of the box, with a trim and reliable interface.