Gateway MC7803u Review

Gateway MC7803u Review,Gateway MC7803u
The new MC7801u is Gateway’s answer to the new 16:9 notebooks that many manufacturers are starting to release. These notebooks offer a wider display that is friendly to newer high definition videos and come in an in-between size of 16” and 18.4”. Offering an all-glass LCD panel, touch sensitive multimedia keys, backlit keyboard, and leather palmrest; Gateway really tried to take it up a notch with this notebook. Read on to see how well this notebook performed in our battery of tests and if it deserves a spot on your lap.

Gateway MC7803u configuration:

* Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 (2.0GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 2MB L2 cache)
* Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
* 4GB DDR2-800 RAM (2x2GB)
* 16.0" WXGA (1366x768) glossy finish
* ATI Radeon 3650 with 512MB DDR2 dedicated memory
* 320GB 5400RPM Hitachi Hard Drive
* DVD Super Multi (+/- double layer) with LabelFlash
* Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
* Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
* Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
* Ports: 4 USB, Kensington Lock Slot, Modem, LAN, 2 Headphone/Mic, HDMI, VGA, SD Card Reader, ExpressCard/54
* Battery: 8 Cell Lithium Ion 60Whr (4.8AHr)
* Size: 1.3"-1.70" (H) x 15.28" (W) x 10.43" (D)
* Weight: 7lbs 11.5oz
* Warranty: 1 Year standard
* Retail MSRP: $999

Build and Design

The design of the Gateway MC-series notebook is more elegant than previous models, including an all-glass front panel, leather palmrest, and glossy touch sensitive multimedia keys. Opening the notebook up you just see a perfectly smooth front panel, one piece, and a smooth silver border. I don’t always like notebooks with the super reflective glass panels, but this one pulls it off well. The keyboard area looks great with the backlit keys, and touch sensitive surround that just looks clean and simple. The leather palmrest is soft and smooth, giving some mild padding to your wrists while typing. I can’t say how well the leather will hold up long term, but threw the duration of our review it held up quite well.

Build quality is above average, with a very solid feel in both the screen cover and main frame of the notebook. Coming in at over 7.5lbs, it is not by any means a lightweight machine, but it is built like a tank. The glossy surface surrounding the keyboard and covering the LCD feel fairly tough, and didn’t scuff or scratch in our testing. While I don’t generally agree with glossy display covers found on some newer notebooks, they do give an added layer of protection against impacts oo even wandering finger tips.

The leather palmrest is one area that concerns me with long-term use. With constant abrasion from your wrists and sweat buildup it may fade or crack over time. It does to have a lacquer finish, which should protect the leather, but long term use will tell if it will hold up or not.

Display

The WXGA (1366x768) display rates average compared to other notebooks, with bright colors and decent contrast, but narrow viewing angles. Vertical viewing angles were limited, with a small sweet spot before the screen started to wash out or have colors go inverted. Horizontal viewing angles were better, but the screen becomes difficult to see at steep angles from the reflection off the glass panel cover. The screen cover does add a nice seamless look to the front panel, but at the cost of adding excessive amounts of reflection. In most lighting conditions I can see my face on the display while I type, something that isn’t really common on even glossy LCDs.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The thin backlit keyboard is easy to type on and comfortably spaced over the wide 16” body of the notebook. The backlit keys are highly visible in all lighting conditions, and when you are typing on the keyboard, light leakage around the keys is minimal. Individual key thickness feels less than other notebooks from the odd flat shape of the key top, but it is much easier to type on than a Sony/MacBook style keyboard. Key presses are very smooth, with only a light touch needed to trigger a key. Audible feedback is minimal, with only a small click with each full press.

The large touchpad is easy to use, with a matte textured Synaptics interface. Sensitivity was great, easily tracking my finger with no discernible lag. The surface area is greater than most notebooks, but still falls short to the gigantic touchpad surfaces found on Apple notebooks. The buttons are large and easy to hit with the side of your thumb, and give a mild soft click with shallow feedback.

The backlit panel surrounding the keyboard with touch sensitive multimedia keys worked very well, and weren’t too bright or distracting. Another great feature that Gateway has included in the past is a function key that lets you disable all of the indicator lights. This comes in handy if you are watching a movie in a dark setting or just want to save a bit of battery power. You can toggle the multimedia keys off (which also disables them), just the keyboard off, or everything off.

Performance

The performance of the Gateway MC7803u was excellent, handling day to day tasks with ease. Loaded with the Intel T5800 Core 2 Duo processor, ATI Radeon 3650 graphics, and 4GB of RAM it worked well as a multimedia hub, including HD movie watching and gaming. Playing Half-Life 2 at the native resolution of the LCD and all settings on high, the MC7803u managed a consistent 60FPS even under high action scenes. Day to day use was great, with fast boot times, and little lag opening up software such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office Word, or using Windows Media Center. Synthetic benchmark scores backed up many of our findings, although our 3DMark06 score is skewed because of the odd notebook resolution. Normally we run all of our 3DMark06 benchmarks at 1280x800 resolution, but this notebook required 1366x768, making the score artificially lower than expected.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, this processor benchmark program is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, it measures the amount of time to run a set amount of calculations.

Ports and Features

The MC7801u is packed with quite a few external ports, but missing some common features like eSata and Firewire. With 4 USB ports, I would have gladly sacrificed one for an eSata port, or even an eSata/USB combo port.

Port List:

* VGA and v1.3 HDMI
* Four USB
* Modem and LAN
* Two Headphone and one Microphone jacks
* Multi-Card Reader and ExpressCard/54
* Kensington Lock Slot and AC Power


Front: 2 Headphone/Mic


Rear: Display Hinge


Left: Kensington Lock Slot, AC Power, VGA, HDMI, LAN, Modem, 2 USB, ExpressCard/54, Multi-Card Reader


Right: Optical Drive and 2 USB

Speakers and Audio

Speaker performance is average, with front mounted speakers below the palmrest that easily get blocked with the notebook on your lap. Bass and midrange are lacking from the small speaker driver size and position, and volume levels could be improved.

This notebook offers 2 headphone jacks to share a movie with someone else on a plane ride (if the battery will last long enough). The audio output from the jacks were great, and peak volume levels were above my comfortable listening levels.

Battery Life

With the notebook set to the Windows Vista “Balanced” profile, wireless active, and screen brightness set to 60%, it ran for 3 hours and 47 minutes before it had went into sleep mode. For a 16” notebook with a battery that doesn’t extend out the back of the notebook, or protrude out from the bottom, the results were impressive. In our battery test I also disabled the keyboard and multimedia lights, since they added about half a watt to the power consumption while on.

Heat and Noise

The Gateway MC-series notebook cooled itself very well, designed with hot parts away from the shell of the notebook, keeping the palmrest and underside cool under stress. Fan noise was minimal, going just above a whisper level under stress, and off or very low under normal use.

Conclusion

The Gateway MC7803u turned out to be a very nice notebook in our testing, with a great design and excellent build quality. The design is very elegant, and the smooth surface multimedia keys and all-glass LCD work very well together. It has a simplistic look with very little clutter, and the backlit keys give it a wonderful look. Performance under light day to day work and mild gaming was fine, proving to be a good multimedia desktop replacement with almost 4 hours of battery life. I think the only thing that could make this notebook more perfect would be a higher resolution 1080p display and Blu-ray drive.

Pros:

* Smooth and supple leather palmrest
* Good performance
* Full backlit keyboard and multimedia keys (that turn off if you don’t want to be distracted)
* Great battery life for a 16” notebook
* Cool to the touch, even while gaming

Cons:

* Highly reflective screen


Continue Read Gateway MC7803u Review

ASUS N10JC-A1 Review

ASUS N10JC-A1 Review,ASUS N10JC-A1
The high-class ASUS N10 is a netbook above all the rest, starting a new market segment called the "Corporate Netbook." The N10 offers similar features to standard netbooks, including an Intel Atom platform and WSVGA screen, but with the addition of optional switchable dedicated graphics and a fancy design. With a starting price of $649 for models with dedicated graphics; is a higher configuration worth the price jump? In this review we explain the differences between the N10JC and the cheaper Eee PC 1000HA and tell you if you should consider the costly upgrade.There are several different configurations of the N10 series available at various online stores. Some configurations offer Windows Vista, others include a different hard drive or use integrated graphics rather than dedicated. The only reason we mention this is so that consumers are aware that there are different configurations on the market to meet the needs of different people.

ASUS N10JC-A1 Specifications:

* Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor
* 160GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive (Seagate 5400.4)
* NVIDIA 9300M GS with 256MB DDR2 memory and Intel GMA950
* 1GB of DDR2 RAM (667MHz)
* Windows XP Home operating system
* 10.2” WSVGA Glossy LED-Backlit 1024 x 600 LCD
* Ports: 3 USB 2.0, HDMI,VGA monitor out, headphone jack, microphone input, 8 in 1 SD card reader (SDHC compatible), Kensington lock slot, Ethernet 10/100, ExpressCard/34
* Webcam (1.3 MP)
* Battery: 11.1v 4800mAh 53Wh 6-cell battery
* Wireless: 802.11b/g
* Two-year Limited Global Warranty
* Size: 10.8 (W) x 8.25 (D) x 1.46 (H)
* Weight: 3lbs 8.5oz, 4lbs 2.1oz with AC adapter
* MSRP: $649

Build and Design

The N10 is designed a step above other netbooks, with a better paint scheme and chrome accents. The shape is slimmer than the 1000HA we just reviewed, but the thinner shape comes from the battery sticking out instead of down. While some people get hung up on a battery that hangs off the back of a notebook, it doesn’t really bother me since I am used to seeing it on many business notebooks which share that design element. The gold and chrome paint scheme looks very nice, giving this netbook a “normal” color that you don’t generally see on many netbooks.

Build quality is very similar to other netbooks with a feel of slight ruggedness, but generous use of cheap plastic. The two toggle switches for dedicated graphics and wireless on/off feel undersized and are difficult to switch without using your fingernail. The screen hinges feel weaker on the N10 compared to the 901 or 1000 series Eee PC, flopping the screen back when you are carrying around the netbook.

