Tag Archives: laptops

Toshiba Satellite L655-S5161Reviews

26 Apr

The good: The 15-inch Toshiba Satellite L655-S5161 is a good entry point for midsize laptops with Intel’s second-gen Core i-series processors, and we’ve always liked the company’s sleep-and-charge USB ports.

The bad: The design is strictly no-frills, and there are no high-speed data ports, such as USB 3.0 or eSATA. Plus, we hate the shortened spacebar on the keyboard.

The bottom line: Though not particularly inspiring, the basic 15-inch Toshiba Satellite L655 has a current-gen CPU and can be found for around $600, making it a worthwhile budget choice.

With numerous laptops spread across its L, C, A, M, T, E, W, and R series, Toshiba may not run out of new product lines until it runs out of letters. We’re pretty sure the midprice L series is above the entry-level C series tech gadgets, and below the premium A series, but that’s as far into Toshiba’s numerology (letterology?) as we’re willing to delve.

That said, these L-series laptops (which carry the Satellite name) have always been workhorse machines, closest perhaps to Dell’s Insprions; they typically include decent mainstream parts for $500 to $650. The latest version, called the Satellite L655-S5161, has Intel’s second-gen Core i3 processor, basic integrated graphics, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive–about as generic a loadout as a budget-minded laptop can get.

For less than $650 (we’ve seen it for as little as $619), it’s not a door-busting bargain, and we were able to configure a comparable Dell for the same $619. But extra features, such as the sleep-and-charge USB ports (which can power phones and other devices even when the laptop is off) give it a leg up on the similarly priced competition.

Toshiba covers the L655, as most of its recent Satellites, with a dark silvery gray pattern, under one of the glossiest finishes we’ve ever seen. It could probably pick up fingerprints from someone just looking at it. Inside, the same pattern follows through to the keyboard tray and wrist rest, but the keyboard itself is jet black.

The body feels sturdy, but the trade-off is a thick, chunky laptop that isn’t going to win any modeling contracts. It’s also about a pound heavier than a 14-inch Satellite L-series laptop we looked at last year, so we wouldn’t suggest lugging it around on your daily commute (a couple of days per week is probably fine).

Flat-topped, island-style keyboards are the norm now, and Toshiba has had nearly the same one on its last several generations of Satellite laptops. The 15-inch version includes a separate number pad, with very generous number keys, as well as large Shift, Tab tech gadgets, and other useful keys. However, Toshiba has not yet fixed its main keyboard flaw: an aggravatingly shortened spacebar, which can be murder for touch typists.

The matte multitouch touch pad lies flush with the rest of the keyboard deck and can get a little lost under your fingers, but it’s well-complemented by a pair of large mouse buttons, which have a shiny surface and a convex shape for no discernible reason.

Toshiba continues to include the genuinely useful sleep-and-charge feature, which lets you use a USB port to power or recharge devices such as a mobile phone or media player, even if the laptop is asleep or off, via either the battery or AC power.

Also included are a couple of proprietary media/productivity apps. Book Place is an e-book reader/store, powered by a company called Blio (’cause it’s really hard to find places to buy e-books online). And we’ve seen Toshiba’s ReelTime before; it’s essentially a system history browser, displaying recent documents and Web pages in thumbnail form along the bottom of the screen.

The 15.6-inch display features a 1,366×768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for the size. Movies and 720p HD video look fine, although the glossy screen coating can pick up glare from nearby lights. A pair of narrow speaker grills sits right above the keyboard, but they didn’t push out much volume.

The tech gadgets of Toshiba Satellite L655’s connection options are on the bare bones side, as it doesn’t have Bluetooth, USB 3.0, or eSATA. You can’t expect too much for around $600, but we think a high-speed data port of some kind is essential these days for many users.

While this year’s Intel processors (still called the Core-i series, but the second generation of them) have shown distinct performance and battery life improvements over last year’s versions, the difference is more pronounced in the more mainstream Core i5 chips. With a lower-end 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M, you’ll get a perfectly fine system for general laptop use, from multitasking to HD video playback, but other recent laptops, including Toshiba’s 13-inch Portege R835 tech gadgets, performed better. But, unless you’re doing a lot of high-end video editing, it’s unlikely to slow down or stutter under even a heavy multitasking workload.

