28 March 2009

Acer Aspire 8930G

Giant-screen performer begs for a Blu-ray drive

WHEN WE REVIEWED Acer's Aspire 8920G notebook in May 2008, we loved its elegant design, innovative six-speaker audio system, and dazzling 18.4 inch display. With the Aspire 8930G ($1,699), you get all that, plus a processor upgrade, for almost $1,000 less. You don't get a Blu-ray drive, however.

As with the 8920G, the 8930G sports Acer's sleek Gemstone Blue finish with the backlit Acer logo on the lid. Beneath the shiny lid is one of the most beautiful notebook displays we've ever laid eyes on: an 18.4-inch panel featuring wide color technology and a 16-to-9 aspect ratio. Because the screen has a 1,920x1,080 resolution, it can display content in full HD (1080p) and it shows movies in their native aspect ratio without stretching or scaling.

The display practically begs for a Blu-ray drive, but unfortunately this model comes with a standard DVD multiformat drive. Still, The Polar Express on DVD looked fantastic on the big screen, and it sounded great, too, thanks to Acer's unique Tuba CineBass sound system, a six-speaker configuration that delivers full six-channel Dolby-optimized audio. A subwoofer built into the hinge assembly gives the system a much-needed bass boost. Above the display sit Acer's Crystal Eye Webcam and two microphones, which can be used along with the included Webcam utility to capture video clips and stills. It also works with Acer's VCM software, a Skype-based utility for setting up and conducting videoconference sessions.

The full-size keyboard is roomy, with big, comfortable keys and a dedicated numeric keypad, but the textured touch pad is small given the size of the keyboard deck. Still, it provides smooth cursor control. A biometric fingerprint reader nestled between the two mouse buttons uses Acer's Bio-Protection Fingerprint Solution software to provide enhanced security; you can use it in conjunction with Acer's FingerNav utility to scroll through Web pages and documents.

Instead of the usual strip of media-player controls, the 8930G features the CineDash panel, a touch-sensitive controller located on the left side of the keyboard deck. The white-backlit panel sports a circular volume control that you can swipe to raise and lower the volume, it's a bit finicky and can be frustrating to use when you're trying to obtain a specific audio level.

A hotkey takes you into the Acer Arcade applet, where you can launch your DVD movie player, access media files on your home network, play video clips, and view photos. You'll also find a Hold button and a Mute key at the top of the panel.

The 8930G offers a good selection of I/O ports, including HDMI and VGA outputs, four USB ports, and an external SATA (eSATA) port, as well as headphone, microphone, and line-in jacks. It also has a DisplayPort connector, a six-format card reader, and a 54mm ExpressCard slot. The 320GB hard drive comes with Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit) and various Acer utilities, as well as some trial applications.

Powered by a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo CPU (T9400) and 4GB of RAM, the 8930G performed quite well on our productivity benchmarks. Its score of 3,988 on the Futuremark PCMark Vantage test trumped the Sony VAIO AW170Y/Q's score by more than 800 points. It also outperformed the VAIO on our Windows Media and iTunes conversion tests. The HP HDX18's Windows Media encoding times were slightly faster than those of both the 8930G and the VAIO, however. The 8930G's Cinebench 10 score of 5,125 bested the Toshiba Qosmio G55-Q802 by more than 1,000 points but trailed the VAIO by 94 points.

Driven by Nvidia's GeForce 9700M GT graphics engine, the 8930G managed a Futuremark 3DMark06 score of 6,297 (at 1,024x768), handily beating the IIDX18's and G5S-Q802's scores of 3,248 and 4,956, respectively. Still, it couldn't touch the scores produced by some of the more robust gaming systems we've reviewed recently, such as the Alienware M17 and Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q708. Similarly, its Futuremark 3DMark Vantage score of 1,848 using the Performance preset was nearly 600 points higher than that of the HDX18 but paled in comparison with the X305-Q708's and M17's scores. A low score of 8.9 frames per second on our Company of Heroes DirectX 10 test proves that the 8930G can handle casual gaming as long as you use low detail settings.

