16 October 2009

Netbook from MSI with (almost) Notebook Performance

MSI Wind U210-006US Review
Price: $429.99

We used to know that common netbook's performance is below the notebooks. But the latest generation of MSI Wind-series notebook is different. MSI claims that it performs like a notebook, with the price of a netbook!

Let's see the specifications. MSI Wind U210-006US built around AMD Athlon Neo MV-40. It's 64 bit processor and running at 1.6GHz. A lot of netbook built on Intel Atom processor. AMD Neo is the competitor of Atom. Less battery life, but more power! It has six-cell battery.

To solve the battery life problem MSI has included Eco "button" that extend battery life. There are five power-saver settings: Gaming mode, Movie mode, Presentation mode, Office mode, Turbo Battery mode.

It also has integrated ATI Radeon X1250 as graphics card. Powerful enough to operate Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit) included in the box. MSI offers free upgrade to Windows 7.

The memory is 2GB. It's huge compared to some netbooks with 1GB of RAM. The storage is 250GB. Large enough for a netbook. As a netbook, this MSI Wind doesn't have an optical drive.

The screen is 12.1 inches with 1,366x768 native resolution. With 1.2x11.7x7.5 inches (HWD) dimensions. It weights 3.2 pounds. A little heavier than the other netbooks on the market with 10 inches screen.

The keyboard is good designed and comfortable to use. The letter keys are extra wide while the right shift key and the backspace key are smaller than those on full-size keyboards. The "Ergonomic De-Stress" keyboard design is very comfortable and results in minimal mistyping. The palm rests are glossy, comfortable, and cool.

The ports available are headphone and microphone jacks, three USB ports (two on right side and one on left side), a memory-card slot, an Ethernet jack, a cable-lock slot, VGA-out port, HDMI-out port. If you use Bluetooth you had better buy a bluetooth receiver because the MSI has none of it. But don't worry it has 1.3-megapixel Webcam.

There are two configurations of MSI U210. The U210-006US comes in white, while the U210-008US comes in black. The white one is more interesting for us.


26 August 2009

Sony Vaio W111XX Review

CNET editors' review

  • CNET editors' rating: 3.0 stars Good
    Detailed editors' rating
      Design : 8.0
      Features : 8.0
      Performance : 7.0
      Battery life : 5.0
      Service and support : 7.0
      Overall score: 6.7 (3.0 stars)
  • Reviewed on: 08/24/2009
  • Released on: 08/01/2009

Sony's first foray in to the world of Atom-powered laptops was the Vaio P-series Lifestyle PC, which sported a unique miniaturized design (about the same footprint as a standard business envelope), but was hampered by input issues (no touch pad), and the use of Windows Vista as its OS.

At the time of that product's release, Sony was adamant that despite the Atom processor and small size, it was most definitely not a Netbook. The new Vaio W, on the other hand, is very clearly a Netbook, with Windows XP, a 10-inch display, and a familiar Netbook form factor.

While the $499 price may cause some sticker shock, as the base components aren't too much different from what you'd find in a $299-$399 Netbook, Sony is hoping the inclusion of a 1,366x768 high-definition display is enough to push the Vaio W over the line into the elusive "premium Netbook" category--perhaps the holy grail of PC makers looking to escape the price-cutting wars at the lower end of the Netbook biz.

If the hi-res display is worth a $100 (or more) premium to you, than the Vaio W is one of the nicer overall Netbook packages out there, but the same basic combo of an Intel Atom N280 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, and Windows XP is definitely available for less. Dell's less snazzy-looking Mini 10 can also be outfitted with a similar hi-def display for around the same price, and offers more configuration flexibility.

Price as reviewed $499
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N280
Memory 1GB, 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel 945GM Express
Graphics Intel GMA 950 (integrated)
Operating System Windows XP Home SP3
Dimensions (WD) 10.6 inches wide by 7.3 inches deep
Height 0.8-1.0 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.5/3.0 pounds
Category Netbook

While not the thinnest or lightest 10-inch Netbook around, the Sony Vaio W offers a solid, well-constructed chassis that feels sturdier than some of the less expensive Netbooks we've seen. Our unit was decked out in an all-over pink color scheme, from a rich, darker pink on the lid, to a pale pink on the patterned keyboard tray, to a subtle pink crosshatch on the touch-pad surface. If pink's not your color, brown and white versions are available as well.

With the recent (and welcome) trend toward oversized keys on Netbooks--relatively speaking, of course--we were a little surprised by how diminutive the keyboard on the Vaio W felt. It looks and feels like a shrunk-down clone of the standard Vaio laptop keyboard, with flat-topped, widely spaced keys. But this leaves the individual keys smaller than we'd like, and the Function, Tab, and right shift keys are especially tiny.

Sony includes its custom Media Plus software for organizing and playing media files. It's a well-done app, but we're usually wary of investing the time to learn a proprietary software package that's only used on one brand of laptops.

The real star here is the 10.1-inch wide-screen LED display. It has a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is higher than the Netbook standard of 1,024x600. We've also seen this higher resolution on a couple of 11.6-inch Netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 1101HA.

While it's arguably a better fit on those 11-inch screens, it also works nearly as well on the smaller 10-inch display, and we didn't find text or icons too small to see. Of course, your mileage with HD video files with a Netbook's anemic video capabilities may vary; we were able to load up HD versions of TV show episodes on Hulu, but they stuttered in full-screen mode.

Sony Vaio W Average for category [Netbook]
Audio headphone/microphone jacks headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader, Memory Stick reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion None None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

Being a Sony Vaio, it's not surprising that there's a second media card slot for the proprietary Memory Stick format. And being at the top end of the Netbook price scale, it's also not surprising to find Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi included (but not HDMI, as found on the similarly priced Dell Mini 10).

With an Intel Atom N280 CPU, the Vaio W is a bit zippier than Netbooks with the N270 version of the Atom (or the even slower Z520 version). The difference isn't major, but in a system with little processing headspace as it is, every little bit counts. We found the Vaio W perfectly usable for basic Netbook tasks, from Web surfing to e-mail to working on office docs--and it's much easier to use than Sony's P-series non-Netbook.

Sony Vaio W
Off (watts) 0.36
Sleep (watts) 0.6
Idle (watts) 7.52
Load (watts) 17.09
Raw (annual kWh) 26.37
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $2.99

The Sony Vaio W ran for 2 hours and 19 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included three-cell battery. That's disappointing for a Netbook, especially as these are systems designed for on-the-road use. Our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect somewhat longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

Sony includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan is an extra $169. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and a well-designed support site with a knowledge base and driver downloads.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Sony Vaio W
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Toshiba 5400rpm

Lenovo Ideapad S10-2
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1005HA
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Acer Aspire One AOD250
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Seagate 5400rpm

HP Mini 5101
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Int


05 August 2009

Gateway NV5214u Review

Reviewed by: Catharine Smith
Review Date: August 2009

Computer Shopper - Tired of paying for features you don’t need? Gateway has a notebook for you. At $499, the 6.8-pound NV5214u is priced like a netbook but functions like a mainstream laptop. Its sleek design, 15.6-inch wide-screen LCD, and 1,366x768 native resolution give the impression of a high-end notebook. But when you’re paying half the price of the average mainstream laptop, you should expect to sacrifice some on performance, and this model does demand this. The $499 price is the best thing the NV5214u has going for it, followed closely by its design. But those with undemanding computing needs and an eye for style should seriously consider this notebook.