Display

The glossy LED-backlit WSVGA display is an odd screen choice for a business oriented notebook, where most manufacturers use matte displays to reduce screen glare. Another limiting factor is the lower resolution screen; which for the price premium you might expect a higher resolution option. That said the screen is bright and vibrant and very pleasing to look at for hours at a time. Viewing angles are also better than average when compared to standard notebooks, with a broad vertical viewing angle sweet sport before colors start to distort. Horizontal viewing angles extend almost to 90 degrees, if you can actually view the screen over the reflective surface that is showing the surrounding area.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is comfortable to type on, but somewhat confusing to pickup if you are used to other keyboard layouts. One layout decision that irks me is the second function key located next to the direction pad. On most keyboards the outermost keys on the second row are both shift keys, making it easy to blindly aim your fingers all by feel. The N10 moves the left shift key inwards, and with it already being condensed in size, makes it difficult to find while typing. The sharp edge key design is another element which I would have preferred ASUS not use, since I found the rounded edge design on the Eee PC 1000 to be more comfortable. I personally think ASUS should have used the same keyboard on the N10 as they used on the 1000HA.

The Synaptics-based touchpad on the N10 is not only larger than most netbooks, but is easier to use than cheaper touchpads now found on many "consumer" netbooks. The pad surface is glossy, sharing the same color as the shell of the netbook. The large size makes it easy to move about the screen without having to pick up your finger to backtrack. Sensitivity is great with a wide range of adjustment and there was no noticeable lag found during use.

The touchpad buttons are adequately sized and easy to depress with little pressure. Feedback is shallow with a small audible click when pressed.

The ASUS N10JC-1A is also equipped with a fingerprint scanner which is located between the touchpad buttons. Scanning your fingertip can be tricky with how deeply recessed it is, but with a bit of practice you can get repeatable accurate readings.

Performance

From the moment I received this notebook I was very interested in seeing the performance of the Intel Atom platform with a dedicated graphics card attached. Almost all configurations use the dated Intel GMA950 graphics, which slow everything down, including movie decoding. With the NVIDIA 9300M graphics, this netbook might have a shot at decoding 720p video in a very compact package that has HDMI out.

For our test we tried a wide range of high definition content including an assortment of HD movies and HD movie trailers. Sadly, even though we tried a wide range of video codecs, including CoreAVC, the Intel Atom processor didn’t have enough grunt to keep a steady decoding framerate. Depending on the bitrate the N10 working with the NVIDIA 9300M graphics only managed 10-15fps, well below 24-25fps goal.

Since HD content was out of the question we moved onto video games as another area to see where the dedicated graphics might help out. Using Steam we pulled in Half-Life 2 and tweaked the visual settings to be easier on the system. With the resolution set to 1024x600 and most settings on medium the system average 20-25fps, which was playable, but still under what you would want for smooth gaming. Heavy action scenes dropped the framerate into the mid-teens, and if you weren’t lucky, got yourself killed in no time.

In day to day use the NVIDIA 9300M didn’t do much to improve the overall speed of the N10 compared to standard netbooks which only have Intel integrated graphics. It also didn’t help out much with gaming or video playback since the Intel Atom processor can’t keep up. While it did improve limited gaming abilities, it wasn’t a big enough jump to really make anything old games work under tweaked settings. For these reasons I don’t really see any benefit to including the dedicated graphics when all it does is increase power consumption.Speakers and Audio

The Altec Lansing speakers on the N10 did sound slightly better than other netbook speakers, but were still leaving much to be desired. Bass and midrange were lacking, but volume levels were fine for average use. The headphone output was great for private listening, and with my Sennheiser HD-80s hooked up, I had no more complaints about bass or midrange. Peak volume levels through the headphone jack were well above my tolerance of loud music.

Ports and Features

Port selection was above average compared to many netbooks, with the addition of the HDMI output, ExpressCard/34 slot for external devices, and security enhancing fingerprint scanner. Beyond those devices the port selection included three USB, VGA, LAN, headphone/mic, multi-card reader, and a Kensington lock slot.


Front: 8-in-1 Card Reader


Rear: Battery


Left: Kensington Lock Slot, Switchable Graphics, HDMI, two USB, Wireless On/Off


Right: ExpressCard/34, Headphone(SPDIF)/Mic, one USB, VGA, LAN, AC Power

Heat and Noise

Thermal performance of the ASUS N10 was great, even under the stress of gaming with the dedicated graphics under load. At no time did the system fan go above a whisper level of noise. Right after gaming the palmrest and touchpad area would peak around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to the original Eee PC 701 which would heat soak and reach temperatures of 112 degrees Fahrenheit, ASUS has come a long way in terms of cooling performance.

Battery Life

Battery life with the screen brightness set to 100%, the N10 set to the “Quiet Office” power profile , and wireless active was 5 hours and 9 minutes before it went into standby at 3% remaining. With the NVIDIA graphics enabled under the same settings, estimated battery life was about 1 hour less.Conclusion

The ASUS N10, while performing quite well in our testing in overall performance, didn’t see much gain in day-to-day use from the dedicated graphics. While the addition nets you an HDMI port, it doesn’t help with decoding HD movies or help with many games since the Intel Atom processor doesn’t have enough power to handle those activities. While you do get a classier looking design with a much nicer paint scheme and slightly slimmer look, you pay a price premium over the Eee PC 1000.

With a price tag nearly 50 percent greater than other netbook models, even more when compared to new HP and Dell offerings, it seems ASUS might have priced themselves out of the consumer market with the N10. Of course, the price tag is still perfectly reasonable as a "corporate netbook" ... and some less demanding road warriors may desire the affordable N10 over outrageously priced ultraportables like the Sony VAIO TZ.

Pros:

* Improved cooling over previous Eee PC models
* Good battery life
* Slimmer design over 10” Eee PC 1000
* ExpressCard slot for expansion
* HDMI output from a netbook

Cons:

* High price tag (compared to consumer netbooks)
* Dedicated graphics don’t really improve HD video decoding or mild gaming
* Keyboard doesn’t feel as comfortable as other 10” netbooks


Continue Read ASUS N10JC-A1 Review

HP EliteBook 2530p Review

HP EliteBook 2530p Review,HP EliteBook 2530p
If you're a corporate road warrior or a student trying to fit as much computer as possible in the smallest space possible, the HP EliteBook 2530p might be the perfect notebook for you. This 12.1" workstation featuring the latest Intel low voltage processors and integrated graphics for extreme battery life, and plenty of ports and storage options inside an impressively durable shell. The EliteBook 2530p looks like a surprising amount of computer in a rugged three-pound chassis. Is it worth a little extra cash to get your hands on this tiny titan? Keep reading and find out.The 2530p starts out at $1,549 but more powerful pre-built configurations top out at $2,499. Because of the Intel solid state drive (SSD) our custom configuration is priced at $3,006 ... with 3-year next business day on-site warranty costing an additional $129.

Our pre-production review unit as configured:

* Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 Low Voltage Processor (1.86GHz, 6MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB)
* Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Business
* 12.1-inch WXGA anti-glare (1280 x 800)
* Intel GMA 4500MHD Integrated Graphics
* 2GB DDR2 800MHz RAM
* 80GB High Performance Intel SSD (Solid State Drive)
* DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
* WiFi, Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
* 6-Cell 55WHr Battery
* 3-Year on-site Warranty
* Dimensions: 11.11" x 9.18" x 0.99" (with 6-cell battery)
* Weight: 3.75lbs with 6-cell battery

Build and Design

The HP EliteBook 2530p is an ultraportable business notebook, and as such corporations (and many consumers) expect the highest quality of materials and the best features and designs for their money. HP's other EliteBook notebooks meet or exceed those expectations, but what about the smallest member of the EliteBook family?

The answer: Nobody puts baby in the corner ... because baby will kick your ass.

The main body of the EliteBook 2530p is covered in the new "HP DuraCase" and "HP DuraFinish" which is essentially a hard plastic and strong magnesium alloy inner shell much like its predecessor strengthened by a brushed aluminum outer shell that is so scratch resistant you can't even scratch it with steel wool. The base of the laptop feels very strong and would definitely survive many bumps and bruises that other laptops might not. There is absolutely no flex in the amazingly solid keyboard ... none. The underside of the notebook is also similarly rigid and strong with just a tiny amount of flex in the area immediately underneath the notebook's optical drive.

The outer shell of the screen casing is made of metal, but the inner screen bezel is plastic. Unlike the 15-inch EliteBook 8530w we previously reviewed the display lid does flex slightly when significant pressure is applied to the center of the lid, but the lid is still much stronger than what we typically see on even the best 12-inch business notebooks.

When HP says that this EliteBook was designed "to meet the military standards (MIL-STD 810F) for high/low temperatures and dust." they mean this notebook is built to withstand years of use and abuse.

As mentioned in our review of the EliteBook 8530w, we found the "DuraCase" and "DuraFinish" are indeed quite rugged. In the review of the 8530w I discovered this when I accidentally dropped the 8530w on its screen and the notebook sustained no damage.

This time, I decided to be more careful with the 2530p and took it home one evening to extended testing. After a few hours at home I left the notebook on the kitchen table and walked into another room for a few minutes. When I returned I found my two-year-old daughter pulling the 2530p off the table ... and dropping it on the hard wood floor with the screen still open.

Luckily, the 2530p survived with no damage ... not even a scratch.

Additionally, the 2530p also features hard drive shock protection in the form of the new HP 3D DriveGuard which will help to protect your hard drive in the event the laptop gets dropped or violently bumped ... or dropped by an editor's two-year-old daughter.

Of course, if you select the solid state drive (SSD) option such as the one in our review unit then you never have to worry about shock protection for your hard drive because SSDs have no moving parts and aren't vulnerable to failure due to sudden movement or impact.