We did manage to get 1 hour and 59 minutes of juice—slightly above average for an 18-inch notebook—from the battery on our DVD rundown test. With its solid performance and high-end video and audio components, the Ace/ Aspire 8930G is among the top multimedia notebooks we've seen. If the lack of Blu-ray playback is a deal breaker, you can spend $900 for a different configuration altogether or opt for the $2,199 HDX18. —John R. Delaney

Computer Shopper March 2009


21 March 2009

ZT Affinity N4004i

An understated notebook with some glaring flay

ZT'S AFFINITY N4004I DOESN'T LOOK half bad on paper. It tests well enough (with the exception of graphics performance), has decent components, and has enough of the basics lot most users, It even has a 10-key numeric pad. Unfortunately, the N4004i suffers from a seriously cramped keyboard and a lackluster design.

Notebooks don't get much more plain-Jane than the N4004i. The 1.5x14.1x10.2-inch (HWD), 5.5-pound system has a matte black lid and a two-tone matte-black-and-silver keyboard deck, which reflects a solid build but not much else. The two elements that stand out, however, are the blue-encircled power button and the font on the keys, which has a gaming feel.

Unfortunately, any keyboard coolness ends there. Because it has a 10-key pad on the right side, everything from the letter "L" to the right is squished, including the right Shift, arrow, colon, quotes, period, Enter, question mark, bracket, and Backspace keys. Likewise, the touch pad is a little off center, so we found that every time we placed our hands on the keyboard, they were in the wrong spot.

The touch pad itself, however, is large, comfortable, and responsive. The mouse buttons are big enough, but they're loud and stiff. Watching movies on the N4004i was comfortable so long as only one person watched at a time, since the LCD's viewing angles are narrow. The 15.4-inch, 1,280x800-resolution display showed off The Matrix well, albeit with a touch of graininess.

And while the sound was predictably tinny, we were pleasantly suiptised by the volume, which was loud enough that we didn't need headphones.
For a mainstream notebook, we expect more ports at least a PC Card or ExpressCard option and HDMI. But the N4004i doesn't offer those. Instead, you get four USB ports, one VGA connector, a memory-card reader (SD, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick), Ethernet and modem jacks, and a DVD±RW drive. You'll also find audio-out, headphone, and mic jacks in the front.

Likewise, we'd expect some multimedia buttons on the keyboard deck, but there are none. It does have four programmable quick-launch buttons next to the power button. In the upper bezel, you'll find a 1.3-megapixel camera, which looked very good on our tests. It had a little motion blur, but the picture was large and relatively clear, as far as integrated Webcams go.

ZT includes 2GB of Intel's Turbo Memory, which definitely helped Vista load applications. And the N4004i performed reasonably well, too, with its Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor. It managed a solid 2,972 on the Futuremark PCMark Vantage test, which is about average for its class. Likewise, it handled our Windows Media Encoder and Mines tests well, finishing them both faster than average, at 7 minutes and 43 seconds and 4 minutes and 27 seconds respectively.

On the other hand, when you compare these numbers against those of the $949 Lenovo IdeaPad Y530, they're a little disappointing. The IdeaPad costs $100 less but scored 3,161 on PCMark Vantage and took 7 minutes and 42 seconds and 4 minutes and 48 seconds to complete the Windows Media Encoder and iTunes tests. The N4004i did manage to beat the IdeaPad on Cinebench 10, however, with a score of 4,087, compared with the IdeaPad's 4,036. Graphics performance from the integrated GMA X4500 chip raised some eyebrows, with the N4004i scoring just 975 on Futuremark 3DMark06, compared with the IdeaPad's 2,084. The scores start to shake out a bit with battery life, especially since the N4004i has a nine-cell battery and managed 3 hours and 52 minutes on our battery-rundown test, compared with the IdeaPad's more normal 2 hours and 4 minutes. Gaming on either system is nothing to get excited about—neither returned more than 20 frames per second on F.E.A.R. and Company of Heroes.

The 320GB, 5,400rpm hard drive comes loaded with 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium, a 90-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2008, and a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Professional. You'll also find ZT's System Recovery Solution onboard, and you'll get lifetime 24/7 toll-free phone support.

