14" Widescreen: Most Optimal Solution? 10 Contemporary Notebooks Roundup

Today we are going to take a look at 10 contemporary notebook models that boast one common feature: they all have 14-inch widescreen display. Will these solutions prove great business companions? Read more about solutions from ASUS, Acer, LG, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

by Vasily Melnik
06/07/2006 | 10:56 PM

It seems that notebooks with widescreen displays have come to stay. In the portable sector (12” and smaller) there are almost no classic notebooks with a display aspect ratio of 4:3 except for a very few models from major brands. The advantages of a wide display have been touted by so many marketers that common users should have long taken in the idea that they must be using such a wonderful thing just everywhere they possibly can. But if you were just to delve deeper into this matter and see whence the wide-format picture comes from, you would learn a few curious facts.

 

We all know that the wide screen comes to computers from the cinema, but there are several opinions as to where it had come to the cinema from. Knowing the human nature a little, I’m inclined to believe the version that holds money as the main force behind the rise of the 16:9 format. It all began in America, more exactly in Hollywood, and with something Hollywood then had little to do with. I mean television. As people bought more TV boxes that displayed a 4:3 picture, the cinema-makers from Hollywood got alarmed at declining audiences in cinema houses – people just wouldn’t go to the cinema because they could watch movies at home. And so the wide screen was invented and marketed as the main alluring feature of the cinema house. Some people from the industry even say that until quite recently a couple of shutters that cropped the picture from top and bottom were placed on the ordinary camera when shooting movies. And nobody cared that this “wide-format” picture was written on 4:3 film. So, if this story is true, the claims that the wide screen is the best solution for presentation of visual information are nothing else but wishful thinking.

The general trend towards the wide screen is all right for the home users, though – even soap operas are now being shot in the wide format so that the ordinary consumer could fully enjoy his/her new plasma or LCD TV-set, but it’s not all so clear with computers. Long-time users of notebooks are not so eager to transition to the fashionable widescreen matrix. I don’t talk about new users because their choice is predetermined by the advertisements and the seller who shows them how a new DVD looks on a widescreen display, but people who have worked with the classic display are in no hurry to replace it just because the classic display is better when it comes to work. It’s just not convenient to perceive information in long strings, and most information you process with a computer is text – in form of documents and web-pages, etc. It’s only in large Excel spreadsheets or in programs like Photoshop where you can tuck the numerous toolboxes away into the sides of the screen that the wide display is indeed superior.

Well, since we have to put up with this format in near future, it’s one of the goals of this review to check how comfortable we’ll feel. The main argument in favor of wide LCD panels is that they can display more information while having the same area. The vertical resolution of a majority of business-oriented models has remained the same as in the classic display, i.e. 768 pixels, or even got bigger to 800 pixels. The matrix has only got wider, which results in a more compact notebook. And compactness is a weighty argument in favor of the wide screen. Even loyal users of classic notebooks have to accept that it was not easy to open one up in a cramped environment like in the back seat of a car or in an economy-class seat in a plane: the lid rests upon the back of the seat in front of you and it’s a trouble to take a good look at the screen. This problem doesn’t exist with widescreen notebooks – the typical 14” model can be opened up just everywhere (well, if you need real comfort in cramped conditions, you may want to consider transformer notebooks on the Tablet PC platform, but this not the subject of this review). The tradeoff is that the reduction of the physical size of the display, while the vertical resolution remains the same (or even bigger in some matrixes), results in a smaller picture on the screen. This is critical for text processing since you don’t need empty margins on the document’s sides.

So, here’s what we’ve come to in the end: notebooks are and will be equipped with widescreen displays. Moreover, this wide display is steadily ousting the classic design in the two most popular “traveling” categories, i.e. notebooks with a screen diagonal of 12” and 14”. And even though you personally didn’t ask for it, the manufacturers are once again making your life better and earning their money on that. There is actually not much you can gripe about comparing a wide display with a classic one: yes, you now have unnecessary margins when viewing Web-pages and typical documents, but this is compensated by light weight, small size, and large screen area as well as by the advantages when working with spreadsheets or watching movies. The weight/size considerations alone are enough to make the wide screen popular in the business sector – the rest are just nice extras. As for actual implementation, let’s have a look at the notebooks to be tested in this review.

Testing Participants

Acer TravelMate 3222WXMi

I’ll start off with this rather fresh model from Acer.

The device is agreeable to the eye and to the touch and would look equally well on a desk and in your hands. This computer features the exclusive folio design the point of which is to make the notebook look as a document folder rather than what it actually is.

 

Well, I wouldn’t say the designers met their goal. The texture and color of the material cannot conceal the simple fact that this is a typical notebook. You can only mistake this thing for a folder if you are looking at it from the front and a little from above, and only at dusk. Well, it’s just the job of the marketing department to come up with pretty names and their explanations. We’d better move on to details. There are no special surprises or odd solutions here:

Besides the speakers’ grids, there are power source indicators and buttons to turn on/off wireless interfaces (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) on the front panel.