The NV5214u's sleek design has the flair of a much pricier mdoel. This model is coffee-brown, with a honeycomb pattern. The metallic Gateway logo stands out against the neutral tones.

With a matte-black keyboard, a silver rim, and a subtle honeycomb pattern, the NV5214u keeps in step with current laptop design. Our model came in coffee brown, but cherry red, nightsky black, and midnight blue options are also available.

The extra-wide keyboard features a dedicated number pad; neither, thankfully, puts any of the major keys in odd places. The letter keys are broad and flat, which takes some getting used to but doesn’t affect typing ease. The space bar is small, compared with the other keys, though it's not reduced enough to be bothersome. The touch pad is roomy, and the long, thin button below it functions as both a right- and a left-click button, depending on which side of it you press.

Above the keyboard is a row of indicator lights. The four lights to the left are for hard drive activity, Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Bluetooth. To their right are seven LED indicators that double as touch buttons, glowing red when activated. These touch controls govern a power-save function, the MyBackup function, the Wi-Fi enabler, a touch-pad-lock feature, and volume levels. (The MyBackup button lets you copy and store important files with one press.) Above the screen are a built-in microphone and an integrated Webcam.

To test display and sound, we watched The Matrix via the NV5214u’s DVD drive. In dim light, picture quality was beautiful (and viewable even from off-axis). However, the glossy screen was prone to glare in bright light. Unless you’re sitting directly in front of the screen, don’t try to watch movies in a well-lit room. Volume levels were an issue, as well. The Dolby-quality sound was best appreciated with headphones on; without headphones, we found ourselves continually pressing the volume controls for more oomph, even when we knew volume was at 100 percent. Gunshots and musical swells were quite loud, but dialog-filled scenes sounded very soft. The NV5214u's cooling system runs quietly, however, so the internal fan noise doesn’t interfere with the sound, as it does on some laptops.

The keys are broad and flat. A number pad occupies the right side of the keyboard.

The NV5214u offers laptop-typical connectivity. On the left side are an AC adapter port, a Kensington-lock slot, VGA and HDMI connectors, two USB ports, microphone and headphone jacks, and a five-format memory-card reader. The front edge sports a power light, a battery light, and a ventilation grille for the fan inside. The right side sports the DVD drive, two more USB ports, and a modem jack. The power on/off button caps the right side of the hinge.

We noted a few out-of-the-box glitches when test-driving our review unit, namely overall sluggishness and an unruly touch pad. But, oddly, these problems began to smooth themselves out after a few hours. At the end of a full day of testing, the glitches had resolved themselves, likely because the NV5214u had automatically downloaded some Windows updates. By the time we had conditioned the battery, the NV5214u was running like normal. This isn't the kind of observed behavior we would say should prevent you from buying this system, but if you've already bought it and are experiencing the same thing, give it time to run Windows Update, and it should be fine.

Equipped with a 2.1GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 processor, a whopping 4GB of DDR2 RAM, and ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics with 256MB of dedicated video memory, the NV5214u returned decent benchmark-test scores for the price. We ran our iTunes encoding test first; the laptop converted our 11 iTunes test tracks from MP3 to AAC in 5 minutes and 50 seconds, which is on the slow side for a mainstream notebook (defined as those with 15.4- or 15.6-inch displays) but not far behind the score achieved by the average budget notebook. (We define budget models as $800 or less, and most of them we've tested have taken at least 5 minutes to complete this test.) Our Windows Media Encoder test, which, like the iTunes test, measures CPU performance, took 9 minutes and 53 seconds, 2 minutes slower than the average mainstream system, and about a minute longer than the $549 Acer Extensa 4630z, the Gateway laptop's closest price competitor in the mainstream-laptop category.

On the left, you'll find a Kensington lock slot, AC adapter port, VGA, HDMI, two USB ports, microphone and headphone jacks, and a five-in-one memory card reader.

On our PCMark Vantage test, which evaluates overall system performance, the NV5214u scored 800 points below the mainstream-notebook average, which is still fine for the typical Web surfer. It even managed to beat out the $999 Gateway MC7803u's score of 2,202. On our 3DMark06 test, which measures gaming performance, the NV5214u returned scores that were far below the mainstream-notebook average but about double what other budget systems deliver. Thanks to ATI’s integrated graphics, at 1,024x768, the NV5214u managed a decent score of 1,668 on 3DMark06; that score dropped to a still-respectable 1,452 at its native resolution of 1,366x768. The results of our Cinebench 10 (3,523) test, which measures how well the CPU and graphics work together, were right on target for its price and class.This means you could play some older titles or even some newer ones with the eye candy turned off —not bad for a budget notebook.

Battery life was disappointing. On our DVD rundown test, the system lasted just 1 hour and 44 minutes, about 30 minutes shorter than the laptop average, including budget systems. (To be fair, battery life is almost always a casualty of decent graphics performance.) At 6.8 pounds, however, the NV5214u likely won’t allow you to stray too far from an AC outlet.

Our NV5214u came with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium installed. Gateway also includes Adobe Flash Reader, Adobe Reader, Gateway's MyBackup Solution, Gateway's Recovery Management, Microsoft Works, and 60-day trial versions of Norton Internet Security, Microsoft Windows Live, and Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007. Gateway tops the bundle off with a one-year warranty and a free upgrade to Windows 7 for notebooks purchased between June 26, 2009 and January 31, 2010.

All told, the NV5214u is a remarkable deal at $499. Those looking for a notebook to check e-mail, surf the Web, and tote from the living room to the kitchen (and to Grandma’s once in a while) will be more than pleased with this model. It looks like it costs three times as much as it does; it performs decently; and it won’t break the bank. If your needs are simple and cash is tight, this is a great bargain buy.

Sleek design and robust specs for a budget price; dedicated number pad; free Windows 7 upgrade

Mediocre performance; some out-of-the-box performance quirks; glossy screen is glare-prone; low maximum speaker volume

Editors' Take
Looking at first glance nothing like a $499 laptop, the AMD-based NV5214u is a steal, though its performance is more telling.