All in all, the N4004i isn't a bad system. It's not overly slow, and it does have fine audio quality. But the keyboard is a deal breaker. And what's more, it's $100 more than the Lenovo IdeaPad YS30, which doesn't have any of these issues. We also wish it offered a few more ports and connectivity options. A PC Card and an HDMI port would have gone a long way toward bumping this system up a notch. We are fond of the Turbo Memory, but we're not convinced it's enough to make this purchase compelling. —Sarah E. Anderson

Computer Shopper March 2009


19 March 2009

Lenovo IdeaPad Y530

Media master packs good sound, great value

THE $949 LENOVO IDEAPAD Y530'S 15.4-inch (1,280x800) glossy screen, textured Light Weave lid, excellent speakers, and HDMI port all make for an excellent multimedia experience. Weighing 6.6 pounds and measuring 1.4x14.2x10.3 inches (HWD), the Y530 is light enough for most commuters. It sports a textured material on the lid that sets it apart from Lenovo's business laptops.

A brushed aluminum plate surrounds the keyboard, adding a distinct bit of style while keeping fingerprints at bay, and the orange volume button—along with orange backlit touch buttons for controlling media playback and the EQ presets—is functional. The Y530's keyboard works well enough for productivity, but it isn't backlit. Our biggest beef with the keyboard is the Function key, which Lenovo placed in the bottom-left corner where the Ctrl key is supposed to be. It might not be a deal breaker, but touch typists will find it annoying.

We were also surprised when the plastic section above the keyboard, which houses the touch-sensitive buttons, popped out on the right side. No amount of prodding could get it to stay down, and considering that we barely moved this regular production unit around our office, that's not a good sign. We hope it's just a fluke, as Lenovo is typically known for its solid build quality.

The frameless screen has a glossy finish that goes all the way to the edge of the lid. It looked great at first, and it was certainly up to the task of making games and movies look good. But when we watched Terry Gilliam's Brazil, it became obvious that this screen works best for a single viewer. Tilting the screen just a couple of degrees resulted in major glare, and off to either side, colors quickly washed out. Because of the IdeaPad's foldover hinge design, the screen wouldn't lay flat, either.

Aside from HDMI, the left side of the Y530 sports a VGA port, two USB ports, an Ethernet jack, and an ExpressCard slot. Up front is a six-format multimedia card reader, and audio jacks, a third USB port, a FireWire connector, and a phone jack accompany the 8x optical drive on the right. A 250GB hard drive is housed inside.

The Y530's sound was superb for a laptop, thanks to its five speakers: two below the screen, two along the sides of the keyboard, and one small, downward-facing subwoofer that actually manages to push out a fair amount of bass. Don't expect to rock the house, but there's plenty of volume to kick out some serious living-room jams.

On our tests, the laptop never got more than slightly warm to the touch, but it didn't exactly burn up the Futuremark tests, either. The Y530 scored 3,161 in PCMark Vantage, which is below average, but not by much. On 3DMark06, the laptop managed a score of 2,084 at 1,024x768 resolution. The Y530 averaged just 16 frames per second (fps) at that resolution in our F.E.A.R. test and 12fps in Company of Heroes with all the bells and whistles turned on. With a 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor and Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics, we didn't expect to be wowed; serious garners will definitely want to opt for the somewhat beefier 9500M G graphics option.

We would prefer at least a 2GHz processor, but Lenovo includes a hardware video decoder, which makes that a bit less of an issue. The laptop's score of 4,036 in Cinebench 10 is surprisingly above average but still not stellar. It finished our Mines conversion test in 4 minutes and 48 seconds and our Windows Media Encoder test in 7 minutes and 42 seconds. The battery lasted 2 hours and 4 minutes in our DVD rundown test, slightly below average and 11 minutes less than the $999 Gateway MC7803u's score, though that laptop sports a larger, eight-cell battery.

On the software side, exclusives such as VeriFace, a security feature that uses the Webcam to identify your face, and the OneKey Rescue System, a one-touch factory reset button, are nice enough. You also get a 90-day trial of Microsoft Office, and the one-year warranty on parts and labor is standard. For $949, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 is a capable multimedia laptop with excellent sound and a good-looking screen, provided you can live with a fair amount of glare. Its specs are on the low end for a multimedia laptop, but so is the price. If you own a Y510, the HDMI port is the only reason to upgrade. If you don't, you'll be hard-pressed to find an option with better-performance for less than $1,000. —Matt Safford

Computer Shopper March 2009


15 March 2009

Samsung Q310-34P

A thin-and-light that's lean on speed, value

UNTIL NOW, THE ONLY WAY to get a Samsung-branded notebook was to live (or special-order from) outside North America. Now, anyone shopping for a thin-and-light business model can add Samsung's Q310 to the list of options. Nicely equipped and easy on the eyes, the system should please mobile users looking for style, features, and portability. That said, we can't help wishing Samsung's North American debut offered a little more performance and a tittle less been-there-done-that.

