Size matters, and when it comes to mobile computers, smaller is better. But its smallness does not make the MetroBook SLT a winner.

The ideas behind it deserve credit, however. Maker MetroBook Computer Co. aimed for a hybrid between a lightweight hand-held running Microsoft Windows CE and a more powerful Windows 98 portable.

The 8.4-inch display is the SLT's main drawback. It serves as a touch screen and the only input device, but the active-matrix display looks passive and dim because of the touch-screen layer. The display shows 800 by 600 pixels, adequate for most purposes.

In my tests, the touch screen was overly sensitive. The stylus, which tucks in front of the keyboard, never quite hit its mark. The included handwriting software could not recognize anything I wrote and was difficult to boot.

At the sides of the display are 16 permanent icons: Game, Prog, Ctrl, PIM and so on. They can be set to launch specific applications, but they do not lend a businesslike overall appearance.

A 56-kilobit-per-second modem is integrated. The PC card slots, which should support one Type III or two Type II cards, did not work when I tried them.

The computer weighs in at 3 pounds 5 ounces--pretty light, but still heavier than the Latitude LT from Dell Computer Corp. And the Latitude has the same or better features.

The Metrobook SLT's external 3 1/4-inch floppy drive connects by a thick, 7-inch cable and a plug so cumbersome that the drive could not face in the same direction as the notebook. The floppy-drive unit has two universal serial ports plus keyboard and mouse ports. The serial, parallel and VGA ports are on the notebook itself.

An external CD-ROM drive, which costs extra and requires AC power, connects to a special port on the floppy drive. The CD-ROM and floppy drives add another two pounds of carrying weight.

The battery lasted for about an hour on the GCN Lab's maximum drainage test. For such a light unit, that is just adequate.

The system performed overall as expected, earning slightly better benchmark scores than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX desktop PC. The MetroBook SLT had the same processor with 64 megabytes of memory, a 4-gigabyte hard drive and a 1.1-megabyte graphics accelerator.

MetroBook is a relatively new notebook maker, so given time, future SLT revisions might work out better. I hope so.To respond, send e-mail to editor@gcn.com or visit the Government Computer News Web site at www.gcn.com.

MetroBook SLT 233-MHz Pentium MMX Subnotebook

MetroBook Computer Co. Chantilly

Telephone: 703-222-3300

Web site: www.metrobook.com/mb2000/sltpage.htm

Price: $1,840 (Web price)

Grade: C

PROS:

+ Good design ideas

CONS:

- Dim display

- Cumbersome external floppy and CD-ROM