Gateway NV5214u

Best Price

Best Buy

Key Specs
Processor: 2.1GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 320GB hard drive
Optical Drive: DVD±RW
Screen: 15.6 inches (1,366x768 native resolution)
Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 3200 (256MB)
Weight: 6.8 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1.5x14.6x9.8 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)


11 July 2009

iBuypower M865TU

Reviewed by: John R. Delaney
Review Date: July 2009

Nearly all of today’s powerful gaming notebooks have at least one thing in common: They are typically bulky, desktop replacement–size systems that can weigh upwards of 11 pounds. The iBuypower M865TU ($2,049 list), on the other hand, is different. It delivers gaming-class power in a 15-inch chassis that won’t break your back. Unfortunately, you’ll have to lug around the power adapter, too, because this system’s battery life is woefully short.

There’s nothing fancy about the M865TU’s design.

The M865TU looks more like a business system than a gaming notebook. Eschewing the flashy finish and lighting effects found on systems such as Alienware’s M17 and Toshiba’s Qosmio X305-Q708, it uses a lightly textured black case accentuated by two thin bands of silver trim. The case has a very solid feel to it and sports a dual-hinge mechanism that keeps the lid firmly in place without the need for a latch. Beneath the lid is a matching keyboard deck with a full-size black keyboard and a smallish (also textured) touch pad and button assembly.

The keyboard keys are well-spaced and responsive, but the mouse buttons are a bit stiff and require a heavy touch. There’s a fingerprint reader sandwiched between the mouse buttons, and three programmable quick-launch buttons and a power switch are at the top of the deck. Missing are dedicated media buttons and volume controls.

The system weighs in at 7.3 pounds, which is about average for a 15-inch notebook but several pounds lighter than the bigger rigs. But throw in the sizable AC adapter, and you’re looking at 9.1 pounds of travel weight. As it turns out, you’ll want to keep the adapter handy, but more on that later.

The 15.4-inch display has a resolution of 1,680x1,050 and sports a high-gloss antiglare coating, which is reflective but produces vivid colors and wide viewing angles. The panel does a great job of handling fast motion and looked wonderful while playing a round of Far Cry 2. We didn't notice any motion errors, and gameplay was very smooth. The speaker system was weak, however, and would benefit from even a small subwoofer.

The M865TU offers a better-than-average feature set. Scattered along the front, back, and sides are HDMI and DVI video outputs; three USB and one eSATA/USB combo port; a FireWire port; and Gigabit Ethernet and modem jacks. You also get a seven-format flash-memory-card reader, a multiformat DVD burner, a 2-megapixel Webcam, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and headphone, microphone, and S/PDIF audio jacks. For those who still use an analog display, a DVI-to-VGA dongle is included in the box. The roomy 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive comes with Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit) and is free of the usual bloatware, although you do get a neat little Webcam app from BisonCap.

The AC adapter adds almost 2 pounds to the travel weight.

Configured with Intel’s 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of quick DDR3 RAM, and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX260M graphics with 1GB of DDR3 video memory, the M865TU turned in some remarkable scores on our benchmark tests. Its score of 5,230 on Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage 64-bit test was the highest we’ve seen from any notebook as of this writing, and its score on the 32-bit test was more than 600 points above the average for a desktop-replacement notebook. It handled our iTunes encoding test in 2 minutes and 52 seconds, which is a record time for any notebook, and it needed only 4 minutes and 47 seconds to complete our Windows Media Encoder test, which was slower than the Qosmio X305 and the MSI GX720 but still 25 seconds faster than the average time for its class.

Connections include DVI, HDMI, eSATA, and USB ports.

Its 3D performance was good but not awe-inspiring; a 3DMark06 score of 9,601 while running at its native resolution (1,680x1,050) lagged behind the Qosmio as well as the Asus W90Vp-X1 but was still better than the Gateway P7808u FX gaming notebook and Lenovo’s ultra-expensive ThinkPad W700ds.

While its score of 98.4 frames per second (fps) on our demanding Company of Heroes DirectX9 (DX9) gaming test was right around average for a gaming system, the M865TU should have no trouble handling DX 9 games with a fair amount of eye candy turned on. Its DirectX 10 (DX10) score of 33.6fps was decent, but you may want to ratchet down the special effects for DX 10 gaming. Battery life was disappointing; the eight-cell battery lasted a measly 1 hour and 38 minutes on our DVD rundown test, which is what you’d expect from a big, 17-inch-plus notebook but not from a 15-inch system. By way of comparison, Dell’s Studio 15 lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes.

If you’re looking for a solid gaming notebook that you can actually travel with, and you can live without a fancy gaming-style finish, the iBuypower M865TU is for you. There are less-expensive gaming notebooks around, but they don’t offer the same level of performance and features as the M865TU. While you can get better gaming performance, too, you’ll pay a premium for those notebooks. And as of right now, there isn’t one über-system that dominates the competition in all categories, so regardless of what you buy, you’ll be making some trade-offs.

We wish the iBuypower M865TU lasted longer between charges and offered a more robust audio system, but overall, this is a very good 15.4-inch gaming notebook that offers enough performance for moderate gamers and even serious gamers who can't splash out for a deluxe model.
Price (at time of review): $2,049 (list)

Editors' Rating

Great performance; sturdy build quality; good selection of ports

Poor battery life; low-powered speakers; ho-hum design

Editors' Take
This gaming laptop offers solid performance and above-average connectivity in an uncommonly portable 15-inch frame. The battery life is subpar, however.

iBuypower M865TU
Price (at time of review): $2,049 (list)

Key Specs
Processor: 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9900
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 500GB hard drive
Optical Drive: DVD±RW
Screen: 15.4 inches (1,680x1,050 native resolution)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX260M (1GB)
Weight: 7.3 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1.95x14.3x10.6 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)


13 June 2009


Acer's Recession-Busting Netbook

By late last year, the Acer Aspire One had beaten out ASUS's combined offerings to become the topselling netbook—or so market research firm DisplaySearch concluded. The One reached this pinnacle because of its low price—despite a smaller-thanaverage (8.9-inch) screen and a pair of awkwardly placed mouse buttons. This Aspire One is the longoverdue update, and as its name implies, the screen size has finally grown to the more-popular 10 inches. Also, the mouse buttons have been relocated. It's not as well equipped as the ASUS EeePC 1000HE (see page 9), but the price is still right.

Design isn't one of the One's strengths. It's a hit thicker, bigger, and heavier than most of its rivals (in part owing to the six-cell battery sticking ow an extra inch), and its case is not as flashy as theirs. Although the mouse buttons are better placed than in the previous version. they are still tiny and difficult to press. The One's keyboard, at 89 percent of full size, hasn't yet caught up with those of its peers. Not much has changed in the feature set: You get three USB ports, VGA-out, an Ethernet port, a 1.3-megapixel webcam, 802.11g and a 4-in-1 card reader. The hard drive has been bumped up to 160GB, however.