Indeed, from a design standpoint, the Q310 just barely stands out from the pack. It has the obligatory glossy black lid and bezels, while the front edge sports a sharp-looking and subtle dark-red gradation. Equipped with a 13.3-inch screen, the system measures 1.5x12.7x9.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.8 pounds—all average numbers for a thin-and-light.The screen looks as bright and colorful as any we've seen, though its viewing angles could be better: If you tilt the screen too far back, images wash out in a hurry. As for the keyboard, we found it comfortable overall, though key travel was a bit on the shallow side. We would have liked to see some dedicated media-playback controls, but the Q310 has none.

The touch pad and mouse buttons are excellent—perfectly sized and responsive. Plus, there's a function-key toggle for temporarily disabling the touch pad, which is great for users who frequently swipe it by accident with their thumbs while typing.

The Q310 shines in terms of specs, starting with its 3GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive, and LightScribe-capable DVD burner. Samsung also squeezed in a 1.3-megapixel Webcam, 802.11a/b/Wn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an HDMI port. Alas, there's no option for built-in mobile broadband, but countless USB solutions are available. Speaking of USB, the Q310 includes three USB ports, two of them located at the rear. It also has a 34mm ExpressCard slot; VGA, Ethernet, microphone, and headphone ports; and a seven-format media card reader.

The Q310 performed well on our benchmark tests, though we couldn't get Futuremark PCMark Vantage to run. It zipped through our lames and Windows Media Encoder tests in 4 minutes and 23 seconds and 6 minutes and 47 seconds, respectively—faster than most other thin-and-lights we've tested and considerably better than the $949 Lenovo ThinkPad SL300, which took 8 minutes and 43 seconds for WME and 5 minutes and 5O seconds for iTunes. Likewise, the Q310's Cinebench 9.5 and 10 scores of 753 and 4,614 landed well above average (again, compared with 547 and 3,352 for the SL300).

Only in our DVD battery-rundown test did the Q310 fail to excel. Though its time of 2 hours and 42 minutes was acceptable, the SL300 managed nearly an hour and 40 minutes longer. We really liked the push-button power gauge on the Q310's six-cell battery, however—it lets you know at a glance if the notebook needs charging before you head out on the road.

Not surprisingly, the system's integrated Intel GMX4500 graphics processor produced mediocre Futuremark 3DMark06 scores: 827 at its native resolution (1,280x800) and 911 at 1,024x768. Though far shy of systems with discrete graphics, those numbers represent a marked improvement over notebooks with the old GMX3100 chip such as the Dell Inspiron 1525 and Sony VAIO VGN-NR160E. Don't expect to do a lot of heavy-duty video editing (or 3D gaming), but you should have no trouble with everyday business-graphics chores. That said, if you need more graphics power, look to the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1402, which offers a 3DMark06 score of 1,054 at 1,024x768, a slightly bigger screen, only slightly more weight (0.2 pound more), and a significantly lower cost (by about $200).

A DVD of Independence Day and high-definition streaming video from I lulu played without hiccuping. If you intend to use the Q310 to watch movies, plan on packing a pair of headphones: The built-in speakers are decent, but even at maximum volume they're not particularly loud. And when you do crank the volume, the audio turns a bit harsh.

