Sony VGN-T350P/L

It's tough to buy a laptop today that doesn't feature built-in wireless connectivity—but there's wireless, and then there's wireless. Standard-issue wireless networking (also called Wi-Fi or 802.11b/g) is great as long as you're near a wireless "hot spot"—say, at Starbucks or inside your home network. But what if you're on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street, aching to check your e-mail, look up an area restaurant or see if anyone's on that genuine diamond-encrusted paper towel dispenser you're selling on eBay?

No problem, if you're carrying Sony's VAIO VGN-T350P/L laptop. This sexy little ultraportable incorporates built-in access to Cingular's EDGE network, a wireless data service that's spread widely along the East and West coasts, and still growing (coverage map at With the VAIO and a Cingular account, you can hop on the Internet from anywhere in the service area and communicate at near-broadband speeds—not as fast as your home or office wired network, but much faster than dial-up and just fine for most purposes.

Now consider the VAIO as a computer, not a communication device. It's a featherweight affair at just a hair over three pounds, but shoehorns heavyweight features into its sleek shell, including a bright 10.6-inch wide-screen display, a large 60-gigabyte hard disk, a built-in DVD read/write drive and up to four hours of battery life with the standard battery (the optional larger-capacity batteries are a good idea, since that four-hour figure was calculated with the wireless radio turned off). The keyboard is considerably smaller than standard desktop or even notebook equipment: as a fast typist with large hands, I found it fine for on-the-road tasks, but wouldn't want to use it as my day-to-day office machine.

Neither the VAIO nor its Cingular networking capabilities come cheap. The notebook, in a variety of colors, sells for $2,199.99, and Cingular service (after a free 30-day trial) will run $49.99 for a metered 50-megabyte-per-month plan or $79.99 monthly for unlimited service. Still, whether you bill it to your business or pay for it with your paper-towel-holder profits, there's an addictive freedom to sitting down anywhere and enjoying fast, full Internet access.


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