Intel’s new integrated graphics are better than last year’s, but still not a substitute for a dedicated GPU. In Street Fighter IV, running at 1,366×768 pixels, we got 16.1 frames per second, while our older Unreal Tournament III test, at the same resolution, ran at 58.6 frames per second. That means basic gaming is possible, if you dial down settings and resolutions (and games such as World of Warcraft should play fine), but this isn’t going to be a heavy-duty gaming rig.

Source from CNET

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 confirmed, faster-charging integrated battery detailed

25 Apr

Yesterday’s speculation has turned into today’s fact. The ultraslim Lenovo ThinkPad X1 electronic gadgets are most definitely real, coming soon, and just so happens to be packing some fancy new battery technology as well. This intel comes straight from Lenovo’s own servers, where a highly informative PDF (intended for reseller partners, but accessible to all) dishes the dirt on the upcoming laptop.

The X1’s “slice” battery won’t be user-replaceable, but what you lose in flexibility will be made up for in sheer performance gains, as Lenovo is touting it’ll last three times as long as a normal battery and will recharge 2.5 times faster than previous ThinkPad cells. That’s thanks to some fanciness named RapidCharge that will revitalize the X1 to 80 percent within 30 minutes.

The presentation slides show the X1 electronic gadgets right alongside Lenovo’s latest Edge models, the E420s and E220s, as part of “a new generation of ThinkPads,” and given that both of those are now shipping, the ultraslim, but still unannounced, X1 can’t be far behind. Finally, just for some added intrigue, we’ve also spotted mention of an “X Slate” within the document — any ideas as to what that might look like?

Source from Engadget

ThinkPad Edge E220s available now for $749, runs spreadsheets like the wind

21 Apr

Lenovo has been on a bit of a tear recently. Heck, it was only yesterday that the sleek and powerful X220 and X220T tech gadgets went up for sale online. Today it’s the ThinkPad Edge E220s getting some “buy now” love.

This more budget-friendly, 3.25-pound ultraportable is shipping to consumers starting at $749 with a 250GB hard drive, Intel HD 3000 graphics, a Sandy Bridge-class Core i5, and a paltry 2GB of RAM.

You can bump that to 4GB and a Core i7, but any further upgrades will have to be performed after-market. We’re sure you didn’t expect to do a ton of heavy tasks, like video editing, on a 12.5-inch screen anyway.

sourceLenovo

ASUS works Sandy Bridge magic on thin-and-light U31E, U31SD, and U36SD

19 Apr

It appears that ASUS is finally ready to show its line of thin-and-light machines some Sandy Bridge love. Swedish site Technytt claims to have the exclusive scoop on a trio of laptops — the U31SD, U31E, and U36SD — that will find their way to retail channels in late May. The U31SD electronic gadgets are already showing up on the ASUS site, with the option of either a Core i5 2410M or Core i3 2310M , and a choice of Intel integrated graphics or a 1GB GeForce GT 520M card. All three 13.3-inch machines will reportedly have similar specs, though the U31E will supposedly lack a discrete graphics option. The U31SD tips the scales at a perfectly portable 3.9 pounds and it’s safe to assume the U36SD electronic gadgets will match up size-wise with the svelte U36JG, which is just 0.75-inches thick and weighs 3.5 pounds. There’s no official word from ASUS regarding price or availability .