There are two audio connectors on the left – for your headphones and microphone.

I really can’t understand why they have to put these connectors on the front panel – that’s not the best place for them. But it’s good that Acer moved them to the left so that the attached cables didn’t get in your way.

The rear panel is typical of Acer’s notebooks of this class:

Besides the battery which dominates the notebook’s back, there is a power connector, one USB port and a port for an external port-replicator here.

The latter connector is uniform on all Acer notebooks, so you shouldn’t have any incompatibility problems.

On the right side there is an optical drive, some vent openings, and a Kensington lock.

The left panel is a more populated place:

A D-Sub connector for an external monitor, video output, LAN and modem ports, two USB and one FireWire port, PCMCIA slot, card-reader and IrDA port – this is more than enough for a business notebook. The only thing I can complain about is the USB ports. There are three of them here, which is a normal number (you seldom get more than three with notebooks of this class), but they are not very conveniently placed. The two USB ports on the side panel are so close to one another that you can’t plug two large devices into them simultaneously. The back-panel connector is just not very easy to access.

You can recognize Acer by the typical curve of the keyboard:

The manufacturer claims this solution minimizes your hand strain. I won’t agree or disagree because you can only make sure of that after having worked for some time with the notebook, yet I didn’t feel any discomfort due to the peculiar shape of the keyboard. Acer’s keyboards are also distinguishable for their two currency keys:

These keys are located near the arrow keys, thus provoking erroneous presses. The fact that the same arrow keys do double duty by allowing to adjust the display brightness and sound volume settings is good since they are easy to find, but on the other side bad as you cannot adjust the brightness or sound with one hand.

Power-On and instant-launch buttons are placed in the top left corner of the notebook:

As on other Acer notebooks, the instant-launch keys are assigned to Mail, Web and power management programs, plus one user-defined key. On the left, closer to the side panel, there are three LED indicators of the notebook’s keyboard status.

The touchpad is blameless:

The sensitive area is large; the buttons and the 4-position scrolling joystick are handy.

As for the display, it will suffice if you need a notebook for work. If you need something more, you’d better search among other models. The only good thing about this display is that it allows adjusting its brightness in a rather wide range. The rest of the parameters – color reproduction, viewing angles, matrix response time – are only average. But again, this is quite sufficient for processing text or surfing the Web.

Like with many other notebooks from Acer, the bottom panel is uneven.

You should carry the notebook is a special bag to protect it from getting scratched or worn off on its numerous edges. Each key component of the computer resides in a separate compartment under a cover, so there’s no need to take the whole thing to pieces to replace a failed hard drive or add more memory.

The notebook is equipped with a normal-capacity battery…

…with ordinary characteristics:

The power adapter is good, too:

This is a well-matched companion for a compact notebook: it is very small and light for its wattage. The only thing I don’t quite comprehend is why Acer includes such a thick power cord that would better suit a room heater than a notebook with a consumption of a few dozen watts. As a funny consequence, the coiled power cord that you connect the power adapter to the electric outlet with takes up more room than the power adapter itself!

So, the key features of the Acer TravelMate 3222WXMi are good performance, compact size, nice design, and good configuration. On the downside is the mediocre and poorly protected display (rainbow patterns appear on it if you just press on the back of the lid). The plastic of the lid is too scratchable – the notebook may lose its good looks after a very short period of intensive use (you can avoid this by carrying it in a special bag).

For average prices and technical specs of this and other notebooks covered in this review, refer to the summary table in the Test Results section.

Acer TravelMate 2423NWXMi

This model is not like the rest of the notebooks discussed in this review. It doesn’t seem to differ much from the above-described TravelMate 3222WXMi in appearance, but the design concept is the only thing they have in common. The 2423NWXMi is a completely different computer:

And this sticker explains why:

This is a low-end 14” widescreen notebook we decided to include in this review for a very simple reason. We just want to see if such notebooks have any chance at all in this market sector and if purchasing it makes any sense. You do save a lot of money: the 3222WXMi costs about $1800 whereas the 2423NWXMi can be acquired for only $800. The difference in price is impressive, but we’re yet to see how the difference in configuration (see the table of specifications) is going to tell on the performance and if the low-end model can ensure you any comfort at work. You’ll get the answers in the Test Results section. Right now let’s have a closer look at this model.

The notebook doesn’t look any worse than its more expensive mate. It is the Acer style everywhere down to the color and type of the plastic. This is good in the sense that the notebook’s case doesn’t show any traces of cost reduction. I guess it is next to impossible to tell the two models from Acer at a glance:

 

The protruding bottom part and the different design of the front panel are the only points where the TravelMate 2423NWXMi differs from the 3222WXMi.

Besides the integrated speakers, the front panel carries two groups of elements. Audio connectors and power indicators are in the middle:

And Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sliders are on the left.