In performance, the Aspire One was on a par with its competition, but battery life was mysteriously impressive. Although its six-cell battery capacity (59 Wh) is less than that of the ASUS 1000HE (63 Wh), the Aspire One somehow produced 8 hours 46 minutes of battery life, compared with 6:36 for the ASUS. If you don't mind the keyboard and navigation issues, and price is of the uppermost concern, the Aspire One is worth a look. Otherwise, spend the extra $50 for our EC, the ASUS EeePC 1000HE. Cisco Cheng

Specs: 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM; 160GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive; 128MB Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950; 10.1-inch, 1,024-by-600 display; 2.9 pounds (3.5 pounds travel); three USB ports; 59-Wh, 5.8-Ah lithium ion battery; Windows XP Home Edition.

PC Magazine April 2009


10 May 2009

Lenovo Ideapad S10e

A well-built netbook from Lenovo that deserves a better battery

While it seems every notebook manufacturer has a netbook or two in their portfolio, a notable absentee has been Lenovo, something that was rectified late last year when the long-awaited Ideapad Sloe appeared. a well-designed nctbook that cries out for a bigger battery.

One look at its design and you can toll who made it — Lenovo could have named it the Thinkpad Mini, which, in some people's eyes is already enough reason to buy one. As well as the familia,- black look the Ideapad is also available in white and red and, despite its plastic construction. the build quality is good enough to survive life on the road.

There are no surprises here: an Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz CPU is coupled with the Intel 945GSI: chipsct tha: provides the integrated GMA950 graphics. Performance is akin to Samsung's NC10 and MSI's Wind; PCmark05 CPU score of 2,395 and a Cinebench single CPU test score of 89 are right in the middle of the standard figures for this type of netbook.

The Ideapad comes with 1GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 memory which is split into two parts; 512MB is soldered to the motherboard while the single Sodimm slot holds a 512MB memory module, so if you want a bit more performance you can replace it with a 1GB module - 1.5GB is the most the motherboard can support. Upgrading the memory - and for that matter replacing the hard drive - is a doddle. as both sit under a door in the underside of the Ideapad.

As standard it comes with a 160G3 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive with Windows XP Home installed. There is a Suse Linux version available that has an 80GB hard disk (1270).

You also get a four-in-one card reader and a surprise in the form of a 34mm Express card slot which can be used to expand he Ideapad's capabilities with additional USB ports, an eSata card cr, perhaps the most useful option, a mobile broadband modem.

The 10.1in wSVGA LED backlit TrT screen has a 1,024x576 pixel resolution with a matt coating so you can use it comfortably in a well-lit office or outside on a bright day The screen produces images that have sharp colours and good contrast. The top bezel of the screen is home to a 1.3-megap,xel webcarn.

Lenovo is renowned for its notebook keyboards and thankfully the Ideapad follows the family tradition. albeit on a much smaller scale, but even so the build quality of the keyboard is first rate. The keybed has very little, if any, flex to it and, although the keys are very small, the way they have been designed makes the keyboard easy to use even if you have large fingers. The touchpad has been given a slightly textured finish making it easy and comfortable to use.

Apart from the previously mentioned Express Card slot and card reader the rest of the ports are standard netbook fare; two USB2, two audio and a VGA out port. The same rule applies to the communications suite; 802 11 big Wifi, 10/100Mbits/sec Ethernet and Bluetooth 2 CDR.

The only real letdown with the Ideapad, and it's not alone in this, is the short life of the three-cell 2,603rnAH battery. When it was tested in everyday use the battery lasted just one nour, 51 minutes, while in ebook mode it produced a lowly two hours, 43 minutes, and like many of its competitors it could really do with a six-cell battery. Simon Crisp

Personal Computer World April 2009


Toshiba Portêgê A600

A lightweight laptop with a five-hour battery life

Toshiba's latest addition to its popular Portége notebook range is the A600 ultraportable that comes in two models, the 120 and our review sample. the 122. 'I he only difference :s the size of the hard disk: 160GB and 25CG6 respectively.

The silver finish of the A600 is only relieved by the matt black screen frame, chromed mouse buttons and Toshiba logo on the lid. The laptop weighs a mere 1.8kg, including the small power brick, so you can carry it around all day without noticing it But the light weight comes at a cost, as the wrist pad has a degree of flex to it and the lid is pretty thin and fragile

The A600 is powered by one of Intel's low-voltage 5U9300 Core 2 Duo processors, clocked at 1.2GHz and backed by 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory. It won't set the world alight with its performance (PCmark05 score of 2,842), but the processor does have a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of just 10W and a large 5.800mAh battery, so the battery life is impressive. It lasted six hours, 17 minutes with the latest version of Mobilerrark 07, tested under normal working conditions and managed seven hours, 18 minutes when used as an ebook.

The 12.1in WXCA screen has a 1,280x800 pixel resolution with LED backlighting. It doesn't have high-gloss coating and the matt finish subdues the colours and contrast a little — but you soon get used to it and it doesn't reflect office lighting.

Although the keybed has a lot of flex, the keys themselves feel good to use, as does the touchpad. A fingerprint reader is also included for added security

One of the three USB ports is a combo eSata/USE and features Sleep-and-Charge which allows any chargeable peripheral to charge when the !aptop is turned off. Simon Crisp

Personal Computer World April 2009


04 May 2009

7 Netbooks That Will Surprise You

More memory, more powerful processors, and larger displays aren't the half of it. Some features manufacturers are adding to netbooks may really surprise you.

By Bill O'Brien
May 4, 2009 04:00 AM

Netbooks are hot. Anyone who tells you they're not hasn't been watching the industry very closely. There are two core reasons behind the sizzle: 1)Netbooks are a new genre and we all like shiny new gadgets, especially ones that are tiny. 2) While we weather the tough economic storm, they're a cheap option as laptop replacements. Well, cheaper, anyway.

No, let's stick with cheap. Let's face it, they're not called, "Everything you always wanted in a portable computer books." netbooks are good for things you'd do on the Internet, and not much more. Miniscule amounts of memory, thimbles for hard disks (by current standards), and processors that chug rather than fly, are the hallmarks of the netbook.

No matter how popular netbooks might seem right now, they'll lose their novelty as the market floods and the economy improves, and their sales will begin to slip.

Enter capitalism: The only way to continue selling into this currently lucrative arena is to distinguish a product from everyone else's by providing more or better of almost any aspect of what makes a netbook a netbook. The type of technological evolution derived from making a buck has always been the driving force behind computing.

What changes might be in store for these huggable luggables? Almost anything is possible: More memory, larger screen sizes, higher capacity hard drives, and faster processors -- you might even begin to wonder when a quad-core CPU will show up in a netbook! (All right, don't spend a lot of time on that one.) But some of the features manufacturers are adding to netbooks really may surprise you.

We've unearthed seven netbooks that, while not quite on steroids, are trying to stick to the spirit of the downsized devices while dialing down the austerity with which they are so closely associated. It's not exactly clear how close the next breed will come to laptopville but one thing is certain: Apple may soon need to stop suggesting that the iPhone and the iPod are adequate substitutes for netbooks.