With all this rugged durability built into the deisgn you have to expect a trade off, and the trade off in this case is weight. Some 12-inch business class notebooks tip the scales at 3 pounds or less. The EliteBook 2530p weighs in at 3.75 pounds with the 6-cell battery. Although that is indeed a slight increase in weight, the added durability you get more than makes up for the very minor increase in weight.

Finally, in the same way that the gray and black exterior and smooth design suits a professional environment, so do the internals. The EliteBook 2530p uses three simple plastic covers on the bottom of the notebook (each held in place with Phillips head screws) so that the user or your IT department can easily access the hard drive, wireless cards or RAM for fast upgrades. There is a forth tiny expansion slot cover on the bottom of the notebook but this is only used for the dedicated Bluetooth card. The rest of the notebook interior is protected by Torx screws which help deter unqualified employees from messing around inside their work-issued notebook.

Screen and Audio

The 2530p comes equipped with a 12.1" anti-glare widescreen with a typical WXGA resolution. At 1280 x 800 pixels, this display is capable of displaying fine details without making things too small to work comfortably while on the move. Of course, the resolution might be limiting if you plan to use this notebook as a mobile video and photo editing platform ... but most people interested in a 12-inch notebook aren't editing high-resolution photos on the road.

When viewing the screen from straight ahead, colors are rich and the contrast is excellent. Full-screen movies are look quite good with deep blacks and good viewing angles. Horizontal viewing angles are particularly impressive so you won't have trouble showing a presentation to multiple people sitting at a desk. The vertical viewing angle from above starts to wash out at extreme angles and colors begin to invert from below ... but the overwhelming majority of users will never view the screen from high above or far below.

HP generally impresses our editorial staff with the quality of the speakers used in their notebooks, and the mono speaker in the 2530p was generally impressive. The built-in speaker is above average with a good range of highs, middles, and acceptable lows that doesn't sound as "tinny" as most mono speakers. The highest volume settings are more than loud enough to fill a small office with sound for a presentation, but are still clear and not horribly distorted. The only negative about the speaker is its location on the bottom front edge of the notebook.

Since the speakers are located on the bottom front edge of the notebook the sound isn't being directed up and toward the user when the EliteBook is used as a laptop. In fact, our staff usually refers to laptop speakers with this type of placement as "crotch speakers" because the speakers are directing sound to your lap and waist rather than your ears. If you're using the 2530p on your desk this isn't as much of a problem, but if you're a road warrior constantly working from your lap then you might be annoyed by the speaker placement.

The headphone jack on the 2530p works well with the two different brands of earphones I used during the test. No static or other noise was noticed through the jack besides imperfections in the audio source itself.
The layout of the keyboard is just slightly different than what you might find on the HP consumer notebooks. The individual key presses are quiet without loud clicking sounds as you type. Keys are flatter and have a little less space in between them. The key spacing had to make room for the addition of the pointstick.

HP also includes the same keyboard light you'll find in the larger EliteBook notebooks on the EliteBook 2530p. Just press the tiny light bulb button above the screen and a small LED pops out and shines down on the keyboard. The light isn't very bright, but it is bright enough to allow you to see the keyboard in the dark and not annoy the person seated next to you on an airplane

Above the keyboard also rests a series of touch-sensitive media buttons similar to what you find on HP consumer notebooks. There is an Info, WiFi Toggle, Presentation Mode, and Mute touch buttons on this glossy strip. Additionally, next to the Mute button is a volume control slider that enables the user to raise and lower the volume by sliding their finger across that area. One nice addition on the 2530p is a touchpad disable button that allows you to turn off the touchpad and use just the pointstick for moving the mouse cursor.

The touchpad also features the DuraFinish so that oils from your fingertip don't build up on the surface and make the touchpad look weathered after just a few months. The Synaptics touchpad is very responsive to my touch, and the two rubber mouse buttons are quiet and about the right size. There is also a secondary set of mouse buttons above the touchpad to work with the pointstick that comes with all 2530p notebooks. The pointstick is amazingly accurate and comfortable to use.

Ports and Features

The 2530p features a good number of ports on all sides, so let us take a brief tour ...

Left side:

Here we see the power jack, modem port, USB port, and optical drive.

Right side:

ExpressCard slot, SD card reader, FireWire, Audio-out jack, microphone/line-in jack, USB port, VGA out and docking station connector.

Rear side:

The battery, Ethernet jack, and the security lock slot.

Front side:

There are no ports on the front, just indicator lights and the mono speaker located on the bottom.

Bottom side:

The 2530p features an 802.11 a/b/g/draft-n WiFi card and Bluetooth 2.0, both of which always worked without any dropped signals. HP also offers buil-in broadband wireless card options (AT&T or Verizon) for people who need to stay connected to the internet anywhere there's a cell phone signal.

Heat and Noise

During normal use (browsing the web or working on a text document) the EliteBook 2530p remained quiet enough not to disturb anyone in a quiet office or classroom. However, after watching streaming video online and after stressing the graphics the cooling fan inside the laptop gets louder than we would like. When doing tasks that stress the processor and graphics card, the laptop's fan works hard to keep this laptop cool. This is completely understandable since there's so much hardware squeezed inside the 12-inch chassis, but it is something to keep in mind.



Finally, we recorded the following external temperatures using an IR thermometer after running two consecutive PCMark05 benchmarks. This should serve as an indicator of how hot the notebook will get after about 30 minutes of serious use. All temperatures are listed in degrees Fahrenheit. While the 2530p isn't the coldest notebook we've reviewed, it does stay amazing cool considering the performance and how much hardware is packed into such a small space.

Battery

The 6-cell (55WHr) Lithium-ion battery in the EliteBook 2530p performs quite well. During our timed tests, we decided to test the "worst case scenario" for the EliteBook 2530p ... setting the notebook to the ‘High Performance' profile, screen brightness at 100%, WiFi on, and accessing the SSD while listening to about 30 minutes worth of multiple music files and editing documents in Microsoft Office. The laptop shut down after exactly 5 hours and 49 minutes with 3% of the battery left, which is quite amazing for a laptop running in "high performance" mode and draining the battery with the screen on maximum brightness.

Battery life can also be extended via using the "power saver" power profile in Vista, or with a 9-Cell (83WHr) battery. For people who want the smallest and lightest notebook possible, ther is also a 3-cell (31WHr) battery option.Conclusion

The HP EliteBook 2530p is the best business-grade 12-inch notebook currently on the market. Despite a large number of business solutions from Dell and Lenovo in our office, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone on our staff who doesn't think the 2530p is currently the best all-around choice in the 12-inch form factor. If extreme portability, durability, and long battery life are important to you, the EliteBook 2530p makes an ideal choice. However, while it's fair to say the 2530p is "best in class" that doesn't mean it's perfect.

The biggest potential criticism you can leverage against the EliteBook 2530p is the same problem every notebook in this class has to deal with: In order to provide long battery life and maintain low heat levels in such a small notebook you have to use low voltage or ultra-low voltage processors. This means that some applications that rely heavily on the CPU (such as video editing applications) will run a little slower than they would on a notebook with a standard processor. That said, people interested in this notebook generally won't be trying to edit feature-length 1080p movies.

Again, that's just something you have to expect if you want a notebook in this class. The Lenovo ThinkPad X200 offers a more powerful traditional processor in a 12-inch notebook, but lacks an optical drive, has fewer ports, doesn't have a touchpad, and doesn't feel as rugged. The EliteBook 2530p doesn't make those kind of sacrifices.

Bottom line, if you're looking for a business-grade 12-inch notebook then the HP EliteBook 2530p belongs at the top of your list.

Pros

* Attractive and sleek design.
* Extreme durability in an extremely small package.
* Excellent overall performance in its class.
* Fantastic screen with good viewing angles and excellent brightness.
* Great port selection for a 12-inch notebook.
* Small form factor and low weight WITH an optical drive!
* Excellent battery life for road warriors.

Cons

* Less than ideal location for tiny mono-speaker.
* Fan can run a little loud.
* Too much bloatware for a business notebook.
* HP won't let me keep it.


Continue Read HP EliteBook 2530p Review

HP Compaq 2230s Review

HP Compaq 2230s
The HP Compaq 2230s is an ultra-portable consumer notebook that is targeted towards small businesses similar to the Dell Vostro or Lenovo SL series line of machines. This notebook gives consumers a less expensive option than the HP EliteBook series, with a starting price of $999 instead of $1,679. How well does the 2230s hold up against business-grade notebooks? Should you purchase one of these or consider a similarly-priced consumer notebook? Let's take a closer look and find out.

Our review unit of the HP Compaq 2230s came with the following options:

* Windows XP Professional
* Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26GHz)
* 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM (maximum capacity 8GB)
* 160GB Toshiba HDD (5400rpm)
* 12.1" diagonal widescreen glossy TFT LCD display at 1280x 800 (WXGA, glossy)
* Intel 4500MHD Integrated Graphics
* 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
* Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100AGN (802.11a/g/n)
* Bluetooth 2.0
* Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.7 x 1.21”
* Weight: 3lbs 14.6oz, 4lbs 11.4oz with AC adapter
* 65W 100-240V AC adapter
* 4-cell (37Wh) Lithium Ion battery
* Price as tested: $1,249 (starting price: $999)

Build and Design

The design of the HP Compaq 2230s is somewhat like a black Apple MacBook, with a clean all-black plastic exterior. As far as business notebooks go, it is HP’s attempt to compete with the Dell Vostro line, offering a more consumer look and feel to a business notebook. The all-black color scheme continues into the interior of the notebook, with the palmrest, touchpad, keyboard, and trim all covered in matching black. An interesting design change over a consumer notebook is the touch sensitive controls above the keyboard which normally activate media functions. On the HP 2230s, these control system functions such as external displays, wireless on/off, and volume.

The build quality turned out to be very unappealing and unlike what we've come to expect from a business or even small business grade notebook. The moment you pick up the 2230s you'll notice a great deal of flex in the screen cover from very thin unsupported plastic. Opening up the notebook you find the same thing around the main chassis, with weak plastic surrounding the keyboard. The palmrest has plenty of flex on either side, with the side above the optical drive being the worse of the two. On the optical drive side you have flex on the palmrest as well as the bottom shell when gripping the notebook from the side. The notebook feels more like a budget consumer notebook than a small business notebook with a starting price of $999. The only real advantage of the thin plastic material used is the total notebook weight is kept at a minimum. Unfortunately, the thin plastics don't give this notebook a feeling of durability.