It’s indeed much easier to turn an interface off with a special button rather than in the devices list. The Bluetooth switch shouldn’t mislead you, however. The notebook doesn’t support this interface. The switch is here because the same platform is used for other, more advanced notebook configurations which do include a Bluetooth adapter. It’s no secret that all low-end notebooks are in fact midrange models stripped of everything the manufacturer thought unnecessary in a low-end product. Therefore you can often see such rudiments as dummy switches or sealed FireWire ports – it would be unreasonable to design a completely new case for an inexpensive notebook.

This model has quite a lot of audio connectors for its category – a line input besides the traditional headphones output and microphone input. But as I said above, I don’t think it’s right to put audio connectors on the front panel. In the above-described model, they are placed at the very left of the panel, but here they are right in the middle of it and the attached cables get in your way. The indicators that report what power source the notebook is currently using (battery or mains) are easily readable and properly placed.

The back panel is almost completely occupied by the notebook’s battery:

In the remaining space there is a D-Sub output for an external monitor and a power adapter connector.

Not too many things on the right panel:

Three USB 2.0 connectors, LAN and modem ports.

The notebook’s left panel isn’t overfilled, either:

DVD±RW drive, PCMCIA slot and Kensington lock.

Not much, and the DVD-burner looks somewhat excessive in a low-end notebook, but there is a reasonable explanation. DVD-burners and traditional DVD/CD-RW combo drives have come to cost almost the same money, and it’s simpler to buy a batch of same-format optical drives for all notebooks the company turns out.

The keyboard is the same as in the more expensive model:

I’ve nothing to add to what I said about this keyboard in the previous section.

The only difference is the position of the indicators, Power-On and instant-launch buttons. The keyboard status indicators are in the same place, on the notebook’s left panel:

The block of buttons that turn the notebook on and launch certain applications is now in the top right corner:

The block itself is the same as the one on the 3222WXMi model. The touchpad is identical, too:

I didn’t like the display of the more expensive TravelMate, but this display is even worse! I just couldn’t find anything good about it. However, this shouldn’t repel you from purchasing this notebook since the display is quite sufficient for processing text and surfing the Web and you are very unlikely to find anything much better in this price category. But you won’t enjoy watching movies or viewing photos on this display, which may be crucial if this inexpensive notebook is going to be the only PC at your home.

The bottom panel has a somewhat neater appearance than the 3222WXMi’s.

It’s not very uneven and has fewer covers for accessing the innards of the case.

The battery looks exactly the same…

…but its parameters differ:

The capacity is a little lower than that of the battery of the more expensive 3222WXMi. This is not a complaint because they just had to save on something after all. The power adapter is the same as is included with the above-described 3222WXMi.

All in all, the opportunity to get a notebook of this form-factor and weight for only $800 is very tempting despite all its drawbacks. Our tests are yet to show how it compares with more advanced models in performance, but I am sure notebooks like this one will be a success because there are ever more people who’d want to buy a notebook but aren’t willing to pay for their first more than $1000. I hope such users will not be disappointed and will switch eventually to better models.

ASUS W3H00V

One of the first notebooks in its class, the ASUS W3H00V has been on the market for long, yet still stands among the best products available. ASUS managed to find a perfect balance of eye-pleasing design, good functionality and performance and didn’t introduce any big changes since the initial release of this model.

The W3H00V model represents the ASUS style at its highest – the designers did an excellent job. The lid is made of metal, just as it must be in an expensive notebook, and has a rather rare coloring:

Few notebooks can boast a metal lid, though it is practical – it superbly protects the display against physical damage.

Pass-through indicators are placed on the black decorative strip in the notebook’s front:

When the lid is closed, these indicators report the notebook’s status to you.

The front panel is empty as is typical of ASUS notebooks.

The manufacturer only built speakers into it. There’s nothing on the back panel besides the battery.

The battery fastening is somewhat slack, which is rather disappointing in a notebook you pay so much money for. This has no effect on the operation of the computer, yet the overall impression is somewhat spoiled.

The notebook’s I/O connectors are all placed on its side panels:

On the left side, there are two closely placed USB 2.0 ports, an output for an external monitor, modem and LAN ports, and a DVD-burner.

In the middle of the right panel, there is a video output, one more USB 2.0 port, and a vent opening.

The right panel is more densely populated closer to the notebook’s front:

Headphones and microphone sockets (the former is combined with an SPDIF output), PCMCIA slot, card-reader, IrDA port, FireWire connector. Behind the vent gird there is a power adapter connector and a Power-On button.

The Power-On button is designed in an original way: it’s built into the screen hinge. Make sure you don’t press it accidentally while carrying the notebook.

The keyboard is ordinary:

This is a regular notebook keyboard with an addition of text navigation buttons on the right. The arrow keys are not very handy due to their smaller size.