1. ASUS Eee PC 1004DN

Arguably, ASUS invented the netbook -- at worst, it's done its very best to propagate the species through its ever-expanding line-up of Eee PCs. It's latest is the 1004DN. While this model clearly shows its heritage from earlier Eee PCs, the newest sibling features a biometric fingerprint reader that's part of ASUS Data Security System. Not only can you log on via a fingerprint scan, but you can also set up additional users to have access to your netbook (that is, other than the guy who stole it when you left the little tyke in the cafeteria last week).

But that may not be the big news for you. How about having an internal DVD burner? That's quite a novelty for today's netbook. Yet the 1004DN still weighs in at a tossable 3.2lbs and outlines its space with a 10.9 x 7.6 x 1.1 inch footprint.

A 120GB 1.8-inch hard drive can actually be called "storage." It has enough space to really hold data, not just to provide a transport point for it until you can get home and download it into your "computer." And although the 1004DN still has but a single SODIMM memory socket, at least you can fit it with 2GB of DDR2. That may not do much for Vista but it certainly makes Windows XP a bit more responsive.

The Eee PC 1004DN is slated for release in the very near future (if not already) at a rumored sub-$600 price point. All right, sticker shock for a netbook, yes? That price drops somewhat depending on what options you prefer or where you buy it, but just keep in mind that "extra" always costs more.

2. Dell Inspiron 13

When we started looking at netbooks for this article we were dead set on making sure Dell's Inspiron Mini 12 was included. After all, it has a 12-inch screen -- big by netbook standards.

On the other hand, except for that screen size, the Mini 12 is the same basic (and we do mean basic) netbook configuration as most others, but who really wants to squint if they don't need to. It was an easy choice.

Well, all right, at least it was an easy choice until we got a look at Dell's Inspiron 13. The base Inspiron Mini 12 currently lists on Dell's site for $459. The base Inspiron 13 (no "Mini" designation) is $499. The extra $50 nets you a real CPU, not an Atom, an extra inch of screen real estate, and a 160GB hard drive (100GB more than the Mini 12).

All that for just $50 more? Yes, but you'll need a little something extra. To really put this into the 'extreme netbook' category you'll want to switch from Vista Home Basic (also known as "the you gotta be kidding OS") to Vista Home Premium and double the installed memory to 2GB. That pumps up the price to $579 but guess what? You can't touch that price with the Mini 12 and get within 70% of the performance even if you tried! (Besides, the Mini 12's DVD burner is external -- another piece of hardware to carry around.)

Speaking of carrying things about, the Mini 12 tips the scales somewhere between 2.8 and 3.2 pounds, depending on which battery pack you select. The Inspiron 13 is just a wee bit under 5 pounds so you'll need some curls to strengthen your upper arms. It's more than worth the gym workout.

3. Gigabyte T1028 TouchNote

Gigabyte's T1028 folds like a cheap suit. Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, it's supposed to. That's a good thing. The T1028 has a folding 10-inch touch screen. (The "TouchNote" part of its name should have tipped you off .)

It's still in the 10-inch screen category, but while 1GB of memory is the standard fare, you can push it (and should!) to 2GB if you want to. Better still, you won't find a pathetic little 1.8-inch 80GB hard drive installed. Instead, there's a much less-pathetic 2.5-inch 160GB drive. The T1028 gets an ExpressCard slot, which is only now beginning to appear on a select group of netbooks, but if you take it at face value, Gigabyte's baby is an intriguing hybrid of netbook, Tablet PC, and laptop.

Gigabyte has managed to keep the weight down to 2.9lbs for the 4-cell battery version or a slightly heavier 3.3lbs if you opt for the 6-cell battery pack for extended operating life. (It doesn't have a DVD player so the question would be, "why?")

Of course, all truly rare gems have a curse associated with them. While Gigabyte is bit sketchy about the T1028's price on its website, current rumor puts the European versions at the equivalent of (roughly) $600USD. It's not outrageously beyond the $350 - $400 that more typically reflects netbook pricing, especially when you consider the additional technology used for the swivel touch screen. The T1208 is worth a look, if just for the novelty alone.

4. Lenovo "ThinkPad Netbook"

We're a bit conflicted about Lenovo. Part of the big news is that its S10e now features "Splashtop" technology that gives it about as close to "instant on" as "instant" can be. Lenovo has rebranded the tech that allows it to do that, calling it QuickStart. The problem is, that technology isn't so rare any more. Companies like Xandros (Presto Instant On) and HyperSpace offer similar third-party add-ons.

So that leaves us with the Lenovo "ThinkPad netbook." If that doesn't really sound like a model name to you, you're right. It's the best we can do because no real product has appeared yet, at least not at this is being written. (Supposedly, it's imminent!) How do you describe a netbook that doesn't exist? Carefully.

Don't confuse this one with the soon- to-be-released S20 IdeaPad. That one will reportedly have a 12.1-inch display, use Intel's N280 processor, and have support from the GN40 HD-capable chipset. The S20 will also have QuickStart and possibly be paired with a 3G option.

But back to things that really don't exist!

After researching nearly two-dozen unsubstantiated rumors, it's clear that Lenovo's upscale business netbook will be a ThinkPad and not an IdeaPad. Lenovo wants to capture the business side of the baby laptop market with a netbook form factor and ThinkPad is its recognizable business brand. Speculation persists that it won't use an Atom Processor, opting for a Core or Celeron (ugh!) mobile CPU instead.

The only truly certain thing is that if Lenovo does follow through on the ThinkPad netbook concept, it will be one heck of a netbook and you should probably expect it to have one heck of a price tag, probably in the Sony VAIO P range.

5. MSI U123

This netbook business is as easy as 1-2-3 for MSI, apparently. Perhaps better known for its motherboards, the company has just announced its second line of netbooks, the U123 series. According to MSI, "[the] U123 Series' styling will be different from the round and cute U100," which established its presence in the netbook market. Sure, you could call the U123 color assortment "cute," but MSI has struck at the heart of the netbook genre.

For one thing, while a 10-inch screen and a webcam might be old school, MSI's embedded webcam offers facial recognition so you can store your mug under your User ID and log on securely. As many as ten facial images can be associated with one User ID, so sharing the machine with friends and family is a snap(shot).

Got the urge to watch Dirty Jobs or Bridezillas? It's not a problem. MSI has stuffed a TV tuner into the U123T. And two-channel stereo speakers are also part of the package. The U123H delivers a 3.5G mobile network card so you're connected wherever your carrier might hear you now.

We'll pass on agreeing with MSI that a 160GB hard drive is "massive," but it does beat the previous limits by quite a bit. Best of all, at least for those of us with human-sized hands, MSI pushed the keys apart 17.5mm (or 0.69 inches, in case you have an old ruler). Obviously you can't get a 14-inch keyboard in 10-inch space but this way you won't have to tape your fingers together to type.

If you must know about the standard stuff, the U123 series is powered by an Intel Atom 1.66GHz N280 with 945GSE chipset. There's only 1GB of memory installed -- which isn't very much at all -- and there is a 6-cell battery option should you need to slave away at your U123 for an extended period of time.