Source from Engadget

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11

12 Apr


With IT directors eking out every scrap of value from their budget in the coming months, we can expect to see a slew of cheap business laptops. Lenovo’s is an ll.6in ultraportable -albeit barely scraping into this category – that prioritizes battery life and power over sleekness.
For this is no MacBook Air 11 in. Weighing 1.53kg and measuring 31 mm at the rear, it looks and feels distinctly podgy. In fact, it’s almost the same chassis as the ThinkPad x100e tech gadgets.
The similarities stretch to the D-SUB out and power socket either side of the protruding six-cell battery, and to their battery life: the x100e gave us 6hrs 34mins of light use; the Edge 11 6hrs 32mins.
The big difference comes inside, with a low-voltage 1.33GHz Intel Core i3-380UM replacing the lackluster AMD Neo MV-40. And that transforms it. Where the x100e was essentially a netbook rival capable of only basic tasks, the Edge – with its 4GB of RAM -produced a fine 0.89 in our benchmarks.
You could just about use the Edge as a main PC, and its corporate credentials are enhanced by a Gigabit Ethernet port. Note, though, that there’s no docking station port: you’ll need to slot a USB docking station into one of the three USB 2 ports. One of those ports is powered too, so you can charge accessories even when the Edge 11 is asleep.
Lenovo includes a single 3.5mm jack, so Skype callers wishing to use the webcam should take note that their existing headsets may not work. A little incongruously, there’s an HDMI port to go with the memory card slot for SD, MMC and Memory Stick/Pro media for these tech gadgets.
There’s no discrete graphics chip, but Intel’s HD Graphics are enough to ensure 720p videos play without stuttering. They’ll look good too. The display is a cut above that of the x100e, with a glossy finish adding vibrancy to movies. Photos look superb too, and even in everyday work use it’s a pleasure to gaze at.
The keyboard feels surprisingly close to the ThinkPads of old, despite the Scrabble-tile design. Purists may not like the reduced key travel, but we reached high typing speeds without any issues: the only compromises are the Page Up and Down squeezed into the cursor key area. Consolation comes in the form of a touchpad and TrackPoint making it easier to use in confined spaces when travelling.
The Edge should survive the daily commute as well, with Lenovo’s usual high build quality evident in the sturdy chassis. There is arguably a little too much flexibility in the lid, but we’d be happy to throw this ThinkPad into a rucksack.
There’s also an AMD equivalent that uses a 1.3GHz Athlon II Neo K325, integrated Mobility Radeon 4225 graphics and 4GB of RAM. It lasted a similar 6hrs 29mins of light use, but scored 0.67. Factor in the £659 exc VAT early pricing and the fact the AMD version comes with Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Professional here, and we’d stick with Intel for now.
Of the two new Intel models, unless 3G is vital the lesser 2GB one looks a bargain. Had that been the unit on review here you’d likely be looking at an award; at close to £400 it’s an attractive budget business choice. Our sample’s appeal is diminished by rising above £500. Still, both tech gadgets deliver performance way beyond netbooks, and give IT managers a cheap, well-made business laptop that’s also a pleasure to use.

Toshiba Portege R835-P56X Reviews

1 Apr

 

The good: With a new Intel Core i5 CPU, sharp design, and nearly all-day battery life, the Toshiba Portege R835 is a smartly priced alternative to the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The bad: Intel’s integrated graphics are better than they used to be, but still not gamer-friendly, and features such as Bluetooth and mobile broadband are missing from some configs.

The bottom line: With three more hours of battery life over last year’s model, Toshiba’s new R800 series of Portege laptops are hard to beat, even in the highly competitive 13-inch laptop category.

 

Any laptop reviewer has a handful of go-to systems ready to recommend at a moment’s notice. Recent favorites include Apple’s latest MacBook Pros and HP’s AMD-powered Pavilion dm1. One of our favorite electronic gadgets from last year was Toshiba’s Portege R700 series. At the time we said, “The quest for the perfect laptop is ultimately fruitless….That said, the new Toshiba Portege R705 comes about as close as anything we’ve seen this year, offering a great mix of price, design, features, and performance.”

Over time, however, the R705 lost some of its luster, as newer laptops moved to Intel’s second generation of Core i-series CPUs, which promised better performance and longer battery life. Fortunately, Toshiba is ready with a new Portege series, this time called the R800. Nearly physically identical to the R700, the new models (we’ve got the $929 Toshiba Portege R835-P56X) add current-gen Intel CPUs, along with USB 3.0, while keeping the same magnesium alloy chassis and thin, lightweight design. The biggest surprise is the vastly improved battery life, topping 7 hours, and beating even the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

A few different configurations include or exclude Bluetooth or Intel’s Wireless Display technology, or drop to a slower Core i3 processor, so check the features list carefully, especially as the price difference between most configs is only about $30.

Much like last year’s R700 series electronic gadgets, the R835 has a subtle dark blue tint to its brushed-metal magnesium alloy chassis. The body feels sturdy despite its light weight, but this is not nearly as thin as Samsung’s Series 9 or the MacBook Air–both of which are much more expensive. Sadly, this new version keeps the one visual element we disliked last time: the overly chromed screen hinges, which just look cheap.