There are two groups of extra keys on both sides of the keyboard.

The left group includes media player controls and an Instant-On mode button. The group on the right is comprised of two instant-launch keys, wireless adapters switches, and a button to disable the touchpad.

This solution is all right aesthetically, but not ergonomically. The buttons may be pressed accidentally when you’re moving the notebook around with the lid open.

Indicators of keyboard status, Bluetooth activity and Instant-On mode are implemented as a narrow strip…

…and are hard to see under bright external lighting.

Users of ASUS notebooks should be familiar with this touchpad:

This is an example of classic design with two “click-less” metal buttons and a wide sensitive area. The microphone is placed in the bottom left of the display bezel.

The display itself is high quality with a wide range of brightness, good color reproduction and sufficiently high matrix response time. There’s only one drawback, which is in fact common for all notebooks, namely narrow vertical viewing angles. Overall, this is one of the best displays in this review.

The bottom panel is just like the one of any other ASUS notebook:

There’s a damping pad on the hard disk drive compartment and a pocket for your visiting card – these things allow telling an ASUS notebook from any other brand.

And here’s the battery with slack fastening:

Its parameters match its size:

The power adapter is unusually small:

 

But its cord is again too thick. Notebook manufacturer just don’t want to equip their power adapters with thinner power cords!

Among bonus accessories, there is a cute wireless optical mouse…

 

…and a special rack for a second hard disk drive:

 

This rack is installed instead of the optical drive. A bag to carry the notebook in is included, too:

That’s not the best of bags, but it should suffice for carrying the notebook and its accessories from your car to your office. I’d like to compliment ASUS as the single company is this review to be so caring about the future owner of its notebook. Moreover, ASUS keeps within a price limit in which other manufacturers offer much less. The performance and battery life of this notebook will be discussed later on, but running a little head, I want to say that it’s all right with these parameters of the W3H00V, too.

The overall verdict is that the notebook and its accessories are indeed superb. This is one of the best solutions in its class and is something other manufacturers have yet to reach. You must consider this model if you’re looking for your notebook in this class. However, being among the best doesn’t mean being the best. There is a model in this review that can bear comparison with the W3H00V. Read on to learn its name!

LG LW40

The LW series is new and its debut has been a success largely due to the LW40 model. This notebook is a lucky combination of compact size and powerful configuration. It is designed in the traditional LG style:

 

There are no garish elements to distract you from your work. The designers only indulged themselves by placing a large logo of the manufacturer on the lid:

The indicators block is made very well:

It is well readable irrespective of the position of the notebook’s lid. There’s nothing on the front panel:

But the developer put two USB ports on the back panel for some reason:

These USB ports aren’t easy to work with and are too close to each other, making it impossible to plug in two large devices at the same time. Besides them, the back panel quite appropriately carries a power connector and a video output.

The rest of connectors are on the notebook’s sides. On the left panel, there’s a D-sub connector for an external monitor, a FireWire port, a single easily accessible USB port, and a group of audio connectors:

A separate line input is included into the latter, which is good. The right side is almost fully occupied by an optical drive:

Besides it, there are LAN and modem ports, a card reader and an ExpressCard/34 slot there.

The slot is two times narrower than ordinary ones, but it doesn’t matter much because there are still no peripherals for this as well as for normal-size ExpressCard slots. The LW40 comes with a high-quality card-reader which supports xD format among everything else – recommended for owners of Olympus cameras!

The keyboard is good, too:

 

There are no reduced-size keys here; the arrow keys are separate from the rest of the keyboard. A special row of keys for text navigation is available. The only small problem is that the brightness adjustment keys are in the right part of the keyboard making it impossible to adjust this setting with only one hand. Some user may also find the special solution from LG – combining Insert and Delete in one button – inconvenient.

There are only four additional keys here:

Besides the Power-On button designed in the traditional LG style, these are volume controls and Mute. The touchpad follows the classic design:

There’s nothing superfluous here – just two keys and a vertical scrolling zone – but it is a real pleasure to use this touchpad. There’s a fashionable glossy coating on the display but its parameters are not very good: a not very high maximum of brightness, average viewing angles and average response time. The color reproduction is quite good, though. You shouldn’t take this too seriously because such drawbacks are typical to some extent of all the participating models and even of all notebooks at large. The LW40’s display is good enough for work in office applications and watching video.

The bottom panel looks like this:

There are three covers to access the main system components and a vent opening in a very improper place – you are sure to block it if you place the notebook down on your knees.

The battery is the same for all LG notebooks:

 

The power adapter is unified, too:

 

So, the LW40 isn’t going to give up its market positions. Combining an adequate price with good quality, it is the company’s main offering in this sector – the competitors are challenged to beat this combination if they can. You should definitely put this one into your “to consider” list.