Display

The glossy WXGA display on the HP Compaq 2230s is pretty nice, with vibrant colors and high contrast. Black levels are average with some grey apparent in dark settings depending on the angle you are viewing the panel. Vertical viewing angles are adequate for regular day-to-day use, but colors invert when outside of the 10-15 degree up or down sweet spot. Horizontal viewing angles are better, keeping colors true even to the very edge of being able to still see the screen from the side of the notebook. Brightness levels are above average, enough to comfortably view the screen in a bright office setting. Using the notebook outside would be limited with the glossy display because of reflections, but should be fine as long as you are under shade.





Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard could be considered one of the redeeming factors of this notebook, offering a very comfortable typing surface with very solid support. Unlike the screen cover, palmrest, or case, the keyboard exhibits no flex at all ... even under strong pressure. Individual key action is smooth with a muted click when fully pressed. Key spacing and size is excellent even with the small 12” form factor. The only part I feel could be improved is the size of the function keys, which are almost 1/3 the overall size of a standard key.

The touchpad is a Synaptics model, with a smooth matte texture surface that is seamless with the palmrest. The size is great without feeling cramped, offering plenty of space even with the scroll bar section. The touchpad buttons have a long throw offering soft feedback with no audible clicks.

Performance and Benchmarks

System performance with the Intel P8400 processor and 2GB of memory with Windows XP was great. The notebook had excellent boot and shutdown times, and showed no signs of lag throughout day-to-day applications. Graphics performance was limited with the Intel 4500MHD integrated chipset, but the advantage of the integrated chipset is greater battery life. If you were looking to spice up your day at work with a game or two, older games such as Half-Life would run very well on the slower graphics found inside this notebook.

Another potentially performance-related feature worth mentioning is that HP provides a Windows Vista license and offers business customers the option of keeping Vista installed on the notebook or having a "custom install" of Windows XP direct from the factory. For those businesses that still prefer to run their office network with Windows XP machines, this is an important feature you won't find on consumer notebooks.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Speakers and Audio

Speaker performance was limited, with poor bass and midrange, and low peak volume levels. For watching the occasional streaming news clip or YouTube video they would work just fine, but for movies and music your best bet is a nice pair of headphones.

Audio output quality was great with my Sennheiser HD80 headphones connected. Peak volume levels were well above anything I would want to listen to.

Ports and Features

The HP Compaq 2230s offers an impressive amount of features for a notebook with integrated Intel graphics. It offers three USB ports, HDMI and VGA out, ExpressCard/34 and multi-card reader, an optical drive, and modem and network connections. Being the small business notebook that it is, the 2230s also has a touch-sensitive panel to quickly access monitor out features, the HP Info Center, wireless on/off, and volume controls.


Front:Mic/Headphone


Rear: Screen hinge


Left: AC Power, LAN, Modem, one USB, Optical drive


Right: ExpressCard/34, Mutli-Card Reader, HDMI, two USB, VGA, Kensington Lock Slot

Heat and Noise

The cooling system on this notebook worked very well, keeping the system cool to the touch even while it was under a stressful load. Under battery power the system fan remained off the majority of the time, only spinning up if you were doing something processor intensive. The moment you plug the machine into AC power the fan turns on at low speed, which could best be described as a quiet drone. While benchmarking the system the fan noise increased quite a bit, but it kept system temperatures in check.



Battery

Battery performance was good considering the stock battery in the HP Compaq 2230s is only a 4-cell 37Wh model. This is probably the smallest battery found in a business notebook, and has no upgrade path to a larger battery. In our testing the average power draw from the notebook settled around 9 watts under a standard load. With the screen brightness set to 60 percent, wireless enabled and active, and the power profile set to "Portable/Laptop" the HP Compaq 2230s managed 3 hours and 30 minutes before it shutdown at 5 percent remaining. For a business notebook of this size we would normally expect a larger battery and battery life exceeding five hours.

Conclusion

The HP Compaq 2230s is a conservative-looking notebook with some features targeted towards small business users. Unlike most business or small business notebooks, this notebook doesn’t offer the rugged feel, only a rugged look. The plastic used throughout the design is weak even when compared to the HP Pavilion lineup. While the keyboard is impressive, it doesn’t outweigh the lackluster build quality. For small businesses my best recommendation would be to look at notebooks such as the HP Pavilion tx2500z or stepping up to the HP EliteBook series.

Pros:

* Solid keyboard
* Nice touchpad and soft touch buttons
* VGA and HDMI output with Intel 4500MHD integrated graphics
* Excellent cooling system
* Availabile with Windows XP for customers who still want it

Cons:

* Flexible chassis
* High price considering configuration and durability
* 4-cell battery option only


Continue Read HP Compaq 2230s Review

Apple MacBook Pro MB134LL/A 15.4-inch Laptop



Stylishly and intelligently designed for mobile professionals, Apple's MacBook Pro now includes Apple's Multi-Touch technology (which debuted with the MacBook Air), allowing you to pinch, swipe, or rotate to enlarge text, advance through photos, or adjust an image. And it gets a serious speed bump from Intel's latest 2.5 GHz 45-nanometer Penryn series Core 2 Duo processor (with 6 MB L2 cache), which also helps to reduce power requirements and save on battery life. This model (MB134LL/A ) also has a mercury-free, power-efficient LED-backlit display measuring 15.4 inches and a state-of-the art NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT video card with 512 MB of GDDR3 video RAM.



The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers a mercury-free, power-efficient LED-backlit display with an antiglare finish that's perfect for color-minded professionals.
Meticulously designed and encased in sleek and sturdy aluminum, the MacBook Pro measures just 1 inch thin and weighs 5.4 pounds. Your hands have room to spread out on the full-size keyboard with crisp, responsive keys, and the MacBook Pro has a built-in ambient light sensor that adjusts the keyboard and display brightness so it's easy to work in low-light settings. Other standard Apple "extras" includes a built-in iSight video camera and Apple's magnetically connected MagSafe power adapter, which safely disconnects when under strain.

It's pre-loaded with Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard operating system, which enables easy backup of your most important data via Time Machine, a redesigned desktop that helps eliminate clutter. It also comes with the iLife '08 suite of applications--including iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, and iTunes--and the newest version of the fast-loading Safari web browser. Other hardware features include a 250 GB hard drive, 2 GB of installed RAM (which can be upgraded to 4 GB), an 8x combo Superdrive (for burning dual-layer DVDs as well as CDs), built-in Gigabit Ethernet for high-speed networking, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), FireWire 400 and 800 ports, DVI video output, and an ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot for expansion solutions such as 3G wireless networking.

Apple Innovations
The MacBook Pro is the culmination of years of refining hardware and software design to an integrated art, and Apple's Multi-Touch technology is just the latest innovation to be added to it. The advanced trackpad now allows you to flip through photos, enlarge text, and adjust an image using just your fingers. It also comes with a MagSafe power adapter connector, which offers a magnetic connection instead of a physical one. So, if you happen to trip over a power cord, you won't send MacBook Pro flying off a table or desk--the cord simply disconnects, without damage to either the cord or the system.



The magnetically connected MagSafe power adapter breaks cleanly away, without damage to either the cord or the MacBook Pro.
The MacBook Pro has battery life that rivals most notebooks in its class. If you'd like to make that battery last even longer, Mac OS X has a few tricks up its sleeve. Go to System Preferences, click Energy Saver, and change battery optimization from Normal to Better Battery Life. Or tell MacBook Pro to reduce its screen brightness and give yourself a little more time untethered.

Intel Core 2 Duo Processor
Experience improved energy efficiency, expanded wireless connectivity, and amazing battery life with the 45nm Penryn series Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 processor, which has a 2.50 GHz processor speed, super-fast 800 MHz front-side bus (FSB), and a super-sized 6 MB L2 cache. (An L2, or secondary, cache temporarily stores data; and a larger L2 cache can help speed up your system's performance. The FSB carries data between the CPU and RAM, and a faster front-side bus will deliver better overall performance.)

The new hafnium-infused circuitry--which reduces electrical current leakage in transistors--conserves even more energy, giving you more time away from the wall outlet. With a whopping 6 MB of shared L2 cache, data and instructions can be kept close to the two processor cores, greatly increasing performance and allowing the entire system to work more efficiently. And, because the processor cores share the L2 cache, either can use the entire amount if the other happens to be idle.



Your hands have room to spread out on the full-size keyboard with crisp, responsive keys.
Hard Drive and Memory
The 250 GB Serial-ATA (SATA) hard drive (5400 RPM) quickens the pace with a higher speed transfer of data--akin to FireWire and USB 2.0. The 2 GB of PC5300 DDR2 RAM (two SO-DIMMs of 1024 MB) have an industry-leading 667 MHz speed, and the RAM capacity can be increased to 4 GB.

Wireless Connectivity
The built-in 802.11n wireless networking provides up to five times the performance and twice the range of 802.11g, but it's also backward-compatible with 802.11a/b/g routers, enabling you to communicate with the a wide variety of Wi-Fi resources. It works seamlessly with the new AirPort Extreme with 802.11n. Use the built-in Bluetooth wireless technology to connect to your PDA or cell phone, synchronize addresses, or download pictures from your cell phone. You can also use a wireless headset for iChat audio chats and VoIP calls as well as quickly share files with a colleague.

Display and Graphics
The 15.4-inch widescreen TFT display offers a native resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels and an antiglare widescreen display that's perfect for color-minded professionals. The display is backlit by light emitting diodes (LEDs), which gives it a lighter weight and more power efficiency than the cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) which most notebooks employ. It's also better for the environment, thanks to its new mercury-free display.