The keyboard, like most current consumer laptop keyboards, uses flat, widely spaced island-style keys, except these keys are slightly more rectangular than most, which may throw off touch typists. This does, however, leave more room for the oversize touch pad, which is close to what you’d see on a MacBook, except with a pair of large standalone left and right mouse buttons.

Toshiba’s keyboards typically have a vertical row of dedicated page-up, page-down, home, and end keys along the right side. This makes them easy to find, but at the same time pushes the Enter and Right Shift keys in from where you’d instinctively expect them to be. Media control buttons, volume, mute, etc., can also be hard to find, relegated to alternate F-key assignments and indicated on dark gray on black keys. Like the R705, the R835 lacks a backlit keyboard; for $900 it should be a standard feature. Despite these flaws, the R835 still offers an excellent overall typing and touch pad experience.

Returning for the second year is a handful of custom Toshiba software utilities. ReelTime displays recent documents and Web pages in thumbnail form along the bottom of the screen, and Bulletin Board combines photos and notes in a single workspace. Both are slick, usable programs, but they’re proprietary and require a time investment in learning them, which you may not want to bother with unless you’re dedicated to using only Toshiba computers.

The 13.3-inch LED display has a native resolution of 1,366×768 pixels–roughly comparable with the MacBook’s 1,280×800 pixels, but less than the 1,440×900-pixel 13-inch display found in the 13-inch MacBook Air electronic gadgets. Though bright, the off-axis viewing angles on the R835 weren’t great, and we’ve never been impressed with the onboard audio in the Portege laptops.

Our configuration of the R835 included a fast Intel Core i5 processor; other configurations trade down to a Core i3, but also include Bluetooth, WiMax, and Intel’s Wireless Display, for beaming video signals to an eternal display (via a sold-separately HDMI receiver). It can be confusing to mix and match among them, so make sure the model you’re looking at has the features and components you want.

With a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M, 4GB of RAM,and a 640GB 5,400rpm hard drive, our Portege R835 ran slightly behind the newest Sandy Bridge Core i5 MacBook Pro, by a small amount in single-app tests, but by a larger margin in our multitasking test. Both outperformed Samsung’s 9 Series 13-inch, which also has a new Intel CPU, but of the low-voltage variety. While the Series 9 is thinner and all-around sexier, the Portege R835 was much faster than the Samsung in all of our tests. It’s also worth noting that you could almost buy two Portege R835 laptops for the cost of a single Samsung Series 9 electronic gadgets.

The latest Intel integrated graphics are better than those from last year, but that still won’t make this a great option as a dedicated gaming machine. In our older Unreal Tournament III test, the game ran at 63.9 frames per second at 1,366×768 pixels, which is respectable. But in a newer game, Street Fighter IV, we got 27 frames per second at the same resolution, just short of playable.

Read more: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/toshiba-portege-r835-p56x/4505-3121_7-34449812.html#ixzz1IEZC6EtO

The Archos Arnova 10 Trades High Amounts Of Memory For A Lower Price

31 Mar

Archos quietly became the favorite low-cost Android tablet maker of fanboys everywhere thanks to a solid 2010 offering. The company’s Arnova brand builds upon the same formula with even cheaper tablets. The secret sauce? The bare minimum amount of internal memory. But buyers might overlook that little detail especially with the Arnova 10 electronic gadgets shipping for only $180.

Under the Arnova 10′s 1024 x 600 10-inch screen is an ARM-based CPU running Android 2.1, 802.11 b/g, front-facing camera and an SDHC slot. Archos says there’s enough computing juice to handle 720p video . The only downside is the 4GB of internal memory, but the SDHC slot effectively counters that altogether. Liliputing points out that the model carries a $199 MSRP but can be found for $180.

 

Source from CrunchGear

Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A (13-inch) Reviews

31 Mar

The good: A thin, stylish design, long battery life, excellent screen, and a new second-generation Intel Core i5 CPU make the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A one of the best ultrathin Windows laptops we’ve ever seen.

The bad: The Series 9’s way-too-high sticker price makes the MacBook Air look downright affordable by comparison; the flexy case design doesn’t feel as good as the MacBook Air’s, either.

The bottom line: The $1,649 Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A certainly won’t be for every wallet, but this light, well-featured, and striking 13-incher is the closest the Windows world will ever come to a MacBook Air. However, its higher-than-the-Air price will be hard to stomach.