LG T1

LG’s T1 is the first notebook in this review that is based on Intel’s new mobile platform. LG has done a good job on this one and made some great progress since the LW40. The new platform is parceled into a smaller case, weighs less, and boasts a better configuration (it lacks integrated graphics which is available in the LW40, but this doesn’t matter much for the user group the T1 is targeted at). The new Bluetooth adapter (BlueCore 4) needs a special mention as the T1 is among the first notebooks to feature it. Also remarkable in the T1 is the new low-consumption Intel L2300 processor (1.5GHz clock rate) that promises a long battery life.

The exterior design is perhaps the single thing in this new model that is not perfect.

The “piano finish black” plastic of the lid that owners of expensive hi-fi equipment may be familiar with just cannot possibly remain long in its ideal pristine state. Unlike hi-fi devices, a notebook is supposed to be carried about, so all this finish will wear off eventually. This is in fact a common problem of all notebooks whose cases are designed like that. The case quickly gets covered with a cobweb of micro-scratches unless you carry the notebook in a velvet pouch and handle it very carefully. The snow-white keyboard margin is made of the same plastic and your fingerprints are very visible on it. Well, it is sure to wear off eventually even if you work in gloves. Still I don’t think this will be a problem for anyone who sees this notebook live – LG has made a truly stylish device in which every element is well-placed. Even the logotype has been made smaller and fitted snugly into the computer’s lid.

The notebook status indicators are placed properly, too:

The front view reminds me of the advertising videos of ultra-thin cell phones:

The card-reader’s position is somewhat unusual:

It is in the middle and closer to the bottom of the front panel. As the result, it is not very easy to use. And funnily enough, the labels of the supported formats are printed upside down. Like the LW40’s, the card-reader of this model supports xD cards, too.

There are also two speakers of the integrated audio system on the front panel:

Unfortunately, the new platform hasn’t brought any improvements in the sound quality field. Without headphones, this audio system is only sufficient for reproducing Windows’ system sounds, and it seems like notebook owners cannot hope to hear a decent sound in near future. This is a whole new story, though, and we are going to cover it in our upcoming review of desktop-replacement systems which have progressed more in this respect, at least you can use them to play some background music.

On the notebook’s back panel there is a battery, video output, modem and LAN sockets, and a power adapter connector.

So, they placed at the back everything that indeed should be there but nothing else (like USB ports). The remaining connectors are located on the notebook’s sides. Two USB ports at a long enough distance from each other are on the left panel next to a D-Sub connector for an external monitor, a FireWire port and a set of audio connectors:

And this is the right panel:

Besides the DVD-burner, traditional for systems of this level, there is one USB port and an ExpressCard/34 slot like in the LW40. You should be aware that manufacturers of PC peripherals aren’t very eager to produce expansion cards for this progressive slot, but there are a lot of notebooks on the market that have both ExpressCard and PCMCIA slots.

The pearl-white keyboard has a standard layout:

LG traditionally combines Delete and Insert in one button. Otherwise, everything’s ordinary. The arrow keys are separate from the rest of the keyboard:

A row of text navigation buttons is on the right:

They also serve as display brightness controls. The touchpad matches the overall design concept of this notebook:

It is almost invisible. The sensitive area is only half a millimeter below the level of the case, the buttons aren’t conspicuous against the background.

A little below the arrow keys there is a fingerprint scanner:

Implemented in compliance with the Trusted Platform Module technology, this scanner is supposed to ensure a higher level of security than other notebooks offer.

Additional buttons with a Power-On key are designed in a new way:

The buttons are square rather than round because round buttons just wouldn’t match the new design. I should acknowledge that LG’s designers do earn their wages – the design of the Power-On button is different but you can anyway see right away that it’s LG.

A copy of the logotype that you can see on the lid is placed under the screen.

The only manufacturing flaw I could spot was about the grid the microphone hides under.

It looks as if they forgot to finish it off with a file. That’s not a serious defect, of course, rather a minor flaw of first demo models, yet I think the LW series should be free even from such small imperfections.

As for the display, it has average parameters, sufficient for office use. The main advantage of this display is the extremely high native resolution of 1440x900. The T1 is capable of displaying more useful information that its opponents, but having good eyesight is strongly recommended for working with a picture displayed at such a high resolution on such a small screen!

You won’t like the bottom view if you like to upgrade your notebook manually:

The user is not given free access to the components. You have to take the notebook apart to get to the hard drive or memory stick. The vent opening is placed improperly, just like in the LW series notebooks: it’s going to be uncomfortable to have this notebook on your laps.

LG produced a new battery for the new series:

 

The size, weight and voltage parameters are the same as those of the company’s older batteries, but its capacity is higher at 5.2Ah instead of 4.8Ah. This may not seem a great increase, but the battery has remained the same size, which is an obvious achievement. For potential owners of LG’s LW and other series notebooks this also means that batteries in all the series may be replaced with new, higher-capacity ones in the future.

The power adapter of the T1 is the same as the adapter included with the LW series:

 

This is not a surprise as components unification is a chief means of minimizing production cost.

