December 3, 2004 By Miriam Jones
A lightweight laptop at just more than 4 pounds, it measures 1.2 inches thick and offers a sleek and attractive profile. Sharp provides a weight saver (a lightweight plastic insert) to replace the optical drive and lighten your load -- an option if you really need to shave a few ounces off the unit.
With the machine turned off, battery recharging takes 2.8 hours, which seemed lengthy to me. It takes 6.1 hours if the machine's on. Be sure to get the optional backup battery if you want to reach the end of a DVD on a long flight. With standard use, the lithium-ion battery gives almost three hours of power, but playing a DVD will reduce that to just more than an hour and a half. In fact, the operation manual instructs users to connect the AC adapter before viewing a DVD.
I gave it a shot without the adapter, and after a couple warnings, the computer stopped playing Lost in Translation with 15 minutes of the film left to go. I got the movie to start again, but the computer shut down for good as the credits were rolling. Keep in mind this movie is one hour and 42 minutes long. You may get through a Disney movie, but you can forget Lawrence of Arabia. The picture was a bit jerky, and while audio isn't shabby through the headphone jack, the speaker is located on the laptop's bottom and sounds tinny externally.
The computer was good about alerting me to available wireless connections. My luck ran out, however, after my neighbors discovered my efforts to make use of those wireless connections. Regular Joes and nearby businesses updated their security and locked down their networks.
I found the keyboard responded well to a light touch. If you're heavy-handed though, you'll notice the pad underneath giving way just a bit -- a little disturbing in terms of sturdiness. The arrow keys have a couple of blank areas to make up for slight slips of the fingers. The touchpad -- pardon me, that's glide pad -- has a left and right button so you feel right at home with the usual left- and right-clicking. I blame my light touch for occasional skips of the cursor. Otherwise, it served me well.
The 12.1-inch XGA low-reflection TFT LCD monitor gives a crisp display with a resolution of 1024 x 768. The AC adapter tended to slide itself out of the computer on occasion, so it's a good idea to watch for that. The keyboard gave me ample space, but as most laptop keyboards tend to be, it's intended for right-handed users, offering slightly more room on the right side. An external microphone jack is also included. It's possible to connect to an external TV, monitor and audio speakers. The built-in wireless antennas are a nice addition.
The unit originally sold for about $1,400 with the CD/DVD-RW drive, two USB ports, an IEEE 1394 connector, PC card slot, 1.53 GHz AMD Athlon XP-M processor and 802.11b built-in wireless networking.
Altogether the Actius AV18P is a swanky number with a few quirks, but is packed with features that make the price worthwhile.
Rating: 4 out of 5