Sharp Actius RD20
We've reviewed an awful lot of laptops in this section over the last few years; unsurprising, as it's common knowledge that our school systems are gearing up to make a full deployment of them in the near future. But, despite all of the different manufacturers and models we've had the distinguished fortune to evaluate, it's been the case that I've never seen one before that could be called a true "desktop replacement." Of course, I do almost all of my own computing on a laptop, but like most mobile computer users, I've just acclimated myself to occupying a lower echelon of features and performance availability. I don't search for the largest Mersene primes, or help power SETI, I tell myself, so why worry about it? I get done what I need to do.
Schools don't always have that option. Their needs and demands are virtually limitless, and the more power and alternatives they get to help meet them, the more the boundaries expand to supersede them. Our readers involved with technology procurement in the schools, districts, BOCES, the Technology Task Force, and the New York Department of Education itself should know that I have recanted my previously-stated conclusions: I've found a genuine desktop replacement laptop, and it's, quite simply, the finest one I've seen.
The Sharp RD20, the latest iteration of the RD line, has performance uncharted here before; superior graphics capabilities, a blazing CPU, built-in 802.11b wireless access, and a generous cache of standard software-the last a point which unfortunately can't be made for all of the high-end units tested here in recent months. Our model was configured with a better-than-3 GHz P4 (non-Centrino, sorry)-the fastest one I've ever used-and a full 512 GB of RAM! The wireless feature, crucial in education, as most enterprise systems are only practical if they can be configured for LAN use in-class, picked up a Linksys wireless broadband router's signal just about instantly. At the price point of the unit, about $1700 according to the website, it's hard to believe that a 3D-enhanced graphics chip like NVIDIA's Geoforce 4 440 would actually be included as a system component-especially considering both the high prominence of graphics-intensive tutorial software these days, and the sluggish action of most typical notebook graphics systems. In fact, it's very hard to believe.
The only criticism I've been able to come up with is that it doesn't have the 3D perspective gewgaw their top-of-the-line model, the RD3D, comes equipped with-but as the world has always persisted with 2D flatscreen monitors in the past, I suspect it will continue to spin 'round in the future regardless. Actually, my only real complaint, come to think of it, is that I don't have more space to describe its features! Perhaps the reader will be best served by exploring them personally, which you can do, with Education Update's highest recommendation, at www.sharpsystems.com.#