As a result, we’ve got a very interesting notebook with excellent size/weight characteristics, very good configuration, and impressive exterior design. There’s a lot of winning features about this model: a very high display resolution, minimum weight in its category, good battery, rather fast but low-consumption processor, and a new hardware platform. The notebook lacks integrated graphics, but this is not important, considering its target audience. If the T1 has reached the shops before you make up your mind to buy a widescreen 14” notebook, don’t miss it – it is certainly worthy of a look!

MSI MegaBook S425

MSI is a new player on the notebook market, but it has made great progress in a very short while. The company’s model range is now comparable to that of a long-established brand, it’s simpler to say what MSI does not offer. It doesn’t offer a sub-compact model with a screen diagonal of 10” or smaller and it doesn’t transformers – that’s about all. Other market niches have a model from MSI. The MegaBook S425 is a new notebook which perfectly meets the requirements of this review and is also one of the most originally designed models here. The developers seem to have taken all the existing design ideas and mixed them up to produce the following:

When opened, the S425 resembles LG’s T1 – the same pearl-white plastic is here, even around the screen. But when the notebook is closed, it doesn’t look at all like the LG with its black stylish coloring and reasonable minimalism in details:

 

I can put up with the red color of the lid, especially as there are other color schemes available, but the round insert in the center looks too obtrusive to me. It is also thick which doesn’t make it look any better:

The same logotype looks more appropriate on the L7xx series of desktop replacement notebooks with a screen diagonal of 17” because the notebook itself is larger. Here, the logotype is too big. Well, you may like it if you are fond of visual effects – the letters MSI are highlighted.

A characteristic feature of all notebooks from MSI is that they have audio connectors on the front panel:

These are headphones, microphone and line-in sockets.

Again, I don’t think it’s a proper place for them, but there must be some reason for the company’s engineers to place audio connectors on the front panel. Next to them, a card-reader is located:

The S425 is the second notebook in this review that supports xD in addition to the standard selection of card formats.

The notebook status indicators are designed as icons on a matte strip:

Some of them have copies on the front panel so that you could figure everything out when the lid is closed.

The back panel has nothing but a battery and a modem port.

Everything else is located on the notebook’s side panels: a DVD-burner, two USB ports and an ExpressCard slot on the right…

…and a connector for an external monitor, video output, LAN port, USB and FireWire ports, and a PCMCIA slot are on the left panel.

It’s good to have support for both the new ExpressCard format and for old PCMCIA cards.

The keyboard is nearly ideal:

Everything’s in its right place without any innovations like combining Insert and Delete in one button.

The arrow keys are made properly, too:

There’s a row of extra buttons designed as a rubber strip with labels.

Just press on the corresponding section of the strip to enable the corresponding function. That’s not the best implementation, I should say. It’s hard to tell if the button has really been pressed or not. The Power-On button is highlighted just like on other MSI notebooks, this time with a blue circle around it. The touchpad’s buttons are as unhandy as the additional functional keys:

They are part of the touchpad bezel and are made of some rubber-like material, too. I didn’t like using them, to tell you the truth. The touchpad itself is good and large enough, with a normal positioning accuracy.

The notebook sports two extra stickers:

One sticker indicates a discrete graphics adapter, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6200 TC. The choice is strange because this core is below the average level as mobile graphics go, and it is TC, too! I don’t think this adapter is any better than an integrated graphics core – you can’t play new 3D games normally on either. The second sticker reports that the S425 is equipped with a new-generation HD audio codec and supports such technologies as Dolby Headphones, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Pro Logic II, and Dolby Digital Live. I guess a mobile user may only be interested in Dolby Headphones mode among all of this. The rest is virtually useless due to obvious reasons. Even putting the problem of speakers aside, the new HD Audio is inferior even to entry-level hi-fi equipment in quality. You shouldn’t expect much from it whereas stereo mode without any virtualization should be enough for decent headphones.

The display has good viewing angles, a now-fashionable glass matrix, high maximum brightness, and a good color reproduction and matrix response time. The backlighting isn’t uniform, but that’s not very conspicuous. All in all, the MSI S425 has one of the best displays among the notebooks tested in this review.

Here’s how MSI designs the bottom panel of its notebooks:

One cover for the hard drive compartment and another, larger one for the rest of the components (memory, CPU, wireless adapter, etc).

The battery isn’t the biggest in this test…

…but its parameters are not worse than the other batteries’.

The power adapter is small, too.

 

And it comes with a normal, two-wire cable.