Pricing hasn't bee released yet for this 2.2lb handful, but it will probably be a lot less expensive than MSI's X-Slim.

6. Samsung NC20

Put a 12.1-inch screen on a portable computer and right away Samsung thinks it has a puffed up netbook on the shelf. How presumptuous! To say that, it would have to have supplied the NC20 with at least a 120GB hard drive All right, Samsung will tuck in a 160GB drive if you want one, so it has that covered. The NC20 might be something after all.

As you should expect when getting more, the 11.5" x 8.5" x 1.2" NC20 carries a $550 price tag -- which is a bit more than the usual Netbook starter range. At a little over three pounds it's easy on the arms and having a 18.5mm key pitch (the distance, center-to-center, between the keys) should make it easy on the hands as well. Worried about things that can live in the cracks between the keys? Samsung has coated the keyboard with silver ion powder so germs don't have a chance.

Stuffed into the NC20 is a VIA Nano processor and VX800 chipset. By all of the ad hoc testing done in the world of netbooks thus far, it appears that the Nano just might be mightier than the Atom at some things and quite up to par on others. English translation: Most agree that it's just about the same.

We really can't forgive Samsung for only supplying 1GB of memory, especially with the NC20's VIA Chrome9 HC3 DX9 3d Engine graphics processor, which shares system memory. You can get by thanks to the NC20 using Windows XP Home as its operating system. Thankfully, the memory is welded to the motherboard -- there's a SODIMM socket and while you will have to toss the 1GB that's in there now, you can bump it up to a more comfortable 2GB for about $25.

Right now we've only seen the black version but rumor has it that a rainbow of colors are on the way. We'd also prefer an 802.11n wireless LAN setup, but Samsung has saddled the NC20 with slower 802.11b/g. That's not a deal breaker, though.

7. Sony Vaio P
We're making a leap of faith here because Sony doesn't want you to call its Vaio P a "netbook." Sure, it fits the bill: 1.4 lbs. (with the standard battery); 9.65"(W) x 0.78"(H) x 4.72"(D) and an 8-inch LED back-lighted 1600x768 display.Pricing starts at a near stifling $900, so it might be best not to think of it as a netbook technically, but as the specifications indicate, it does pass every other smell test.

The VAIO P will run Windows Vista Home Premium in its 2GB of memory, but Sony has graced the machine with a mere 1.33GHz Intel CPU so it's still not the all-around powerhouse that you would expect a laptop to be. Given its price point already, we'd forge ahead and load it up with the optional 128GB SSD (a 60GB mechanical drive is standard) and the large capacity (8-hours versus 4-hours) battery pack.

It might be difficult to wrap your mind around a netbook priced similarly to your current notebook or even more than that desktop PC you picked up at Costco. Still, you need to maintain perspective. There are folk who are more than willing to shell out $5,000+ on a gaming PC and that makes $900 for a netbook pretty much negligible. If nothing else will ease your mind, just keep repeating, "Sony doesn't want to call the Vaio P a netbook."


02 May 2009

HP Pavilion dv6t (1030us)

by Cisco Cheng

HP is in a perennial fight to be king of the laptop hill, both globally and in the United States. A recent Gartner report showed HP's market share topping Acer's by 2 percent, making it the worldwide leader in laptop sales for the fourth quarter of 2008. Much of that success is driven by its retail partners, which sell HP-branded laptops by the dozen. The HP Pavilion dv6t (1030us) is a media-center laptop fit for a family, a college student, or a novice user who understands the value of a dollar. In addition to having a gorgeous 16-inch widescreen and an abundance of media-centric features, this laptop is available at Staples for $800 ($750 after $50 mail-in rebate). You'll have to uninstall some of that junk software, though, if you want to spend less time watching the rotating hourglass and more time with your digital hobbies.

Though the dv6t is a cheap laptop, it certainly doesn't look like one. The great thing about this line is that from the outside you can't tell a $1,500 Pavilion laptop from a $700 one. The dv6t is covered in a glossy finish, and one of HP's many signature imprints is laminated under the shiny coat. The imprint varies by configuration; this one has a subtle checkered pattern that is repeated in the chrome interior (it's evident on the palm rests). The finish has a tendency to pick up fingerprints and smudges, but the dv6t comes with a little piece of cloth that'll easily wipe them away. In my opinion, it's more attractive than the Gateway MC7803u and the Acer Aspire 6930G. Its 6-pound chassis is not the lightest for a 16-inch laptop—the Lenovo Ideapad Y650 is thinner and weighs a scant 5.5 pounds. Compared with the MC7803u (7.7 pounds) and the 6930G (7.2 pounds), however, the dv6t is a big load off your back.

The 16-inch widescreen is stunning and uses HP's BrightView option (supposedly it's more vivid than a normal display). The 1,366-by-768 resolution, however, is ho-hum for a screen of this size. Screen resolution is often an area vendors skimp on when they're trying to hit prices like the dv6t's. More-expensive 16-inch laptops, like the HP HDX16t and the Dell Studio XPS 16, for instance, have options for 1080p (1,920-by-1,080) resolutions, on top of their richer feature sets. The chrome interior, though sleek, has an unfortunate tendency to reflect light. So even though the typing experience with this keyboard is fabulous, glare is a potential issue when you're working under a fluorescent light. The numeric keypad, unlike the regular one, is cramped, but give HP credit for making this the only 16-inch laptop that includes one. (You'd normally find numeric keypads on 17- or 18-inch media centers.)

You really get your money's worth in features. The dv6t is stockpiled with goodies, including a pair of USB ports on each side. One of them doubles as an eSATA port, so if the included 320GB hard drive isn't spacious enough, you can attach an external one while taking advantage of SATA's blazing throughput speeds. The HDMI port is also handy to have, in case you want to share your photos, videos, and movies on a big-screen LCD TV. These ports aren't unique to the dv6t, though; all the laptops mentioned in this review have both eSATA and HDMI ports. Other features include a 5-in-1 card reader, built-in Wi-Fi (802.11n), and Bluetooth.

I'd recommend that as soon as you turn on the system, you get rid of most of the numerous third-party and HP-branded applications that reside under Programs and Features in the Control Panel. Many of these programs have no purpose and can potentially grind your system to a halt after a couple of months of use. Even booting up the system took noticeably longer than with the MC7803u and the Y650, whose software loads aren't as debilitating. The dv6t comes with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty.
HP Pavilion dv6t (1030us)

Were the dv6t running a fast processor like those in the HP HDX16t and the Dell 16, a bloated software suite wouldn't be an issue. The 2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 processor is similar to the ones found in the MC7803u and 6930G and uses previous-generation Intel technology. We know that this laptop can easily perform general-purpose tasks like Web surfing and word processing, but it's also fast enough to handle tasks such as video editing, photo editing, and viewing high-definition video. It all depends on how quickly you want these tasks done. Both the 6930G and the dv6t have very similar video-encoding scores. Because the Lenovo Y650 uses a faster processor (2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400), its video-encoding score was more than 20 percent faster than the dv6t's. Similarly, faster systems—like the Y650, the HDX16t, and the XPS 16—scored 15 to 28 percent better on CineBench R10 than the dv6t.