Samsung stocks the business-class Q310 with Vista Business, a 60-day trial version of Office 2007 Professional, McAfee SecurityCenter, and a handful of Samsung-branded utilities: Easy Network Manager, Magic Doctor, Recovery Solution III, and so on. We particularly liked the built-in interactive user guide, which we found easier to use and more comprehensive than most. The Q310 comes with a one-year warranty. Although the Q310 isn't a bad system, Samsung will have to work a little harder to compete in this fierce market. Its solid mix of features is a good start, but with Toshiba undercutting its price and outperforming its scores, it's tough to justify buying the Q310. On the other hand, if you can get it for less than $1,100 (we're already seeing it for as little as $1,204 in some places), you should jump at the chance. -Rick Broida

Computer Shopper March 2009


14 March 2009

Alienware M17

CrossFireX laptop deals superior graphics performance

WITH ITS $1,999 PRICE TAG, Alienware's M17 can hardly be considered a budget notebook. But it is reasonably priced compared with the company's higher-end offerings, so you can get capable gaming performance without breaking the bank. Along with the slimmed-down price tag, the M17 also offers some firsts for Alienware's notebook line: ATI's CrossFireX graphics power, DDR3 RAM, and a 64-bit operating system.

The M17 shuns the popular high-gloss finish found on other gaming rigs for a more subtle matte black that has a soft, rubbery feel and is scratch- resistant. Alienware's gills and silver alien head with blue backlighting adorn the lid, which opens to reveal a stunning 1,920x1,200-resolution, 17-inch display. The high-res screen, featuring Alienware's Clearview technology, delivers bold colors and a crisp, clean image, making it ideal for gaming and watching DVDs.

Embedded in the upper bezel, you'll find a 2-megapixel Webcam and dual microphone array. Using CyberLink's YouCam software, you can use the camera to record video, capture snapshots, and add special effects to your clips and photos. The camera is a cut above the usual 1.3-rnegapixel offerings, but its image quality is grainy.

The M17's black keyboard deck is spacious and uncluttered except for a fingerprint reader and a touch sensitive media-control panel. Backlighting (you can turn it off or change colors) gives the full-size keyboard and numeric keypad a cool look and makes controlling the action in the dark easy.

The touch pad and mouse buttons are comfortable and responsive; you can fine-tune their sensitivity—as well as create and select power plans—via the Alienware Command Center. The utility also helps you manage the AlienSense face-recognition application, which works in conjunction with the Webcam. You can configure AlienSense for Face Login as well as Continuous Security, which automatically locks the system when the user's face is out of range of the Webcam.

The camera and software worked quite well together on our tests and had no problem with identification. Audio, however, was disappointing. A pair of speakers mounted on the front edge of the system and a subwoofer built into the bottom provided adequate output, but we expected more bass from the subwoofer.

The choice of connections was much more impressive, including three USB ports, a combo external SATA (eSATA)/USB port, VGA and HDMI video outputs, a Fire Wire port, a Toslink optical audio output, and headphone and microphone jacks. A volume dial is tucked away on the right, and ExpressCard and flash-memory slots are mounted on the left.

Our review unit came with a multiformat DVD burner, but if you want to take full advantage of the high-res display, you can order the optional Blu-ray drive for another $300. The 160GB hard drive comes loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit), Cyberlink PowerDVD, and Nero 7 Essentials; you also get a user's guide and an AlienRespawn disc.

Our test system was configured with a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and 3GB of RAM. It also came with a dual ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics solution running in a CrossFireX configuration.

In terms of productivity work, the M17 was merely average, turning in a score of 3,502 on Futuremark PCMark Vantage. On our Windows Media and imnes-encoding tests, the M17 turned in scores of 6 minutes and 40 seconds and 4 minutes and 19 seconds, respectively, both of which are among the slowest we've seen for this class of notebook. Results from our Cinebench 10 tests were similar: The M17's score of 4,597 lagged behind the competition.

The M17 shone, however, in graphics performance. Its Futuremark 3DMark Vantage score of 5,752 using the Performance preset blew past the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 workstation, and its Futuremark 3DMark06 score of 10,183 was second only to the Toshiba Qosmio X305. Both of those systems, incidentally, are more than twice as expensive as the M17. The M17's score of 22.2 frames per second (fps) on our Company of Heroes DirectX 10 test was good but couldn't match the Qosmio's score of 31.6fps. It handled the DirectX 9 version of the game with ease, though, averaging 74.9fps.