If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then consider the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A to be a direct response to Apple’s MacBook Air electronic gadgets. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen two laptops so seemingly intertwined–in purpose, design, performance, and even price. For all that you could love about a MacBook Air, nearly the same could be said for the sleek, black Series 9, a 13-inch laptop packed with exceptional design and undeniable geek appeal.

At $1,649, the real question will be whether you’re able to afford it. Weighing 2.9 pounds and packing a 1.4 GHz second-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD drive, it’s got some of the best performance-per-pound that we’ve ever seen. It starts fast and feels great to work on. However, this laptop makes MacBook Air look like a bargain by comparison, and that’s saying something: the 13-inch Air starts at just $1,299 for that same 128GB SSD drive (although with half the RAM). Amazingly, the $1,649 configuration is the low end for the Series 9–there’s also a $1,699 version that adds Windows 7 Professional, which is the configuration we were sent for review. That price is 15-inch MacBook Pro territory–lofty, indeed.

We’ve seen high-end design-heavy Windows laptops before, though not for a while–the Dell Adamo and Adamo XPS come to mind. The Series 9 is a better overall laptop than those–but if this laptop were $1,000, we’d really be far more bullish.

As it is, $1,649 is way above standard laptop pricing landscape (at least it comes standard with a three-year warranty). This is a luxury system, especially with $400-range 11.6-inch AMD Fusion laptops presenting pretty reasonable alternatives.

If you’re a Windows laptop user but have been secretly envying devices like the MacBook Air, clenching your hands uncontrollably at night for a Windows analogue–and price is no object– then your gleaming onyx savior has arrived. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the 11-inch Series 9 coming in about a month, which will cost a little less–or, find a more affordable alternative, provided you can live without supersleek duraluminum. But, if you can stomach the sticker price, this is one of the best, thin, usable ultraportable PCs we’ve ever come across.

The Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A has an instantly eye-catching look: sleek brushed-black metal (duralumin, a material used in aircraft construction), with gracefully curved edges around the back, give the thin laptop the appearance of a blade, or a cross-section of a wing with aerofoil. It’s also extremely light: unlike the surprisingly dense iPad, the Series 9 actually feels lighter in the hand than you’d expect. At 2.9 pounds, it’s nearly identical to the 13-inch MacBook Air.

This laptop is a bit thicker, though: by our measurements, about 0.64 inch at its thickest. While the MacBook Air measured 0.68 inch at its thickest, the front edge of the Air comes to a thinner point. The Series 9 electronic gadgets feel and looks thicker, but these differences are small quibbles. Both laptops are functionality super-thin and pack flat into bags, adding little bulk.

Inside, the Series 9 laptop has more brushed metal, but also some glossy plastic trim around parts of the screen area and keyboard. The top lid feels too flexible when opening and closing, and part of the chassis even exhibited small squeaks when we pressed down on it. That’s not to say the construction isn’t very solid, but it just doesn’t feel as rock solid as Apple’s MacBook Air. It’s miles above similar thin Windows laptops, however, even if we expected more for $1,600-plus.

The tiny AC adapter is more akin to the size of many smartphone chargers, with a removable plug that can be replaced with travel tips. The plug goes into the rear of the Series 9’s left side, jutting out. It’s not the elegant solution that Apple’s flush magnetic power cord is, and the charger’s awkward wall-wart size makes it a challenging fit for some outlets.

Going with an SSD drive has afforded the Series 9 with faster boot-up times: by our stopwatch, the NP900X3A took 24 seconds from a cold boot-up. That’s faster than many Windows laptops, but slower than the relatively lightning-quick MacBook Air. The Series 9 electronic gadgets have another neat trick up its sleeve: closing the lid puts the laptop straight into a no-power hibernation state. The Series 9 woke up from hibernation after lifting the lid in just 6 seconds. For most people, this is how they’ll use the laptop, charging up as needed.

The 13.3-inch screen has a matte finish, which stands against nearly every other consumer laptop. Some will love this–many people gripe that the MacBooks are far too glossy. On the Series 9, the matte finish definitely helps images and text pop in brightly lit areas. The screen has a maximum resolution of 1,366×768 pixels, but its brightness and viewable angles surpass many other laptops we’ve seen. Movies and pictures look excellent, with stellar viewing angles that don’t degrade no matter how far the screen is tilted. (We hate to keep comparing to the MacBook Air, but its resolution in case you’re curious is a higher 1,440×900. Still, we think the Series 9 screen looks even better.)