Video and graphics are powered by the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT card, which is boosted by 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM. GDDR3 (Graphics Double Data Rate, version 3) is a graphics card-specific memory technology that's better able to deliver fluid frame rates for even the most advanced games and applications. The GeForce 8600M GT brings a new level of realism to the MacBook Pro with its 16-lane PCI Express architecture, 16x full screen anti-aliasing, 128-bit High Dynamic Range rendering, and a texture fill rate of up to 8.2 billion per second.

Video Conferencing with Built-in iSight
Artfully placed in the display bezel is an iSight camera, which enables easy video conferencing as well as allows you to snap pictures of yourself and create video podcasts. Using the iChat AV application, video conferencing is integrated into your iChat buddy list, so initiating a video conference is a breeze. iChat also lets you hold audio chats with up to 10 people and provides high-quality audio compression and full-duplex sound so conversation can flow naturally. For video podcasting, you can record a short clip using the iSight camera, then use iWeb to create a video blog entry or post your GarageBand-recorded podcast.



Connect to your network, a desktop monitor and all your peripherals with two USB 2.0, one FireWire 400, one FireWire 800, one DVI video output, and one Gigabit Ethernet.
Other Features
  • Two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 400, one FireWire 800, ExpressCard/34 slot
  • DVI output port; VGA output using included DVI to VGA adapter
  • 8x slot-loading SuperDrive with the following write speeds: 8x DVD±R; 4x DVD±R DL (double layer); 4x DVD±RW; 24x CD-R; 10x CD-RW
  • Backlit keyboard with ambient light sensors for automatic adjustment of keyboard illumination and screen brightness
  • Internal omnidirectional microphone and built-in speakers
  • Combined optical digital output/headphone out (minijack)
  • Combined optical digital input/audio line in (minijack)
  • 60-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery (with integrated charge indicator LEDs) providing up to 6 hours of battery life
  • Kensington cable lock slot
  • Measures 14.1 x 9.6 x 1 inches (WxDxH) and weighs 5.4 pounds (including battery)




Preloaded with Leopard, you'll enjoy enhanced productivity and a clutter-free desktop (thanks to the redesigned 3-D Dock with Stacks).
Preloaded with Leopard and iLife '08
The biggest Mac OS X upgrade ever, the Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard operating system features over 300 new features, including:
  • Time Machine, an effortless way to automatically back up everything on a Mac
  • A redesigned Finder that lets users quickly browse and share files between multiple Macs
  • Quick Look, a new way to instantly see files without opening an application
  • Spaces, an intuitive new feature used to create groups of applications and instantly switch between them
  • A brand new desktop with Stacks, a new way to easily access files from the Dock
  • Major enhancements to Mail and iChat
Leopard's new desktop includes the redesigned 3-D Dock with Stacks, a new way to organize files for quick and easy access with just one click. Leopard automatically places web, e-mail and other downloads in a Downloads stack to maintain a clutter-free desktop, and you can instantly fan the contents of this and other Stacks into an elegant arc right from the Dock. The updated Finder includes Cover Flow and a new sidebar with a dramatically simplified way to search for, browse and copy content from any PC or Mac on a local network.

Time Machine lets you easily back up all of the data on your Mac, find lost files and even restore all of the software on their Mac. With just a one-click setup, Time Machine automatically keeps an up-to-date copy of everything on the Mac. In the event a file is lost, you can search back through time to find deleted files, applications, photos and other digital media and then instantly restore the file.

The MacBook also comes with the iLife '08 suite of applications that make it easy to live the digital life. Use iPhoto to share entire high-res photo albums with anyone who's got an e-mail address. Record your own songs and podcasts with GarageBand. Break into indie filmmaking with iMovie and iDVD. Then take all the stuff you made on your MacBook and share it on the web in one click with iWeb.

Included Software
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard (includes Time Machine, Quick Look, Spaces, Spotlight, Dashboard, Mail, iChat, Safari, Address Book, QuickTime, iCal, DVD Player, Photo Booth, Front Row, Xcode Developer Tools); iLife '08 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, GarageBand); Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Test Drive; iWork '08 (30-day trial)

What's in the Box
MacBook Pro, 85W MagSafe Power Adapter, AC wall plug, and power cord, lithium-polymer battery, DVI to VGA adapter, display cleaning cloth, install/restore DVDs, printed and electronic documentation


Continue Read Apple MacBook Pro MB134LL/A 15.4-inch Laptop

Alienware Area-51 m17x Review

Alienware Area-51 m17x
The m17x is Alienware's highest-end gaming notebook. Notable features of this all-black monster include an Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, dual Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GT graphics cards, and a 500GB RAID 0 array. It is one of the most powerful machines we have tested here at NotebookReview.com.

Our review unit has the following specifications:

* 17-inch WUXGA (1920x1200) glossy display
* Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000 (2.8GHz/ 4MB L2/ 800MHz FSB) processor
* Dual Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GT 512MB graphics cards in SLI
* 4GB DDR2-667 RAM
* 500GB RAID 0 (2x 250GB 7200RPM Samsung) hard drive
* Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
* AlienFX lighting and backlit keyboard
* Internal TV tuner & remote control
* Alienware Orion messenger bag

As of writing, the Area-51 m17x starts at $3,849; our configuration totals $5,899. Note that our test unit includes several costly items such as the Intel Extreme processor and RAID 0 array. The m17x is only available from Alienware directly.

Build and Design

This all-black monster is one of the largest notebooks I have tested. It is 2.1 inches thick and tips the scales at 11 pounds. The physical design of the m17x is traditional – there are no fancy curves or other design elements. It has a box-like design with rounded edges. The rubberized matte black finish of the m17x lends it a high-end feel and look. The only glossy finish to be found on the m17x is on the borders of the LCD.

In addition to being one of the largest, this notebook is also one of the most solidly-build notebooks I have tested. The entire base of the notebook is inflexible. The palmrests do not budge under pressure, and neither do the other surfaces surrounding the keyboard. The base of the notebook does not bend when twisted, and the lid resists twisting better than the majority of 17-inch notebooks. The m17x’s lid is thicker than most. Pushing in on the back of the lid does not yield any ripples on the screen unless extreme pressure is used. The hinge holds the display in place well; there is some display wobble, though it takes effort to induce (such as shaking the table where the notebook is sitting). Given the size and weight of this display, I think the wobble is reasonably kept under control. The display does not have any latches but is instead held closed by a pair of small magnets.

The lighting system, called AlienFX, is what makes the m17x stand out from the crowd. Five areas of the notebook feature LED backlighting:

* Keyboard
* Touchpad
* Touch buttons
* Alienware logo below display
* Alien head power button and emblem on back of display

Each zone can be changed independently to one of 12 colors. In addition, it is easy to completely disable AlienFX by pressing [Fn] + [F11].



Overall, the design of the m17x is traditional yet attractive; it has a quality finish and feel. The machine is solid and well made.

Display

The m17x comes standard with the only display available, a 17-inch glossy widescreen with a WUXGA resolution (1920x1200 pixels). The picture quality of this display is stunning – colors are vibrant and the brightness level is high. This screen is ideal for gaming, high-definition video, and general use. The crisp contrast makes reading text easy. Viewing angles are excellent from above and side-to-side, however like a typical LCD, the picture darkens viewed from below. The backlighting is generally even, with only a hint from the bottom of the screen.




On the whole, the m17x definitely has one of the best displays I have seen on a notebook

Speakers

The m17x has two stereo speakers and a two-inch subwoofer. The sound quality is slightly above average for a notebook, and they get reasonably loud. The subwoofer adds some needed low-end. The sound system on the whole is unremarkable however not disappointing.

Heat and Noise

The cooling system is important on any notebook, but on a notebook packed with high-powered components like the m17x, it is mission critical. Fortunately the m17x’s system is up to the task. The notebook has several rather large fans that draw air in from numerous perforations on the bottom of the notebook and two additional air intakes under the palmrests. The entire back of the notebook is lined with exhaust vents, which throw out extraordinary amounts of hot air. The cooling system does a remarkable job of keeping two video cards, a high-powered processor, and two hard drives under control:

I ran the m17x under continuous full load for in excess of five hours and experienced no issues. The top of the notebook never got warm; the back of the notebook where the vents are got toasty due to all the hot air running above it. The m17x’s cooling system is well-designed; each video card has its own heatsink and fan.

The downside of the m17x’s effective cooling system is the noise it creates. Even at idle, the fans run fast and have a distinct whine. Under full load, the noise increases due to more air moving out the back, however the whine does not intensify. The m17x is not a notebook to be using in areas where quietness is important.



The verdict of the m17x’s cooling system boils down to necessity vs. nicety. It is absolutely necessary that a notebook like the m17x have an effective cooling system; quietness takes a second place to functionality. No doubt, the noise level of this notebook will be a deal-breaker for some.

Keyboard

The m17x has a full size keyboard and separate numpad. The keys feature a rubberized finish and are durable. The keyboard has a soft feel and keypresses are well cushioned. Key travel is normal for a notebook, and the sound is quiet and rubber-like. The keyboard unfortunately suffers from flex that is noticeable even under normal typing pressure; pressing one key down affects all the surrounding keys. The numpad does not have any flex. While I like the feel of the keyboard, I wish it had less flex.

Touchpad

The m17x’s expansive touchpad is flush with the palmrest, and it has the same matte rubberized finish like the rest of the machine. It is easy to track on with moist or dry fingers. The touchpad buttons are made of one piece of plastic; clicks are almost inaudible.

Input and Output Ports

This calls for a picture tour – all descriptions are from left to right.

Left Side:

Power jack, optical audio, S-video out, HD TV tuner, headphones, microphone, audio out, 3x USB, SmartBay modular bay

Right Side:

7-in-1 media card reader, ExpressCard/54 slot, USB, HDMI, FireWire B, FireWire A, Gigabit Ethernet, security lock slot

Front:

Not much here – only the IR receiver

Back:

Vents

The m17x has perhaps the most expansive range of ports I have seen on a notebook, including a rare 6-pin FireWire port.