You will find this mouse among the notebook’s accessories…

…and a napkin to clean the display. A funny thing about this display: on the cloth between the screen and keyboard which I at first regarded as an ordinary detail of packaging for the purpose of transportation there was a text like “always put this material in to avoid the keyboard scratching the screen when you close the lid.” Instead of just making the keyboard a bit sunken in (the MSI S425 is not the thinnest notebook in this review, by the way), they ask you to put some damping material on it! :)

Samsung X1

At one time photos of this notebook spread through all the Web resources in some way or other related to mobile computing – it was just so unusual. The developers’ goal was to make the thinnest notebook of this class and they succeeded! The notebook is indeed eye-catching, but its component layout is so completely different as to make it rather uncomfortable to use.

Note the unusual position of the keyboard – it was moved down to make place for the optical drive.

The drive resembles pocket CD players.

 

It has a spring-up cover you have to press down with your hand after you’ve loaded the disc.

It’s clear why they had to use such a drive. Having the thinnest case in its class, the X1 just doesn’t have room for a normal optical drive with an ejected tray. As a sad consequence to this, the TrackPoint with its buttons is very poor.

The keyboard is normal, though. Its layout doesn’t differ much from the traditional one:

The keys are large enough. The Page Up and Page Down keys are placed near the arrow keys, which is not quite good because you can press them by mistake. The main drawback of this keyboard is the block of functional keys on the left.

You have to learn all the shortcuts involving the functional keys anew. The row of buttons on the right includes Insert and Delete as well as buttons to launch media applications and volume controls.

As for the touchpad replacement, I even think they should have never made it. This can hardly be called a decent TrackPoint:

Its positioning accuracy is average and its buttons are a nightmare, so if you do buy an X1, you should also purchase a notebook mouse right away. This is going to save you a lot of trouble.

Frankly speaking, this notebook is a pure image-making device and nothing more. If you need a notebook for work, you should consider something else. As for its image-making capabilities, its brand isn’t that prominent as to distinguish its owner.

The X1 complies with its concept, though. It is indeed a thin notebook that easily fits into a document folder which is quite a rare capability for this class of computers. It’s just impossible to be thinner that that:

The case is not more than 2 centimeters high at any side. The original approach to the component layout affected the placement of the interface connectors, too. There’s nothing on the front panel except a card-reader:

The card-reader is covered by a long panel which slips away too easily, so it’s only a matter of time when it’ll get lost if you’re using the notebook actively. Power and WLAN indicators are placed on the notebook’s front edge:

Other indicators are located near the Power-On button:

The rear panel is occupied by the battery:

It’s the side panels that carry the few connectors the notebook offers. One USB port and power adapter connector on the right:

And the rest is on the left:

External monitor output, LAN and modem ports, one more USB port, a FireWire connector, headphones and microphone sockets. The developer also managed to find a place for a PCMCIA slot:

Traditionally for Samsung, all the connectors are labeled on the notebook’s top:

 

So you can connect your peripheral devices without turning the notebook around – you won’t miss the connector you need.

The developer found an unusual place for the speakers of the integrated audio system.

They are on the ends of the screen hinge. Of course, they sound poor, but are quite enough for emitting system sounds.

The bottom panel doesn’t give you easy access to the components, only the memory slots are accessible.

Well, you don’t need anything else. I doubt a user of this notebook is going to change anything in it manually. The number of available ports and the functionality of the system when it is used as a desktop computer can be extended by means of a docking station which is attached to this connector:

This is a solution to the mouse problem. Just plug your mouse into the docking station and the X1 will become much easier to use.

As for the display, it’s not clear to me why having its own LC panel manufacture and pricing its notebooks rather high, Samsung cannot provide normal matrixes in them. This display produces a faded picture; its color reproduction, speed, color saturation and viewing angles are all below average. The only advantage I can find is its natural reproduction of body colors. Other manufacturers put such displays into their low-end products. Again, I can’t understand this because Samsung has a good reputation as a producer of high-quality matrixes – remember the series of top-end home monitors on PVA matrixes, for example. Unfortunately, you just can buy a Samsung notebook and put a Sony display into it. As a result, both the Samsung notebooks included in this review are the two that have the worst displays, yet they are not the cheapest.

The battery isn’t quite good, either:

 

This is one half of a normal battery and that’s bad notwithstanding the Pentium M ULV processor the notebook is equipped with. I think such notebooks must come with a full-capacity battery for the user to choose between a smaller and lower-capacity battery and a bigger but larger-capacity one. Here, you have to buy a normal battery separately. The battery charge indicators look even like a joke then:

You can see how much charge the battery has without turning the PC on – not a very helpful thing in this case.

The power adapter is small and compact like the notebook itself:

 

And the adapter’s cord is thin just as it should be. That’s good because the notebook won’t last long on its battery and you’ll have to take the adapter with you everywhere.

As for bonus accessories, there is only one – a small remote control:

You can use the remote control to turn the notebook on, control the media player and the special AVStation Now shell which is much alike to Microsoft’s Media Center in look and functionality.