On to that keyboard and touch pad: simply put, they rock. The keyboard’s so similar in feel and size to the MacBook Air that it looks pressed from the same mold. The keys have less height than raised keyboards on larger laptops, but extended typing felt snappy and responsive. The keyboard is backlit, too, unlike the MacBook Air’s. The large multitouch clickpad uses Synaptics Series 3 technology. While it’s not a “click anywhere” pad (it uses a lever-style clicking mechanism, like Apple’s MacBooks), its image-sensing technology and accuracy rivals most other laptops. The matte glass surface feels great and is amply sized for multifinger gestures. It’s not as big as the epic one on the MacBook Air, but it’s awfully close.

The stereo speakers hide behind tiny grilles at the front side edges, barely visible unless you tilt and check. The volume and sound quality is more than good enough for movies, TV shows and Webchat, even music, though they’re obviously not going to surpass a good pair of headphones. The included 1.3 megapixel Webcam has a maximum resolution of 1,280×1,024 pixels, with pictures and light sensitivity that are better than average; the bundled ArcSoft YouCam software has a number of weird backdrops and effects for you to play with, too.

Ports and connections are always a challenge on ultraslim laptops, and the Series 9 is no exception. The newest MacBook Air only has two USB ports and no Ethernet port (it costs $29 extra as a USB dongle), but has an SD card slot. Comparatively, the Series 9 electronic gadgets have it beat on paper: HDMI, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, and Ethernet connectivity. But, these ports are accessed via two flip-down doors on either side, and some require converter cables. A proprietary port connects to an included dongle that has an Ethernet port; a mini-HDMI-out jack is included, but requires the proper cable to use; and a microSD card slot is included instead of standard SD. If you want to transfer pictures from your camera, you’re back to being stuck with a USB SD card adapter. One of the two USB ports allows sleep-and-charge (powering a plugged-in USB device while the Series 9 is hibernating or shut down).

A small annoyance–or convenience, depending on how you like your ports–is that all of these ports are hidden away behind tiny flip-down doors on either side of the Series 9’s chassis, tucked away under a sloping edge. They’re shades of what used to be on the first-generation MacBook Air. We were concerned the doors were flip shut once we laid the laptop down on a table, but as long as the surface was even and flat, we found no problems. Plugging in lots of cables at once could get messy, though.

The included 4GB of RAM can be expanded up to 8GB; however, you’re stuck with 128GB of SSD storage space. Apple’s Air electronic gadgets offer double the space–256GB–on its $1,599 13-inch configuration. The default 128GB will be enough for some, but it falls short for those who want to put their whole media lives on a single laptop.

Read more: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/samsung-series-9-np900x3a/4505-3121_7-34510063.html#ixzz1I8ikexZq

Toshiba Satellite L655-S5098 – P P6100

29 Mar

The Toshiba Satellite L655-S5098 – P P6100 features a 15.6” HD display with LED backlighting. Even on the go this Satellite electronic gadgets offer full mobility with high performance. Users expect many features and this L series support all aspects of the users day to day digital lives. The RAM memory is 3 GB/ 8GB maximum with the DDR3 SDRAM- 1066 MHz technology. The picture quality is good in the video graphic processor because of the Intel HD graphics Dynamic Video Memory Technology5.0. AC 120/230 voltages are powered externally, and 6-cell Lithium ION keeps the system charged for up to 5 hours.

Gateway NV51B05u – Fusion E350 1.6GHz – 15.6-inch TFT

28 Mar

The good: The Gateway NV51B05u is a functional midsize laptop for less than $500 that also offers basic graphics capabilities.

The bad: This is the very definition of a plastic laptop, it looks and feels like the budget system that it is, and battery life in other new AMD Fusion laptops can be much better.

The bottom line: Taking a CPU intended for an 11-inch ultraportable and sticking it in a midsize system can potentially be a recipe for disaster. Gateway’s 15-inch AMD Fusion-based NV51B05u avoids any major problems, but it could be better.

