PORTFOLIO: When a netbook’s not enough

Netbooks have been the buzz on the end-user side this year — light, purse- (or murse-) sized computers weighing in around two pounds hit the shelves from vendors including Asus, Dell, Acer and others.

Relying on the Internet for much of their functionality because of their low-capacity solid state hard drives, netbooks are a credible option because there are now enough online applications to make them useful.

But what if a netbook’s not enough machine, and that 10-pound backbreaker of a laptop is too much?

Lenovo Inc. has launched the ThinkPad X300, an ultraportable with more horsepower, more screen real estate and more functionality than the netbook class while keeping the weight under three pounds. And yes, Macbook Air fans, it will fit in a manilla envelope.

The X300 features a 13.3-inch widescreen display — a good four inches on the larger of the netbooks — and a conventional keyboard layout that netbooks often sacrifice to compress the size.

Whereas netbooks lean toward Intel’s Atom N270 processor, the X300 boasts an Intel Core 2 Duo clocked at 1.2 GHz. It ships with up to 4GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state hard drive — bigger than a netbook’s, but still not too difficult to overwhelm if you load enough applications.

There’s also an optional slimline DVD burner, which is usually sacrificed on netbooks to save weight and space. Optional long-life batteries offer up to 10 hours of charge.

Available connectivity includes Wi-Fi, UltraWide Band and Bluetooth, and Lenovo says it will support WiMAX when it becomes available.

List price starts at $1,699, though as we went to press, Lenovo was offering the base model for $1,149 on the Web site — a considerable premium over the $400 you might pay on a netbook.