The SmartBay deserves some extra attention. It is essentially a modular bay that can take a hard drive in place of the optical drive. Alienware included a 500GB version with our m17x. The SmartBay is hot-swappable, meaning the system does not have to be powered off to switch devices. It also features a SATA connection, ensuring the hard drive has an ultra-fast connection. A modular bay is a feature I would like to see on more notebooks since it adds both convenience and functionality.

Wireless

Alienware includes the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN wireless card supporting 802.11a, g, and draft-n connections as standard along with internal Bluetooth. Range with the wireless Intel card was superb; I was able to pick up networks and connect at the fringe of their transmitting range without problems.
The Bluetooth also worked as expected with the included Bluetooth ExpressCard media remote.

Battery

The m17x has a 12-cell, 6600mAh battery pack. With the screen dimmed down in power-save mode and wireless off, I measured 66 minutes of battery life. The power draw of this system is immense. Needless to say, this is not the notebook for you if you value battery time.

Operating System and Software

Vista Home Premium and Ultimate (32-bit) are the two available operating systems. I did not have any issues with Vista Home Premium on our test unit; all of the supplied software including the Alienware Command Center worked without issues. I had no problems entering/resuming from standby, and hibernation worked fine as well.

Carrying Bag

Part of our review unit’s price tag included Alienware’s new $90 Orion messenger bag. Given the extraordinary size and weight of the m17x, having a bag that fits it well and is comfortable to use is important. The Orion has a main and a secondary inside compartment, and five external pouches. I found the bag to be a great companion for the m17x – the padding on the shoulder strap as well as on the bag itself are welcome while carrying 15 pounds worth of equipment. The nylon material is thick, durable, and well-made, and the notebook compartment is well cushioned. The zippers are of good quality. I highly recommend opting for this bag to those of you purchasing the m17x.




Orion Messenger Bag specs:

* Exterior dimensions: 14” x 20” x 5.5”
* Device compatibility: 19.1” x 13.25” x 3”
* Weight: 2.85 lb

Customer Support

Alienware offers a 1-year warranty with 24/7 tech support and onsite service with the m17x. Two- and three-year warranties are available for $200 and $300 respectively. It is disappointing to see Alienware only offering a one-year warranty as standard equipment on the m17x; for a machine starting at $3,849, I think a three-year warranty should be standard at the very least.

Conclusion

The Alienware Area-51 m17x is a remarkable gaming notebook and a clear step forward for Alienware in terms of design and performance. It is packed to the gills with top-shelf equipment, most notably a pair of Nvidia 9800M-GT video cards. This is one of not even a handful of machines that can comfortably max out Crysis. It has the typical downsides associated with a portable desktop – loud cooling system, dismal battery life, and hefty weight, but it does everything else well. The $3,849 starting price is steep and out of reach for most, though the baseline configuration has the components that make the system worth buying. In this reviewer’s opinion, more could have been thrown in for the money, and for such an expensive system, not having a more comprehensive warranty is disappointing. To those who do have the cash for a system like this, you are getting an awesome machine that will get envious looks anywhere you go, but be prepared to sign a mortgage for it.

Pros:

* Phenomenal gaming performance
* AlienFX LED lighting system
* Solid build quality
* Fantastic screen
* Good keyboard & touchpad
* Input & output port selection
* Modular bay (SmartBay)

Cons:

* Sky-high price
* Loud fans
* Keyboard flex
* Weight (11 pounds)
* Dismal battery life (66 minutes as tested)


Continue Read Alienware Area-51 m17x Review

Lenovo T500 ThinkPad Review

Lenovo T500 ThinkPad
The T500 Thinkpad is the latest 15.4" refresh of the longstanding T-series out of Lenovo. Combining the latest generation of Intel goodies, ATI Hybrid graphics, and DisplayPort connection this notebook has many new things to offer over the previous ThinkPads. With all these changes taking place, is Lenovo keeping the ThinkPad as well built as we have come to expect, or has some quality slipped through the cracks? In this review we cover all aspects of the new ThinkPad T500 and tell you if we think it deserves a spot on your desk.

Our ThinkPad T500 specifications:

* Screen: 15.4" 1680 x 1050 WSXGA+ LCD (Matte finish)
* Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 (2.80GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB Cache)
* Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM
* Storage: 160GB HDD (7200rpm)
* Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW
* Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.0
* Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 3650 w/ 256MB or Intel X4500 integrated (hybrid switching)
* Built-in web camera
* Battery: 9-cell (84Wh rated, 81Wh actual)
* Dimensions: 14.1" x 10/10.9" x 1.8"
* Weight: 6lbs 7.2oz (w/ 9 cell battery)
* Retail Price: $2,223

Build and Design

The design of the T500 has changed a bit. The changes are subtle to the untrained eye, but they are there. The right side is now gently sloped similar to what can be found on the older T4x series, where the sides angle inward instead of dropping off flat. First clue about this is the optical drive bezel which sports a nice beveled edge. The rubber feet have also been slightly tweaked, now feeling softer than before, meaning less sliding on your desk surface. Moving past the minor case design changes, the ThinkPad is every bit as conservative (boring) as all of those preceding it. We have the same paint, same durable rubbery texture, and we still have our ThinkPad logo.

Upgrade and expansion is a step harder than most notebooks, but still very simple. To gain access to all user-replaceable parts, you simply remove five screws and carefully remove the palmrest and keybard. Here you gain access to an open WWAN slot, another for Turbo Memory or UWB, two DDR3 memory slots, and your wireless card. At this stage you can also see the processor and heatsink, but a few additional items must be removed before you can lift those items out. Although this setup does seem like Lenovo is trying lock the user away from upgrading parts, they fully allow anyone to handle upgrading or adding components to their notebook without voiding the warranty. Processor swaps or messing with other advanced components might not be as kosher though. The hard drive is the only item accessible from the outside of the case (besides the battery) and is easily removed with a single screw.

Build quality is very similar to the previous generation T61, with all of its strengths and weaknesses. Fit and finish are great with most parts, but you still have a good amount of battery wiggle in the back, as well as the cheaper feeling plastic LCD lid. The molded plastic panels throughout the notebook feel sturdy, overall feeling much like the previous generation of notebooks. Compared to the pre-Lenovo Thinkpads, the T500 feels leaps and bounds better. Now the T500 is not without its flaws, and the new keyboard definitely falls into the flaws category.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard layout has stayed the same, with only very minor changes in the feel of the key presses. Some of this may be attributed to the differences in keyboard suppliers (NMB, ALPS, and Chicony) though, as my T60 came with the "clickier" Chicony keyboard, whereas the T500 is much quieter. The keyboard strength seems to have changed, with more flex present on the right side of the keyboard. To find the culprit of this flex, I took apart the notebook and inspected the keyboard area.

To my great surprise, I found Lenovo had completely redesigned the keyboard, with weight savings as the primary goal. The old design has a much stronger back-plate, which is removed on the new revision. This cuts weight by 25 percent (6oz to 4.5oz) from the old model, but at the huge disadvantage of tarnishing the long-standing ThinkPad keyboard reputation. For now I am leaning towards weight savings, instead of cost savings as the main redesign reason, but I still don't like it. Anyone who knows the ThinkPad name knows at least two things; boring business notebook and great keyboard. If you take away the keyboard and make other weight reducing or durability reducing changes to the notebook design, you will no doubt alienate many of your followers. I really hope Lenovo takes notice at this, cause I would take a brick glued to the bottom of the case before over a keyboard change such as this.

As with older models, the liquid drains are still in place, ready to get your notebook out of harm's way if a stray coffee or soda spills all over it.

The touchpad has grown compared to the T61, expanding to the width of the lower touchpad buttons. With the ThinkPad touchpads always being the runts compared to other notebook designs, this change was very welcomed (even if they did paint scroll arrows on it). The texture is identical to the older touchpad, and sensitivity is just as good. Compared to my T60, the touchpad buttons feel much firmer, and have more support from edge to edge. On the T60's touchpad, the far left and right side tend to sag slightly, whereas the T500's touchpad buttons have equal support from side to side.


My only disappointment with the touchpad was the lack of red strips. After seeing the X300 and X200 that offered "legacy" red strips on the touchpoint buttons, I was upset to see that Lenovo didn't include that finishing touch on the T-series keyboard.

What still works and what doesn't

Those who have older ThinkPad accessories from the T6x/R6x generation will be happy to know all of the older docking stations are still fully compatible with the new notebooks. I can't say for certain that the older equipment won't be replaced with newer revisions that offer different connections, but at least you won't need to upgrade.

The optical bay connections have changed from the previous generation, moving more towards a SATA style connector, rendering older drive incompatible. One change that might anger individuals in an IT position is the removal of the native Serial/Parallel hookup inside the ultrabay for use with the adapter. With many older devices needing native serial connections, these individuals might be wary of upgrading their current notebook.
The power connection appears to have stayed the same for use with the UltraBay battery remained the same.

Display

The CCFL-backlit display on our T500 looked nearly identical to the display currently shipping with the older 15.4" T61 models. Brightness is much less than the LED-backlit panel found in the new T400, but still good when compared to other notebooks on the market. Don't expect to use this notebook outside on a sunny day, since the bright light will wash out anything on the screen. Backlit evenness is very consistent throughout the display, with no excessive bright or dark areas. Contrast appears to be very nice, and the colors are bright and vivid without looking washed out. Viewing angles rate better than average, but not excellent. Vertical viewing has a nice sweet spot before colors start to wash our or invert, and the horizontal range is better still. Compared to the LED backlit T400 display, the vertical viewing range extended further, but still not coming close to the IPS FlexView panel on my T60.

One defect or feature which was thankfully not present in our review model screen panel was a shimmering or dirty white texture. Some of the older matte ThinkPad screens had this problem that annoyed many users, and from what I can tell this screen had none of this in the slightest.

