Road Warrior: The Dunned Domestic Flier
Power Tools: Toshiba Tecra 720CDT, Targus Shuttle, AT&T PocketNet Phone
Life on the road often brings with it a relentless electronic assault from the drones in corporate headquarters, who act as if you're working down the hall instead of 3,000 miles away. You can make your life easier, and give your coworkers what they want when they want it, by assembling a traveling office. The centerpiece should be Toshiba's Tecra 730CDT.
The 730CDT is the closest any notebook computer comes to matching the power and flexibility of a desktop machine. With a $6,000 price tag, it better be as good as a desktop. (Get your company to pick up the tab -- after all, they're keeping you on an electronic leash.) Its got a high-resolution 12.1-inch screen that's even sharper than the ThinkPad's, a 6X CD-ROM drive, a 2 GB hard drive, a floppy drive, and a 150 Mhz Pentium CPU. All this power will strain your shoulder muscles, though. The Tecra weighs in at more than 10 pounds. But look at it this way: its not heavy, its my savior.
The Tecra lets you swap the CD-ROM and floppy drives or connect the floppy drive externally without removing the CD-ROM drive, a very handy feature. Also noteworthy is a built-in V.34 modem, so you don't have to spend more money on a PC Card model. Toshiba also supplies software that turns the Tecra into a telephone answering machine with multiple mailboxes and a full-duplex speaker phone. When you're back at the hotel after a long day of meetings, you can pop in your favorite Morphine CD, put on headphones, and relax.
Like the ThinkPad, the Tecra uses the latest lithium ion batteries, squeezing out over two-and-a-half hours of straight computing time. Not bad for a notebook with all these features. Many competing models will die on you after just 90 minutes.
Recalling that story about my friend with the neck brace, you'll need special equipment to haul the Tecra cross-country. I recommend the $249 Targus Shuttle. This carry-on is designed with the computer-wielding biz geek in mind. It includes a special padded compartment for the notebook as well as spots for files, a cell-phone, extra cables, and exterior pockets designed for quick access. You can even retrieve the notebook without opening the whole case. And the luggage area gives you enough room for extra shirts, toiletries, and gym clothes. Best of all, the Shuttle has wheels and a telescoping handle to save your shoulder.
One advantage folks back in the office have over you is they can constantly monitor their email. And when they email you, they expect a reply. Now! But you can still defend yourself, and get your email just about anywhere, by using a smart cell-phone.
First out of the block is AT&T's PocketNet Phone. It looks like a standard cell-phone, except it also contains a 19.2 Kbps modem and its own Internet email address. The combination gives you truly wireless email abilities and even allows you to cruise the Web. Of course, you'll only get text on the PocketNets three-line, 60-character LCD screen. But that's a benefit -- your cell-phone bill would hit four figures if you downloaded graphics off the World Wide Wait. Special Web stations also deliver weather forecasts, stock quotes, news, and even the status of FedEx or UPS packages to your phone.
On the downside, punching out email messages on PocketNets dual purpose keypad is a pain. Also, the phones email portion relies on CDPD service, which is not available in all parts of the country.
Geek Factor: The Tecra 730CDT boasts advanced power user features such as a Zoomed Port Video, which puts images on your screen in seconds. But you'll need compatible PC Cards to take advantage of them. The PocketNet features an online listing of phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada. Just push a button when you find the right listing and the phone switches over to voice mode and dials the number for you.
Weak Factors: The price of the notebook may drain your travel budget. And the AT&T PocketNet Phone weighs so much (11.6 ounces), you'll be glad you brought the Shuttle luggage.
Coordinates: Toshiba America Information Systems, 800-334-3445, http://www.computers.toshiba.com; AT&T Wireless Data Division, 800-552-3373, http://www.airdata.com; Targus, 800-390-4622, http://www.targus.com
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