Graphics performance is also a reflection of the price. This configuration is not a gaming machine. However, HP's Web site has options for powerful ATI graphics cards, provided that you're willing to pay the $150 to $300 premium. A 45-Wh (standard six-cell) battery produced a modest battery score on MobileMark 2007. Its time of 3 hours 3 minutes is nearly identical to that of the Lenovo Y650 (3:05) and a little short of the 6930G's (3:20). Unlike the Acer and Lenovo, several extended battery options are available through HP's Web site.

The HP Pavilion dv6t (1030us) is tailor-made for frugal fashionistas. It's gorgeously designed and packed with features made for digital hobbyists. As for speeding up this machine, the best place to start is by removing software that you don't plan to use. The Acer Aspire 6930G costs more, but it's still my pick because its features and graphics performance are more impressive. The dv6t's price, however, makes at least a hands-on session with the bargain laptop at the store worth your while.


01 May 2009

Acer Aspire 3935-6504

Reasonably priced; one-touch backup button; sturdy design; thin profile

Weak graphics performance; narrow viewing angles; limited I/O ports

Editors' Take
This Aspire is an attractive 13-inch thin-and-light with an equally eye-catching price. It has a bright LED-backlit display, a full-size keyboard, and convenient backup, but its integrated graphics will disappoint the 3D crowd.

Acer Aspire 3935

Key Specs
Processor: 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7350
Memory: 3GB RAM
Storage: 250GB hard drive
Optical Drive: DVD±RW
Screen: 13.3 inches (1,366x768)
Graphics: Integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD
Weight: 4.2 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1x12.8x9.3 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)

Reviewed by: John R. Delaney
Review Date: April 2009
Check out our slideshow for more photos.

The Acer Aspire 3935-6504 represents the latest addition to Acer’s popular Aspire line of laptops. Affordably priced ($899.99) and designed for easy travel, this slender 13-inch system offers a nice selection of user-friendly features, such as a one-touch backup button, a bright display, and a full-size keyboard. It’s missing a few ports found on other 13-inch models, however, and its graphics performance is less than stellar.

The Aspire 3935-6504 uses a super-slim metal chassis with an attractive brushed-metal finish, which Acer describes as golden brown but more closely resembles a dull bronze. The overall build quality is quite good and feels sturdy enough to endure the rigors of road travel, although the seam that runs along the front bezel is a bit too sharp and could use some smoothing. A highly polished Acer badge with raised lettering sits squarely in the middle of the lid. Under the lid is the frameless (edge-to-edge) 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with a 1,366x768 native resolution and a 16-to-9 aspect ratio. The screen is brightly lit and produces excellent color quality when viewing head on, but the colors lose their luster when viewed from the side. That said, the display did a fine job of handling fast-action video; Disney’s Bolt on DVD played smoothly and produced no motion artifacts or ghosting.

The textured keyboard deck matches the lid and contains Acer’s full-size FineTip keyboard, which features large, well-spaced keys and is a pleasure to type on. The touch pad, which looks small compared with the keyboard, is actually a bit wider than the one used on Dell’s Studio XPS 13. It provides smooth cursor movement, and it can be disabled using the amber-backlit button to the right. It also supports gesture control; this function seemed a bit skittish at first, but after a little practice, we were able to zoom in and out of documents and flip through photo albums with a few easy fingertip movements. Unfortunately, Acer does a poor job of documenting how to use the multi-gesture feature, so you’ll have to learn on the fly. There is a little sticker on the touch pad that gets you started.

A fingerprint reader is sandwiched between the left and right mouse buttons and works with Acer’s Bio Protection utility to add an extra measure of security. Above the keyboard is a strip of touch-sensitive buttons that control speaker volume and enable or disable the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. You’ll also find a handy backup button that launches Acer’s Backup Manager Software, which lets you schedule full or incremental backups and perform a full system restore, including the operating system.

At the very top of the keyboard deck is a pair of high-volume speakers that support Dolby Home Theater signal processing to deliver crisp highs and midtones. (Predictably, though, they lack bass.) In the upper-right-hand corner is a SmartPower button, which automatically puts the system into a power-saving mode; this is really just a quick way to lower screen brightness and dial back the color scheme to Windows Vista Basic. This feature, while handy, would be much more useful if it actually changed the Windows Power Plan. Multimedia and connectivity features are located along the front and side of the system and include a Webcam, a five-format card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, an integrated multiformat DVD drive, Ethernet and VGA jacks, and three USB ports. However, this system lacks some of the I/O options we’re used to seeing, such as HDMI, FireWire, and eSATA ports, and it’s missing an ExpressCard slot, too.
Acer Aspire 3935

The Aspire 3935-6504 uses Intel’s 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7350 processor and comes with 3GB of DDR2 memory and Intel’s GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics solution. Scores of 963 (at 1,024x768 resolution) and 894 (at 1,366x768) on FutureMark’s 3DMark06 3D-graphics benchmark confirmed what we suspected: This is not a game-friendly notebook. If it’s 3D action you’re looking for, check out the Asus N80Vn-A1 or Dell Studio XPS 13, both of which offer dedicated graphics engines.

The Aspire 3935-6504’s PCMark Vantage score of 2,863 is slightly below average for the thin-and-light category but still managed to beat the HP Pavilion dv3z by 341 points. Likewise, its Cinebench 10 score of 4,067 came in just below average. The system needed 4 minutes and 30 seconds to complete our iTunes encoding test and 7 minutes and 37 seconds to finish our Windows Media Encoder test, both of which are right on target for this category. The four-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes on our DVD rundown test, which is not terrible but pales in comparison to the lofty 4 hours and 20 minutes provided by the field-leading Lenovo ThinkPad SL300 thin-and-light.

We appreciate the roomy 250GB hard drive, which comes with Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit) as well as an assortment of applications and utilities, such as Acer’s Arcade Deluxe and Video Conference Manager, NTI Media Maker, and Microsoft Works 9.0. Acer backs the system with a one-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free service.

The Aspire 3935-6504 won’t bowl you over with killer graphics performance, and its battery life certainly could be better. We also wish it offered a few more connectivity options. If you want to do some light gaming with graphics effects dialed back (and want to spend less than $1,000), go with the HP Pavilion dv3z. But if style, portability, and price are your primary concerns, you'll love the Acer Aspire 3935-6504. Those factors, plus its sturdy metal frame, thin profile, and user-friendly features, make it a strong choice.


HP ProBook 4510s

Low price; decent productivity performance; HP ProtectTools security extras; LED-backlit display

Sluggish 3D-graphics performance; no multimedia control keys; narrow viewing angle for DVD video; no fingerprint reader

Editors' Take
The all-new HP ProBook 4510s delivers some surprising features and decent performance for small-business buyers on a budget.