Performance and Benchmarks

Our Lenovo ThinkPad T500 came with the Intel T9600 processor, clocking in at 2.8GHz, and jammed packed with 6MB of cache. For graphics, Lenovo included an ATI Radeon 3650 video card with 256MB of GDDR3 memory. While not the latest SSD, Lenovo did include a 7200rpm hard drive which helped keep access times to a minimum and transfer data at a swift pace. This combination proved to be exceptionally fast in the Windows Vista environment, getting very high synthetic benchmark scores. The T500 also performed remarkably well in games which you generally don't find running on most business notebooks (well non-workstations that is).

Gaming was not a problem with the T500, handling games such as BioShock at native 1680x1050 resolution at 15-20FPS. If you scaled the resolution back to 1280x800, 20-30FPS. Slightly less intensive games like Portal or Half-Life 2 ran even better, consistently averaging framerates above 40 even in high action scenes.

One unique aspect of the T500 is its ability to be able to switch between dedicated and integrated graphics with a simple click of an icon on the task bar. You can switch between the Intel X4500 graphics and the ATI 3650 chipset without rebooting, and doing so lets you conserve quite a bit of power if you don't need to game.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Heat and Noise

The cooling system worked very well, keeping overall system temperatures down, and doing so without making a ton of noise. At idle and under low activity the T500's fan stayed at a slow speed (nearly inaudible), keeping processor temperatures in the low 40C range, and GPU around 50C. While gaming, greater temperatures made the system fan speed up, but even at its highest speed it still seemed quieter than my T60. The outside temperatures are great in all situations besides gaming. Sitting around surfing the web or typing a document, the notebook is very cool and doesnt build up that much heat. Gaming is different, and the T500 gets much hotter all around the case, and gets some hot points on the bottom of the case.

Heat Under Stress/Gaming (listed in degrees Fahrenheit):

Battery Life

Unlike the T400 which saw a massive jump in battery life over the previous generation 14" notebook as a result of the LED-backlit screen, the T500's battery life was in line with the 15.4" T61. While the 9-cell battery in the T400 gave 7-8 hours of battery life, the same capacity in the T500 barely manages six hours. The key differences between each notebook are the screen size, backlit technology, and graphics card model, as all of the other options are identical.

In dedicated graphics mode, the screen brightness set to 60%, and wireless active the T500 managed 5 hours and 6 minutes before it shut itself down at 5% remaining. Even though it is still way under the T400 by a couple of hours, it is still very impressive for a 15" notebook. In integrated grahics mode with the same settings, the system squeezes out an hour and a half more, bringing the average consumption from about 13 watts down to 11 watts. The 9-cell battery gives you more than enough time to watch a movie or two on a flight, or even get some work done.

Speakers and Audio

The sound system on the T500 is fairly week compared to other mainstream notebooks, but that is fairly common for a business notebook. The speakers lack most all bass and midrange, but are find for watching the occasional movie or YouTube clip. Headphones are a much better option to enjoy music and video. The headphone jack on the T500 put out clean static free audio.

Ports and Features

The port selection on the T500 rates slightly above average, but still shows room for improvement. The DisplayPort is nice, but with current TV's and monitors finally starting to show HDMI, it would have been a better choice as the T500 cant output any resolution higher than the DVI spec. Three USB ports is cutting it close for a highend 15.4" notebook, and with them grouped together, if you have any large devices you will overlap. Moving past those complaints the rest of the port selection is fine. Some may argue that the headphone and microphone located on the front will cause problems, but there was no space what-so-ever left on the sides even if Lenovo wanted to mount them there.

Conclusion

The Lenovo T500 as a whole is a great step up from the T61, with a faster processor lineup, much better graphics card, better cooling, larger touchpad, and even a digital video output from the notebook itself. System performance was phenomenal, coming close to workstation or gaming notebook levels. What is not so great is the famed ThinkPad keyboard going floppy on us where they used to be rock solid. No matter if this change was to cut weight or cut costs, Lenovo should have known better not to mess with the most important part of ANY ThinkPad notebook. Don't get me wrong, the keyboard is still much nicer than a budget notebook keyboard, it just isn't as good as what it used to be.

Overall the Lenovo ThinkPad T500 is a fine notebook worthy of a spot on many office or dormroom tables, but it could have come closer to perfection if Lenovo didn't mess with the keyboard.

Pros

* Very powerful
* Cool and quiet under normal conditions
* Great battery life for a 15.4" notebook (5.25 hrs with dedicated graphics, almost 7 hours with integrated)
* Impressive switchable graphics, would you like gaming or battery life?

Cons

* ThinkPad with keyboard flex
* Screen could be brighter


Continue Read Lenovo T500 ThinkPad Review

Dell Latitude E6400 Review

Dell Latitude E6400
The Dell Latitude E6400 is a 14" laptop targeted towards businesses that need good performance, solid design, and a commonality of parts for an entire workforce. This notebook competes against such notebooks as the HP EliteBook 6930p and Fujitsu LifeBook S7220. The E6400 offers a wide range of hardware configurations, as well as Solid State Drives (SSDs) for the businesses that require extreme ruggedness and extreme performance. Should your company rush out and purchase the latest generation of Dell business notebooks? We took a closer look to find out.

Our review unit of the Dell Latitude E6400 came with the following options:

* Windows Vista Business (32-bit)
* Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P9500 (2.53GHz)
* 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM (maximum capacity 8GB)
* 160GB Hitachi HDD (7200rpm)
* 14.1" diagonal widescreen matte TFT LCD display at 1440x 900 (WXGA+, matte)
* 256MB nVidia Quadro NVS 160M (256MB dedicated plus shared memory)
* 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
* Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n)
* Bluetooth 2.1
* Dimensions: 1.1-1.3"(H) x 13.1(W) x 9.37"(D)
* Weight: 5.56 lbs
* 90W 100-240V AC adapter
* 9-cell (85Wh) Lithium Ion battery
* Price as tested: $2,148 (starting price: $1,139 ... $879 after instant savings)

Build and Design

Unlike the previous generation of Dell Latitude noteboks that featured rounded edges and curves, the Dell Latitude E-series features "down to business" industrial design. The chassis is entirely made of magnesium alloy with plenty of 90-degree edges and sharp angles. While the look is reasonably modern, it's also a little "old school" and could be mistaken for a 5-year old laptop from a distance. Still, the build and design speak volumes in terms of the overall durability of this notebook.

During testing no plastic creaks or squeaks could be heard thanks to the magnesium alloy structure. The entire bottom shell is a metal alloy which gives the laptop a strong footprint on your desk, and gives enough strength to resist bending if you hold the laptop by the edge of the palm rest walking around the room. The only downside to the chassis is that the alloy is thinner than expected in a few locations (more on that later). Another minor issue we noticed is that the bottom access panel on the E6400 really needs one extra screw on the bottom right corner next to the hard drive bay. The magnesium allow base plate smacks up against that corner of the notebook and makes an annoying metal tapping noise if you're typing on an uneven surface.

The heavy use of magnesium alloy carries over to the lid of the notebook, which has an attractive "brushed metal" design that isn't actually brushed metal but rather a painted surface. This immitation brushed metal surface is available in black, blue, or red to give businesses (and their employees) a way to customize the look of their business notebook. The finish itself seems quite durable and should survive years of use and abuse.

In addition to the overall design of the notebook itself, it's worth mentioning the new docking station for the E-series Latitude notebooks. Most businesses will likely use the E6400 with a docking station and an external monitor so that employees can have a mobile laptop when traveling and have a "desktop" computer at the office. Dell made a few changes to the Latitude docking station this year. In addition to relocating some ports they also added an extra USB port on the side and provide new DisplayPort connections for the latest external displays.




Screen

The matte WXGA+ (1440x900) screen on the Dell Latitude E6400 is absolutely beautiful. No dead pixels were found during testing, and backlight bleed while noticed on some dark screens was minimal. Colors were vibrant despite the matte screen and the additional benefit of matte screens is the lack of reflection in an office environment. Wide viewing angles made the screen look sharp even at oddly contorted angles. Backlight adjustment was very broad, allowing me to adjust low enough for darker room settings, and bright enough to still be readable in sunlight or a bright office.







One minor negative regarding the screen is that the notebook lid offers less than ideal protection for the screen. Although the allow lid is quite durable and should protect the lid from most impacts, the thin allow does flex and created "ripples" on the screen whenever pressure was allied to the back of the screen The release latch was smooth and unlike most latches on budget notebooks required little effort to release.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard and palm rest structure is solid, but the thin alloy used in the palmrests does flex a little when pressure is applied. Pressing down very firmly, the keyboard suffers from virtually zero flex and is a nice improvement over the older Dell Latitude D630.

The keyboard is very comfortable to type on, and gave just the right amount of response for each key press. Key travel is similar to most business notebooks with just a bit less clicking sound than what we hear on ThinkPads in our office. The keyboard layout was not cramped at all, and the keyboard backlighting allowed for typing in a dark room.

The Alps touchpad has a nice smooth texture and is reasonably responsive, but could be improved. Lag time and accuracy were worse than what we've seen on many competing business notebooks. The size of the touchpad surface was large enough for comfortable control and the two touchpad buttons spanned the full length of the touchpad, and each had a soft click when pressed. The touchpoint/trackpoint located in the center of the keyboard is a nice improvement over the touchpoint on the older D630, but again we found the touchpoints on business notebooks from Lenovo and HP to be more responsive and accurate. On the bright side, the touchpoint includes three mouse buttons for better control with tabbed web browsing.

Next to the touchpad on the right palmrest you'll also notice a SmartCard contact reader ... allowing employees to use their SmartCard security badges with their notebook without having to physically insert the SmartCard inside the notebook.

Performance and Benchmarks

The Dell Latitude E6400 as configured has more than enough speed and storage space to handle most users needs. The high-end Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 and nVidia Quadro NVS 160M combined with a reasonably fast hard drive make this laptop an excellent performer, for both lightweight multimedia uses and number crunching. Below are benchmarks to give you an idea of how this laptop might compare up against other notebooks on the market.

