$1,399, http://www.toshiba.com, 800/867-4422
Specifications: 12.1-inch passive-matrix display, 366 MHz AMD K6-2 processor, 256 kb L2 cache, 32 mb memory, 2 mb video memory, 4 gb hard drive, 24x CD-ROM drive, 56-kbps modem, two Type II (or one Type III) PC Card slots.
Support: One-year warranty; 24-hour, toll-free hardware and software support.
There's nothing tremendously wrong with this Toshiba, but there's nothing terribly exciting about it either. It's got a decent processor, but only 32 megabytes of memory, a cost-saving tactic that the user winds up paying for one way or another. It's relatively light, at a bit more than six pounds, but it's also the dullest-looking laptop of the bunch. It's cheap, but the Compaq is $100 cheaper.
The Satellite 2065CDS comes with the basics: Norton Anti-Virus, Microsoft Bookshelf 99, Encarta 99, Money 99 and Quicken Basic 99. Toshiba also has a current special offer of five additional free software bundles available to new owners. You simply choose which package you want -- there's a game package, a productivity package, an education package and so on.
The battery lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, whether I was spending that time playing games, surfing the Web or writing. That's lousy compared to the competition, although for the many people who simply lug their laptop from one power outlet to the next it may not be a deal-breaker.
The screen, a dual-screen passive-matrix display, was bright but slow -- the cursor regularly disappeared if I got too quick with the pointing-stick mouse substitute. Ergonomics on this thing are a bit of a mess; the brightness control is hidden on the side of the case where you can't see it while looking at the screen, and the various ports and jacks (modem, USB, serial, parallel, mouse and so on) are arrayed around all three sides of the computer, which some could find confusing.
Finally, the speakers seemed to be a little weak, and during one of my tests, the sound actually disappeared altogether. I thought this was probably some power-saving feature kicking in at the time, but when I rebooted, the sound didn't come back. After a long, grueling fishing expedition (led by Toshiba's tech support) through various control panels and then into DOS, I wound up having to reformat the hard drive anyway. Thanks to a faulty reconfiguration disk, after two incomplete reformatting attempts I ended up with a lobotomized version of Windows 98 and speakers that still don't work. While the sound problem is something that might be blamed on Microsoft or a certain video game designer, a faulty backup disk isn't.