Review of the Sharp Actius pc-mm20 laptop, with linux

The mm20 is a slick little laptop, and makes a great companion to a desktop system that you're not looking to replace anytime soon.

The Sharp mm20 is a true notebook. As in: it's as big as a spiral bound notebook of paper. Doesn't weight much more either. It comes in at a little short of 2 pounds. This makes it the perfect laptop if you're just looking to carry it around with you to class to take notes, or something of that sort. Unlike other items you might get for this purpose, it doesn't lack in power, and has somethings that aren't as easy to come by in this small of a package.

This isn't the machine to buy if you're looking for a desktop replacement that's still very portable. It lacks a builtin cd/dvd drive, or floppy drive. Sharp offers a cd-rw/dvd drive for $99 with a deal right now. It's just a small liteon brand usb 2.0 drive. Working great for burning CDs and getting access to file on CD. Unfortunatly playing DVDs is as fluid as you might like, some tweaking helps. The main problem is that you need an outlet for the drive, so you can use it on the plane to watch movies with. If Sharp ends the deal for a drive, and you're not looking for a smaller drive, just find any old usb 2.0 drive, it'll work and boot from it (if the drive supports booting).

Many people think that the screen is going to be too small, especially at the default resolution of 1024x768. For most though, they will be very suprised at how sharp and crisp the resolution is, and easy to read. The hardest thing with the screen is when you have the backlight turned down low. It's unreadable unless the light is just perfect.

As for everything else, well it works very well. For those wondering, the mm20 has a few special keys, some are hardware, others require some software intervention. The Wireless on/off, Screen Brightness, Screen on/off, External Video alternating (laptop, both, external), and the "Normal/mobile" switch (which only changes the screen brightness as far as I can tell), are all hardware, and produce no keyboard events. The Volume controls, Suspend button, and the power button are all software (except when you hold down the power button, which does a hard shutdwon). Wireless works like a charm, and is dang fast if you're spent the extra money and bought yourself a 802.11g router. The touchpad is a synaptics, which means if you set it up, you can have some fun (two figure tap = middle click), and is fairly smooth and comfortable. You only have 2 mouse buttons, which is fine, but if you, like me, enjoy your unix copy/paste you'll wish it had a third. The arrow keys are something that takes so time, the layout is a little different. The keyboard for the most part is fine, and for me isn't too small. The delete key and related keys are along the top, and pgup and pgdn are function related keys. Also the single quote key is smaller than the rest of the letter keys, along with a slightly shrunken enter key (in relation to everything else), which causes me to hit ' a lot more that I mean to.

With regards to power, the 1GHz may not be the bleeding edge of speed, but I find it more than enough for what I use the laptop for, email, web, notes, and programming. The 512MB of RAM makes it all the better. The battery claims to be 4 hours, but I tend to get around 2.5 hours with longrun throttling the chip and screen brightness low. The extended life battery puts you up to 7 hours with the same settings, and about 4-5 hours at max everything. The extended life close to double the weight, and sticks out of the bottom, propping up the laptop, and sticks out about the same thickness of the laptop in a area of 5x11cm. The longlife is worth the money if you're looking to be unplugged for a while.

The mm20 comes with a docking station unlike any other (except the mm10). You put the laptop in vertically and plug in the docking station with the ac-adapter and then to your desktop with a usb cable. Flip a switch when it's off and it shows up as a usb hard drive! Makes for easy syncing. You can also get a cable to do the samething when you're not near a docking station.

Overall I'd give the mm20 a 9 out of 10. It's only problems really are just the keyboard layout, which takes some time getting used to, the fact that finding a case for a laptop this small is near impossible, and that the laptop heats up quite a bit if you use it intensively, if you're going to push the processor hard, don't put it on your lap. It also can't replace a good desktop for more intensive operation.

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