Asus Eee Surf
Photo: J. Muckle/Studio D
Wallet, check. Keys, check. Phone, check. Computer...check! The day has come when you can pop your laptop in your handbag: The supersvelte MacBook Air ($1,799) has gotten all the attention, but it's only one of several new "ultraportables" or "subnotebooks" weighing three pounds or less—about the same as a young Chihuahua. Here's the skinny.

Reduced! The Asus Eee Surf is the smallest and cheapest of the bunch—the 2G model is just two pounds and $299—and looks less like a tool than a toy (the plastic case comes in colors including baby blue, sea green, and bubblegum pink). Despite the miniature, seven-inch screen, the oversize menu icons mean you won't feel the need for a magnifying glass; drawbacks include a short memory, limited hard-drive storage, and a tiny keyboard. For $100 more, consider the Everex CloudBook, which weighs the same as the Eee but has a wider screen and bigger keys.

Power up: Minicomputers often have minimal battery life, but Lenovo's shiny new IdeaPad U110 ($1,899) comes with two battery packs that keep you going for eight hours (compare with the Air, which runs out of breath after five hours). The detachable battery on Sony's sleek VAIO TZ ($1,799) gives you at least seven hours of juice—and unlike the Air, the VAIO has a disc drive.

The great escape: Most grab-and-go computers have LCD screens that get washed out in the sun, so when you want to relocate your office to a park bench or a deck chair, your ultraportable might not live up to its name. Air users are in luck: When you're outside, simply invert the colors on your screen by pressing Control-Option-Apple-8. If you prefer PCs, Toshiba's Portégé R500 uses natural light to display colors outdoors, but the catch is a $2,999 price tag. The budget alternative is a laptop shade ($30 from compushade.com). Think of it as sunscreen for your computer.

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