Battery life was pretty much what we expected from a desktop replacement with a big, high-res screen: 1 hour and 22 minutes on our DVD-rundown test. Chances are you won't be lugging this behemoth around all that much, anyway. A brilliant high-resolution display, solid graphics performance, and a sub-$2,000 price tag make overlooking the M17's laws easy. If you've always dreamed of owning an Alienware Notebook but couldn't justify the exorbitant price, this system is for you. —John R. Delaney

Computer Shopper March 2009


12 March 2009

Sony's Winning Ultraportable

No other ultraportable line captures the essence of thinking outside the box like Sony's. Sony was the first to introduce an ultrapot table weighing less than 4 pounds with an optical drive and discrete graphics.

The company's latest ultraportable, the VAIO VGN-Z590, breaks new ground once again. The dual SSDs,a Iglu-ray drive, and switchable graphics are featurescommonly found on an 8-pound media center, not a3.2-pound Ultraportable. It's amazing that Sony was able to fit this amount of technology into a smallframe. For this accomplishment, Sony retains the Editors' Choice in the ultraportable category.

The Z590 measures 8.3 by 12.4 by 1.2 inches and weighs 3.2 pounds—more compact and at least a half a pound lighter than its predecessor, the VGN-S/791N. It's slightly heavier than the MacBook Air (3 pounds) but lighter than the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 (3.3 pounds). Clad in carbon fiber, this VAIO's 1,600-by-900 LED widescreen is very thin and bright. Also, you get a built-in Ulu-ray burner, IIDMI port, dual 128GB SSD drives (or the less expensive 160GB,5,400-rpm standard hard drive), Bluetooth, and mobile broadband through Sprint's EV-I)O Rev A.

Unlike the Lenovo X301 and the Apple Air, this VAIO doesn't sacrifice fast processors and discrete graphics cards to preserve battery life. With its 2.53-GHz Core 2 Duo P9500 processor and 4GB of memory, this laptop's score on SYSmark 2007 Preview Overall was more than twice that of the MacBook Air. And its switchable graphics means that you can choose between higher performance and longer battery life. With the nVidia chipset enabled, the Z590 tallied a score of 4 hours 5 minutes on the Mobile-Mark 2007 battery rundown test.

The integrated chipset boosted the system to 5 hours 6 minutes. Although our tested configuration is overpriced,this VAIO is nonetheless the lightest ultraportable out there to offer so many features.—Cisco Chang

Specs: 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM; 256GB SSD; switchable graphics: 256MB Intel GMA 4500MHD/Nvidia Ge•orce 9300M GS; 13.1-inch 1,600-by-900 LED widescreen; Intel Wireless Will Link 5100; 3.2 pounds (4.1 pounds travel); two USB ports; one Fire Wire port; 58-Wh, 5.4-Ah, lithium ion battery; Windows Vista Home Premium.

PC Magazine February 2009


08 March 2009

HP MINI 1000

HP's Gorgeous Netbook

HP was one of the first companies to sign on to the netbook revolution, wasting little time in launching the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC in answer to the original ASUS Eee PC 4G.

HP's new netbook, the Mini 1000, seems modeled on HP's Pavilion line, with a polished design and an Intel Atom platform. This means it more closely resembles other netbooks but avoids some of the quirks of its competitors. The Mini 1000's design, like that of its Pavilion siblings, uses the In-Mold Decoration technique, in which a pattern is embedded underneath a laminate layer.

The system measures 10.3 by 6.6 by 0.9 inches (HWD), about the same as the Acer Aspire One. The 92 percent keyboard is as comfortable as the best netbook screens out there. The feature set, however, has its ups and downs. Although the Mini 1000 offers multiple storage options, such as 8GB and 16GB SS1)s and spinning drives that go up to 60GB, the 60GB drive's speed is only 4,200 rpm, compared w ith 5,400-rpm drives of many others.

One gamechanging feature is the WWAN slot, which means that the Mini 1000 is mobile-broadband ready. This configuration comes with Windows XP Home Edition, and later this year HP will introduce
Mini 1000s running Mie (pronounced Me), a custom Ubuntu version it developed.

Unfortunately, the Mini 1000 was incompatible with most of our benchmark tests, so the jury is still out on performance, but it will probably match its competition. Its MobileMark score was impressive for a unit with a threecell battery: 2 hours 58 minutes.

Design is a big win for the Mini 1000, and despite some feature annoyances, it's worth a look.—Cisco Cheng.

