Burney’s Legal Tech Reviews – Gadgets for Legal Pros: A Power-Trippin’ Laptop and a Rule-Bendin’ Memory Card

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com’s Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal technology questions .

This month my shoulders appreciate another light-weight, travel-friendly laptop; and I’m really excited to discover a memory card that helps re-ignite my belief there is always room for innovation in the world of technology.

Averatec Has the Right Tech

If you look back through my columns on LLRX.com, you’ll see that I’m big fan of the so-called ultraportable.

When I’m sitting at a desk, I want the power and brilliance of a desktop machine. I want a speedier processor, a bigger hard drive, and a better graphics card. This is my digital “home base” where I do everything from e-mail to video to Web page development to legal research to streaming music to PDF creation.

When I’m traveling, I don’t need to do all those things. I mostly just need to check e-mail, look at my calendar, surf the Web, and maybe work on a presentation. When I need something from my firm, I use Citrix to grab stuff from the network. If I need to retrieve something from my home computer, I use GoToMyPC.com to securely access the box sitting at my home.

So when I travel, I don’t want to break my back with an 8-9lb. laptop behemoth. I’d rather carry a 3-4lb. svelte attaché that’s easy on the shoulders but still lets me accomplish everything I need to do while away from the office.

The Averatec 3700 laptop series fits the bill perfectly. Averatec is one of those manufacturers that’s sort of “under the radar” when compared to the Dells and HPs of the world. Some people that don’t think they can stand up to the muster of the big boys.

But I’m not so worried about that to be honest. There are a few manufacturers that I would caution people to stay away from, but Averatec is not one of them because they’ve received some rave praise from many in the tech-world lately with their sleek, efficient, and affordable laptops.

I’ve also had the pleasure of using the Averatec AV3715-EH1 for several weeks and I’m here to say that I can highly recommend this as a laptop you’ll both enjoy using and carrying around.

The first thing many people might ask when you pull out the Averatec laptop is if it’s an Apple iBook. The Averatec gleams with a cool white color and silver trim that can easily be mistaken for an Apple clone.

The Averatec AV3715 measures 10.8″ wide x 8.8″ deep x 1.3″ thick. And the greatest part is that it only weighs 4.2lb.

Now, 4.2lb. is a tad bit over my preferential limit and some would argue that true ultraportable laptops must be 3lb. and under, but the Averatec offers enough features that the extra pound is worth it.

First, you get a full keyboard that includes two “Windows keys” on either side of the spacebar. The only things missing are dedicated keys for things like Home, and End, but I found it easy to hold down the function key to engage those tasks.

Incredibly, the AV3715 offers 3 USB 2.0 ports on the right side of the unit. It’s fantastic to have this many USB ports to work with on such a small laptop, but I do wish they had put one on the opposite side so that it was a little easier to use an external mouse.

However, the other side of the AV3715 is taken up by the single PCMCIA card slot, along with a fully functional DVD burner! I certainly expected a DVD player in laptop like this, but having a DVD burner is exquisite.

The AV3715 also includes an 80GB hard drive and a built-in wireless card, as well as a Firewire port, a 4-in-1 multi-memory card reader and the requisite headphone/microphone jacks on the front.

All of this for the low, low price of $949.00. One reason that Averatec can dip below the 1K mark is because they use the AMD Sempron processor.

There’s nothing wrong with the Sempron processors – they’re just not recommended for high-end 3D gaming or intensive video editing. It’s a scaled-down family of processors that are perfect for typical home and business applications.

That means the Averatec AV3715 is splendid for e-mail, Web surfing, and working on documents – exactly what I look for in a small, portable laptop.

This Memory Card Bends Over Backwards to Make You Happy

Sometimes it’s hard to find a really good idea in technology. So when one comes along, I want to shout about it to everyone I know. That time is now and the idea is the SanDisk Ultra II Plus memory card.

SanDisk is one of the premiere manufacturers of flash/external memory products today. When you purchase an SD (Secure Digital) memory card for you digital camera or Treo phone, chances are good that it comes from SanDisk.

SD memory cards are literally about the size of a postage stamp and boast memory capacities of up to 2GB today. They are extremely popular because they are fast and roomy – you can fit a good number of digital pictures or MP3 files on to one card.

And even better news is that prices keep dropping so that you can pick up a 512MB SD memory card today for somewhere between $30-$50.

The SD format is getting so popular that many laptops now feature a memory card slot, such as the Averatec above. The idea is that you’ll pop an SD card into your digital camera, take your pics, then take the card out and put it into your laptop. That allows you to edit and view the pictures on a bigger screen than what you get on your camera.

But not all laptops have built-in memory card slots, and many desktops don’t offer them at all. And even if you purchased an external memory card reader, it usually connects to your computer via a USB cable.

So why not just take out the middle man. The incredible breakthrough that the SanDisk Ultra II Plus card offers is that you can use it as a plain-vanilla SD memory card, but you can also bend a flap back to reveal a full-featured USB connector plate.

It seems like a flimsy idea, putting two teeny-weeny plastic hinges on a small card, but I have to say after using this card for a couple of weeks now and putting it through its paces, I am deliriously happy with it and have no reports of weakening.

I use the Ultra II Plus in my Treo a lot. I pop it in the top and then save pictures or files right to the card. When I need to e-mail a picture or edit a document, I usually take it out of my Treo and slip it into my desktop. Instead of having to mess with a card reader, however, I simply just flip the flap back and insert the card into an empty USB slot.

The USB casing is streamlined compared to normal USB plugs. There is no casing to speak of, really. All that the Ultra II Plus card has on the USB flap are the crucial metal connector plates that make contact with the corresponding plates inside a USB slot.

The only drawback with using the SanDisk Ultra II Plus in USB mode is that it may not fit into all USB slots easily. Some PCs have their USB plugs recessed so much that you may not be able to stick the SanDisk card into the slot.

SanDisk even provides a keyring holder for your card. I carry this around with me all the time now.

The SanDisk Ultra II Plus memory card is going to cost slightly more than regular SD memory cards, but consider the fact that you’re getting two cards in one, and you don’t have to fork over anything extra for a card reader.

Posted in: Burney's Legal Tech Reviews, Gadgets, Gadgets/Gizmos, Mobile Technology