We don’t like cheap laptops, but we love inexpensive ones. The difference is one of degree; a cheap laptop looks and feels shoddy, and woefully underperforms. An inexpensive laptop uses its budget wisely, offering a reasonable mix of components at a reasonable price, and doesn’t try to unfairly raise consumer expectations. AMD’s Fusion platform, which packs a CPU and discrete GPU together, has been a hit on inexpensive 11-inch ultraportables, but translating it to a larger 15-inch laptop is another story. At that size, user expectations are quite different, and the handful of attempts we’ve seen at using an Intel Atom or other low-power chip in a midsize laptop have all been failures.

The Toshiba Satellite C655D, for example, was an AMD Fusion 15-inch laptop that did not offer satisfactory performance. However, that system used the very low-end E-240 version of AMD’s CPU. In contrast, the electronic gadgets of  Gateway NV51B05u use the same E-350 AMD CPU found in the HP dm1 and Lenovo ThinkPad X120e. Those examples are excellent 11-inch laptops for around $400, but that CPU can also feel sluggish, especially while multitasking, when packed into a 15-inch shell.

But for $469, the Gateway NV51B05u is a solid choice for a midsize laptop under $500 (where the options can be thin). For most Web surfing and casual use, it works well, and the graphics capabilities, though basic, are good enough for casual gaming and online video viewing.

The Gateway NV51B05u looks like a standard inexpensive laptop from a few feet away. It’s not until you get up close that you see the plastic body has been stamped with an unusual wood-grain pattern that covers the wrist rest and back of the lid. It’s at least different from the usual, but it also emphasizes the plastic nature of the materials. In the end, we’d chalk it up as an aesthetic choice, and let you decide if it’s a deal breaker.

On the positive side, the system looks and feels slim, especially for a budget 15-incher, and the power brick, though heavy, is compact enough to fit in most laptop bags.

The keyboard will be familiar to anyone who has used a laptop from the past few generations of Gateway systems. Closely spaced flat-topped keys go from nearly one end of the body to the other, although the keys are actually large flat tops sitting on top of narrower spokes, so the edges of each key can wobble a bit. The wider 16:9 aspect ratio allows for a full number pad on the right side.

The touch pad, however, is another story. It’s centered under the QWERTY keyboard, but because of the right-side number pad, that means the touch pad sits more toward the left side of the chassis, which can feel awkward at times. A bigger problem is that the pad is too small for a 15-inch laptop tech gadgets. It gets lost in the same-color wrist rest, and there’s clearly plenty of room for a bigger touch pad. Also bugging us is that there’s a single rocker bar instead of separate left and right mouse buttons–a longtime pet peeve.

The 15.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366×768 pixels, which is common for most 11-inch to 15-inch laptops (more-expensive midsize models may trade up to a 1,440×900-pixel display). The screen gets more than bright enough, but an overly glossy coating picks up glare from any nearby light source. Off-axis viewing, however, was excellent.

You miss out on obvious extras such as Bluetooth or USB 3.0 here, but a more glaring drawback is the single monaural speaker–however, budget laptops are known for their tinny sound, so you may not be missing much. Still, it’s a rare bit of cost-cutting we usually only see in the cheapest Netbooks.

You do at least get a big 500GB hard drive to go with the AMD E-350 CPU. In our benchmark tests, it performed about as well as other E-350 laptops, all of which have been 11-inch systems so far. It was particularly slow at our multitasking test, especially compared with Intel’s new generation of mainstream Core i-series CPUs, which have really set a new performance bar, but we have yet to see one of those chips in a system in this price range. Note that the Gateway seriously outperformed the Toshiba Satellite C655D, which tried to get away with a slower E-250 AMD CPU in a 15-inch body.

The AMD Radeon HD 6310 GPU, which is the graphics part of the Fusion platform, is a definite step up from the integrated graphics found in last year’s sub-$500 laptops. It won’t play the latest high-end games at high resolutions, but for casual gaming it should suffice, and we were able to easily stream full-screen HD video. In Street Fighter IV, we got 21.4 frames per second at 1,366×768-pixel resolution, and 23.5fps in Unreal Tournament 3 at the same resolution. Coolest gadgets!

Read more: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/gateway-nv51b05u-fusion-e350/4505-3121_7-34539947.html#ixzz1HrB6CGz7