HP ProBook 4510s
Price (at time of review): $749

Key Specs
Processor: 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 250GB hard drive
Optical Drive: DVD±RW
Screen: 15.6 inches (1,366x768)
Graphics: Integrated Mobile Intel GMA X4500 HD
Weight: 5.7 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1.3x14.6x9.8 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Business

Reviewed by: Jamie Bsales
Review Date: April 2009

The debut of the HP ProBook 4510s marks the beginning of the end for the “Compaq” brand name HP has been using on its business laptops since acquiring the company in 2001. But who are we kidding? The Compaq moniker often connoted bland notebooks that always seemed slightly costlier than they should have been. The ProBook 4510s, on the other hand, looks sharp and delivers some surprising features given its $529 starting price, including a large LED-backlit display and a hard drive with active protection. Our configuration came in at a still-reasonable $749 (which includes an eight-cell battery, a Core 2 Duo CPU, and Bluetooth connectivity—features you don’t get at the starting price). Some extras have been trimmed to achieve the low price point—dedicated multimedia controls and a fingerprint reader come to mind—but there’s nothing missing that you can’t do without.

The ProBook line will deliver what HP calls “business essentials”: what you need to get the job done. It slots below the EliteBook series, which represents the super-sleek cutting edge. A ProBook with an “s” at the end of the model name is designed for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs), as opposed to corporate enterprise buyers. The series includes some impressive standard features, including a 15.6-inch LED-backlit display, active hard drive protection to guard against data loss, a spill-resistant keyboard, HDMI connectivity, and a 2-megapixel Webcam. Just as impressive for a budget platform are the available options, which include a Blu-ray (read-only) drive, discrete graphics, and built-in Gobi wireless broadband.

The 5.7-pound ProBook 4510s won’t win any design awards, but its angular chassis with a lacquered lid (available in black or "merlot") looks sharp; just be prepared for the fingerprint smudges whenever you touch it. The simple-yet-modern design continues under the lid, where flat-top keys pop out of a glossy backdrop. The large 16-to-9-aspect-ratio screen means there’s room for a dedicated number pad, though the main keyboard’s Function, Ctrl, and Alt keys are truncated to fit. The keyboard is plenty roomy otherwise, and the keys have good tactile and audible feedback without being too noisy when you type on them.

One victim of cost cutting is the multimedia control panel we’ve grown accustomed to on HP’s Pavilion line; you’ll have to use the Chiclet-size Function keys to change the volume and software controls to change tracks. The touch pad isn’t as large as we would like, but its low-friction surface makes mousing easy. The somewhat narrow mouse buttons take a little getting used to, though, as you have to press closer to the bottom to register a click.

The 15.6-inch screen (with a 1,366x768 native resolution) is very good but not perfect. We love the size and the LED backlight, which consumes less power and delivers more-saturated colors than the screens found on most budget laptops. Text is crisp, and the panel is plenty bright. You can opt for a glossy finish or the more fluorescent, light-friendly antiglare finish that was on our build. But while the screen's viewing angles looked fine in Windows apps, in DVD playback we noticed that blacks shifted to gray when the screen was viewed off-center, which means you won’t want to use this wide-screen LCD to share movies with a group. Audio quality from the built-in stereo speakers is fine for this class of notebook. Music sounds a bit thin and brassy, but we’ve heard worse from pricier notebooks.
HP ProBook 4510s

The ProBook 4510s includes a fairly standard selection of ports: LAN, VGA, HDMI, four USB, headphone, and microphone. As expected at this price, eSATA and FireWire ports are AWOL, and the modem is hidden behind a rubber covering. HP has included Bluetooth and 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, a flash-memory-card reader, and an expansion slot—but the last is only the narrower ExpressCard/34 variety, which is unusual for a full-size notebook. The ProBook's closest competitor, the Lenovo ThinkPad SL500, manages to include both a FireWire port and a full-size ExpressCard slot. The 2-megapixel Webcam delivers very good low-light performance, with a dark but usable image even when the subject is lit just by the light of the screen.

The security extras you get with the HP ProtectTools suite should certainly appeal to SMB buyers. You can set software-based full drive encryption to protect files, and you can choose to completely wipe files or the entire drive with HP File Sanitizer and HP Disk Sanitizer. Should you forget your system password, HP SpareKey can give you the chance to reset it by answering a couple personal questions; just be sure to set up the utility when you get your machine. There’s an optional privacy filter that slips over the screen, so those next to you on a bus, plane, or train can’t peek at what you're doing, and HP offers the LoJack for Laptops Pro service from CompuTrace. Harried business users may also appreciate the HP QuickLook 2 feature: Just hit the small button next to the power button when the PC is off or in hibernation, and you can access your contacts and calendar without having to boot to Windows.

As for performance, the ProBook 4510s delivers speed appropriate for its price, and it edged out the $748 ThinkPad SL500 on all of our productivity tests. Our unit came with a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Mobile Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics. It delivered a score of 2,949 on Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage benchmark test, which is very close to the average score for mainstream notebooks we’ve tested and better than the 2,811 we saw from the ThinkPad SL500. The ProBook 4510s also held its own on our encoding tests, completing the Windows Media Encoder 9 trial in a faster-than-average 7 minutes and 31 seconds and our iTunes trial in a slightly slower-than-average 4 minutes and 52 seconds. And just for comparison’s sake, the 4510s’s scores also beat out the $779 Gateway M7818u, as well.
HP ProBook 4510s

As expected, the integrated graphics are enough to handle the Aero effects of Windows Vista Business, but you won’t be playing any intense shoot ’em ups on this laptop. The ProBook 4510s delivered a score of 841 on 3DMark06 (at 1,024x768), which is in line with other low-cost notebooks. To put that in real-world perspective, the machine mustered only 16 frames per second (fps) when playing F.E.A.R. and 6.7fps on Company of Heroes. While the ProBook's graphics scores are a little lower than those of the ThinkPad SL500, neither system can handle modern gaming.

The lower-priced ProBook 4510s models come with a six-cell battery, but our SKU included an eight-cell power pack that delivered exactly 3 hours of runtime on our harsh DVD-rundown test, which should equate to 5 to 6 hours under more judicious use. (Again, compare that with Lenovo’s 2 hours and 12 minutes on the ThinkPad SL500.) Opting for the six-cell battery instead would save you $50, but you'd also forgo the laptop's Bluetooth connectivity; the lesser battery lasted 2 hours and 11 minutes.

HP backs the ProBook 4510s with a one-year warranty with 24/7 phone support. For small-business buyers on a budget, the model represents a compelling value. In our test configuration, you can get better performance and battery life with this system than with the Lenovo ThinkPad SL500. And for just a little more than $500 for the base model, you can still get a big screen and plenty of features.

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Price (at time of review): $749