WPrime 32M comparison results

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

For those who are interested in replacing the standard hard disk drive in the E6400 with a high performance solid state drive (SSD), the E6400 is available with the following SSD options and prices:

* 64GB Dell Mobility Solid State Drive (add $499)
* 64GB Ultra Performance Solid State Drive (add $649)
* 128GB Dell Mobility Solid State Drive (add $649)

Speakers

The speakers on the E6400 were better than average for most laptops, comparable to speakers found on most small midrange televisions. While lower bass was lacking, volume levels were quite loud, and distortion at peak levels was not present. The speakers also have a great location that directs sound up and toward the user.

Speaking of great locations, it's also worth mentioning that the fingerprint reader is now located beneath the right speaker. This is a much better location than the palmrest or in between the touchpad buttons (where most manufacturers put the fingerprint reader) because it means you're less likely to accidentally trigger the fingerprint reader when you pick up the notebook or use the touchpad buttons.

Input and Output ports

Port selection was not a problem, although I would have enjoyed seeing a HDMI port, but the inclusion of a DisplayPort is a reasonable compromise and probably more useful in a corporate environment. Going around the notebook, we find the following ports

Left: Kensington lock slot, VGA out, powered USB port, combo USB/eSATA port, heat exhaust, SmartCard reader, and hard drive bay.

Front: Screen latch release and SD card reader.

Right: PC card slot (ExpressCard slot optional), Firewire, optical drive, Headphone/Mic, wireless switches, and two USB ports.

Rear: Modem, LAN, battery, DisplayPort, Power connector.



Heat and Noise

The E6400 controls heat extremely well ... even when the dual-core processor and GPU are crunching numbers and the hard drive is actively reading and writing data. Even after running PCMark05, 3DMark06 and wPrime multiple times during a one-hour period the exterior of the E6400 barely reached the triple-digit range in degrees Fahrenheit. More importantly, the hottest parts of the notebook are confined the the areas where you are less likely to touch the notebook. For example, if you're using the E6400 on you lap in an airport the hottest part of the notebook is located between your legs rather than directly where your legs come into contact with the notebook.

Simply put, the E6400 with hard drive stays remarkably cool even when the system is being heavily stressed. If you configure the notebook with a SSD instead of a hard drive you should have a notebook that runs even cooler. The images below show the external temperature readings in degrees Fahrenheit:



The fan noise was rarely loud enough to be heard in a quiet room unless the notebook was under extreme stress such as benchmarking or serious gaming.

Battery

Under normal web browsing use the 9-cell battery performed quite well, pushing out 4 hours and 22 minutes of life before going into hibernation mode at two percent. Screen brightness was at maximum and other items were set to "High Performance" in Dell's ControlPoint Power Manager. I also never let the notebook so to sleep during the battery test, so users should be able to get more than 4 hours and 22 minutes of battery life by selecting the "Dell Recommended" mode or "Power Saver" mode and letting the notebook go into sleep mode when not in use.

Dell's Latitude team takes a great deal of pride in the development of the new ControlPoint software. This one-stop control center for power management, display settings, network connections, and security settings. ControlPoint is indeed a great interface for novice computer users or anyone who wants to control these features in one location. However, if you're used to using the Windows power management interface, you're in for a rude awakening when you change settings for screen brightness, or sleep mode only to have the Dell ControlPoint software override your changes and reset them to what it believes they should be. Of course, if you simply use the ControlPoint software everything is fine, or you can just turn off the ControlPoint application if you prefer to use the Windows interface.

In any case, more than four hours of battery life gives you more than enough time for taking notes, surfing the web, or responding to emails throughout the day away from an outlet. For those road warriors who require "all-day" computing, Dell also offers a 12-Cell High Capacity Battery Slice ($399) that connects to the bottom of the E6400. Dell claims the when the E6400 is running on both the 9-cell battery and the 12-cell battery slice it can provide a full 19 hours of battery life. Unfortunately, we didn't have access to a battery slice for testing, but it's safe to say that such a configuration would easily produce double-digit battery life with the screen brightness turned down.

Conclusion

The Dell Latitude E6400 is a great performer and a solid replacement for the Dell Latitude D630. It seems to be built well enough to be thrown around in day-to-day use, and it's clear that Dell is trying to improve the Latitude line and offer compelling features ... like 19-hour battery life.

We really couldn't find any major reason to dislike the E6400, but there are a number of "minor annoyances" that could make some businesses look elsewhere. As we mentioned, although the E6400 proved to be quite durbale during our tests, the alloy chassis is thin in some locations which makes the notebook "feel" less durable than it actually is. We're certain the thinner alloy sections where used in order to keep weight as low as possible, but flex is something you don't want to see in a business notebook.

Overall, corporate clients who are looking for the next generation of business notebooks from Dell have plenty of reasons to buy the E6400. Dell made every effort to improve the Latitude family, and the E6400 is a great 14-inch business notebook. That said, there is some pretty strong competition such as the Lenovo ThinkPad T400 and HP EliteBook 6930p ... and those notebooks might prove to be better alternatives for some.

Pros:

* Very tough structure and rugged overall chassis design
* Excellent selection of ports and fantastic docking station
* Excellent battery life ... particularly with extra battery slice
* Solid performance
* Remains very cool where your body comes into contact with it

Cons:

* Industrial design (although cool) looks a little "unfinished"
* Build quality is durable, but alloy chassis feels thin in some spots
* ControlPoint software can be frustrating
* Trackpoint/touchpoint is better than the one on the D630, but still not great


Continue Read Dell Latitude E6400 Review

Intel X25-M SSD Review

Intel X25-M SSD
The new 80GB X25-M is the blazing fast SSD just released from Intel that has knocked our socks off in testing. Our first chance to take a look at this drive is inside the HP EliteBook 8530w where it screamed through every single test we threw at it. Not only did this drive increase performance substantially across the board, but we also saw a significant jump in battery life. In this review of the HP EliteBook 8530w we cover the changes before and after the SSD upgrade, and show you just what you’d be missing if you couldn’t scrap together the funds for this drive.

HP EliteBook 8530w Specifications:

* Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 Processor (2.53GHz, 6MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB)
* Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Business
* 15.4-inch WUXGA+ anti-glare (1920 x 1200)
* 512MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 770M Workstation GPU
* 4GB DDR2 800MHz RAM (2 x 2GB Configuration)
* 80GB Intel X25-M SSD (Up to 250MB/s Read, 70MB/s Write)
* Blu-Ray and DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
* WiFi, Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
* 8-Cell 73WHr Battery
* 3-Year on-site Warranty
* Dimensions: 1.1" x 14.0" x 10.4"
* Weight: 6.5lbs without power adapter, 8lbs with power adapter

Cost to upgrade

Everyone knows that you have to pay to play and with any upgrade to an SSD you need to pay quite a bit. At the time of this review the going street price of the 80GB Intel X25-M SSD is $660 online. On the HP website it will cost $524 to upgrade from a 160GB 7200RPM drive to the 80GB Intel SSD. You can also add a second hard drive or SSD in the EliteBook 8530w's Upgrade Bay (replaces the optical drive) for additional storage. The Intel SSD will be available for sale on the HP wibsite with the 8530w on October 20th. While the price is steep by itself, it is only about thirty percent of the overall price of the above notebook configuration, and less still when compared to drives currently on the market. This upgrade isn’t for everyone, but I can say if you take a chance on this drive you won’t be disappointed.

Performance boost

Out of all the notebooks I have reviewed, and countless system components, no single item has ever given the overall speed bump that we witnessed from the Intel X25-M SSD. With just a swap of hard drive our HP EliteBook saw a huge bump in system speed from the first boot with a fast initial system load and Vista configuration, as well as a super snappy user interface. Little things such as clearing off system bloatware, which normally takes a bit of time as the system deletes files off the hard drive, happened almost instantly. As soon as we would select an application to uninstall and give the final confirmation the notebook would blip progress window and close it in a fraction of a second. Something was noticeably different with this system configuration, and from the first benchmark we ran we started to see why.

HDTune reported speeds as high as 192MB/s in some benchmark runs, with the average settling in at 182MB/s. Compared to most SSD’s in the 90MB/s range, or even our last SSD review with the 64GB Samsung model with 130MB/s average, this was a huge bump in speed. When you compare it to the fastest notebook drives that barely peak 80MB/s, or even the 10,000RPM Velociraptor desktop drive that peaks at 123MB/s you start to see just how fast this drive is. It should also be mentioned that while smoking other drives, it also runs perfectly silent and consumes less power than most notebook hard drives. Under full load being benchmarked the Intel X25-M SSD puts off barely a hint of heat, feeling cool to the touch at 83 degrees Fahrenheit recorded by our temperature gun.

The next benchmark in our list is PCMark05, which saw an astonishing jump in score from 6,287 in our original review to 9,452 with the Intel SSD. This is over a 3,000 point jump from a drive upgrade and nothing else. Both 3DMark06 and PCMark Vantage saw boosts in performance, but not as big of a jump as PCMark05. 3DMark06 went from 5,230 in the original review to 5,847 with the SSD. PCMark Vantage jumped from 3,944 to 5,516, over a 25% bump.

Battery life boost

To get almost three times speed from a drive, you would expect that system power usage would increase at least a little bit. In the Bizarro world with the Intel X25-M we saw the exact opposite, with power consumption levels dropping by more than 20%. In terms of real life performance under the same testing procedure using the balanced power profile, brightness set to 60%, and wireless enable battery life increased by 1 hour. In the original review we found battery life to top out at 3 hours and 38 minutes, and after the SSD upgrade the system managed 4 hours and 38 minutes before it went into sleep mode at 5% battery life remaining.

Conclusion

Intel really made a winning product with the X25-M 80GB SSD, blowing previous performance SSD models out of the water, while still being light on power consumption and heat output. While still pricy at $660 compared to standard hard drives, it isn’t nearly as bad as what SSDs used to cost even six months ago. For those looking to add this option to your notebook during customization, you are looking at $524 from HP at this time. In my eyes this is the best single upgrade for a notebook on the market, outside of going from an Intel Celeron to Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

Pros:

* Super fast
* Low heat
* Improves battery life
* Single best individual component upgrade!

Cons:

* High price


Continue Read Intel X25-M SSD Review