Specs:1.6-G 1 lz Intel Atom N270; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM; 60GB, 4,200-rpm hard drive; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950,128MB; I0.2-inch, 1,024-by-600 display; Broadconz 802.1Ig; 2.5 pounds (3.1 pounds travel); two USB ports; 26-Wh, 2.3-Ah lithium ion battery; Windows XP Home Edition.

PC Magazine February 2009


Asus N80Vc

A stylish laptop for home or business

Hand on the heels of the most stylish netbook on the planet, the 5101, Asus brings us the N80Vc, a very stylish 14.1in notebook aimed at the business user, although it would look equally at home used in the living room.

Describing the N50c's colour is a bit of a challenge: in some lighting the lid is black, at other times it's more of a dark chocolate brown, while in others it has a distinctive purple hue. But whatever the colour, it has a high-gloss finish with an inlaid pattern of silver dots and dashes, which is continued on the wrist pad.

At the heart of our review sample N80Vc was an Intel Core 2 Duo 15800 processor, which has a core clock of 2GHz, backed up by 3GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory, close to the 4GB maximum supported by the motherboard The performance is pretty much average for this type of notebook, scoring just 2,995 in Pcmark Vantage, but in the real world it has enough power to handle the installed Windows Vista Home Premium OS and any everyday applications you might run on it.

Powering the graphics is an Nvidia Geforce 9300M GS card with its own dedicated 512MB of Video Ram, so it won't trouble any hardcore garners. As proved by the average frame rate score in World in Conflict of just 3fps (frames per second), no amount of tinkering with the resolution or in-game detailing will give you anywhere near playable frame rates.

The keyboard is comfortable to use, even though the keybed itself shows a degree of flex, and the trackpad has just the right degree of sensitivity. The two mouse buttons have a reassuring click when pressed and there is a fingerprint reader sitting between them for extra security. Simon Crisp

Price £614.31
Contact CCL www.cclonline.com 01274 471 201
Specifications Intel Core 2 Duo 15800 2GHz • 3GB 800MHz DDR2 Ram • 14.1 in WXGA LED backlit Colorshine screen (1,280x800) • 320GB 5.400rpm hard drive • Nvidia Geforce 9300M GS with dedicated 512MB Ram graphics • DVD super multi combo • 8-in-1 card reader • 802.11a/b/g/n • Windows Vista Home Premium


Lenovo Thinkpad SL400

A well-built laptop for business

The old adage of 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' certainly applies to Lenovo's Thinkpad styling. There have been some subtle changes to the design over the years, but you can recognise the familiar black slab across a crowded room. While the matt black lid might have been replaced by a trendy glossy fingerprint-attracting one, the Thinkpads are still the well-built, secure notebooks beloved by IT managers everywhere.

One of the latest to come our way is the SL400, a 14.1in notebook powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 processor speeding along at just 1.8GHz, backed by 2GB of PC2-5300 667MHz memory. However, data security is more important in Thinkpads than fast clock speeds. In any case, the SL400 can cope with everyday tasks perfectly well. The same can be said of the graphics performance, as it's powered by Intel's integrated GMA4500N1HD solution. The 14.1in WXGA screen has a native resolution of 1,280x800 and is available with an anti-glare coated screen.

The Thinkpad's keyboards have gained almost legendary status and the SL400's is no exception. Well built with no noticeable flexing from the keybed, the keys themselves have a good response. The trackpad is the same - responsive without being overly sensitive, and it has both vertical and horizontal scrolling. For those who hate trackpads there is a trackpoint and sets of mouse buttons for both.

For connecting to the outside world the SL400 comes with Intel's Wilink 5100 Wifi card, which supports 802 11 a/g/n You also get Gigabit Ethernet and a 56K modem alongside built-in mobile broadband. which comes with a free 30-day trial courtesy of Vodafone. Simon Crisp

Price £574.99
Contact Lenovo www.lenovo.co.uk
Specifications Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 (1.8GHz) • 2GB PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2 Ram • Intel GMA4500 integrated graphics • 160GB hard drive • 14.1in WXGA (1.280x800) screen • 802.11a/g/n Wifi • 3G mobile broadband • Four USB ports • 336x227x34mm (wxdxh) • 3.1kg (with AC adapter)

Personal Computer World February 2009