It’s hard to make a verdict about this notebook because it seems not a finished product for use, but a concept that somehow made it to retail shops. Funnily enough, other companies took a look at what Samsung had done and corrected all the mistakes. For example, Panasonic produced a model with a similar component layout but in which the keyboard occupies its traditional place with the optical drive below it. They kept the normal keyboard layout and also left the touchpad where it should be. So, if you need a super-slim notebook, there exist alternatives with better ergonomics and with a weightier brand. Considering the ongoing transition of Samsung’s model range to the new platform, the X1 is likely to leave the market soon, to be replaced by a corresponding model on the new platform and with normal ergonomics.

Samsung X11

A representative of the new generation of Samsung notebooks, the Centrino Duo-based X11 follows the X1 model in exterior design:

The color scheme of the new model just copies the X1, but this is the only thing they have in common. The X11 is a classically designed notebook you don’t have to get used to after you’ve switched to it from some other model. When closed, the X11 is a copy of the X1:

It is just a little thicker. It may seem strange, but the thicker X11 looks somewhat more appealing than the X1 while the extra centimeter of thickness brings the user quite an advanced configuration: a full-featured Intel Core Duo processor (T2300), a most recent mobile hardware platform, a 100GB hard disk drive, and a discrete last-generation graphics controller from Nvidia (GeForce Go 7400 TC). I guess all this makes up with interest for the slight increase in the notebook’s thickness.

Well, if you are not comparing the two models side by side, you don’t immediately see that the X11 is thicker, especially from the front:

Just like the X1, this model has nothing except a card-reader on its front panel. It’s the rear view that betrays that the notebook has got fatter:

The X1 was no thicker than its battery, but this model has about 5 millimeters above and below the battery. All the connectors are on the sides of the case. The connectors on the left panel are almost the same as on the X1’s one…

…except that there’s no USB port here and the speakers are in their usual place. But the power adapter connector is in the screen hinge:

That’s an original and convenient solution, at least it’s easy to connect the power adapter by touch. The left panel carries an optical drive, the three available USB ports, and video output.

There is a mechanical Wi-Fi switch here:

So you can turn on the wireless adapter with a single movement of your hand. It’s not all well with these two USB ports:

You can use only one of them at a time unless you attach standard connectors.

The keyboard is ordinary:

No innovations here, it is quite comfortable in use, but the additional keys near the arrows surprised me somewhat:

Well, I can understand they just found no other place for the Context Menu button, but the additional Fn key should be there to allow you to adjust the screen brightness and sound volume with one hand. But however I tried I couldn’t figure out how to put my fingers down to use this key comfortably. Maybe you’ll find the answer to this riddle?

Keyboard status, HDD and WLAN activity indicators are on the right:

There are two LED indicators on the front panel: Power and Battery Charge.

There’s as many as one instant-launch button here.

It’s placed next to the Power-On button and invokes the AVStation Now application.

The touchpad is classic, with a large sensitive area, a vertical scrolling zone and big handy buttons that feel nice to the touch:

Samsung seems to be very fond of stickers:

The first sticker reports that the notebook is equipped with a Bluetooth 2.0+EDR adapter; the last two are obligatory. As for the Nvidia logotype, there’s nothing to boast about because the GeForce Go 7400 TC cannot compete even with good old X600/X700 not to mention the mobile 6600 Go with its nearly ideal price/performance ratio. The reason is simple: all these graphics adapters have dedicated graphics memory rather than eat some from system RAM. However good a graphics core may be, its advantages are all negated by its using slow system memory.

I’ve said everything about the display in the previous section because the X11 produces the same picture as the X1. The X11 suits for office work quite well, but if you compare it with the leaders of today’s tests, the difference is striking. Well, even without any comparisons, it’s no fun to view photographs on either of the two Samsungs.

The bracket of the lid lock looks cute here:

Even small quantities of chromium-plated metal add appeal to a device.

The X11 offers more upgrade opportunities than the X1:

It has a connector for a docking station, too:

So, functionality can be extended if you buy a docking station.

The battery is simply a joke:

It’s the same reduced-capacity battery the X1 comes with, but the X1 was equipped with an ultra low voltage Pentium M and had a much more modest configuration. When used in an X11, this battery is more like an integrated UPS than a mobile power source. I wonder if additional batteries will be included in mass-shipped versions of the X11, because without them it is sort of transportable desktop notebook.

The power adapter is similar to the X1’s, but more powerful due to the notebook’s configuration:

 

The conclusion is this: the X11 is a good notebook designed by the classic guidelines, but equipped with a low-capacity battery and not the best of displays. Regrettably, Samsung positions this model quite high, so you cannot expect it to come at a modest price. Considering this, I can’t recommend it for purchase. The company may try to make it more appealing by including a normal battery and putting an appropriate price tag that would make up for the low display quality. I wouldn’t hope much for that, though.

Sony VGN-FJ1SR

It may seem strange, but it is indeed a very rare occasion to find a notebook that it’s impossible to find fault with. And when you do get one, it is a real pleasure to describe it in a review. Users’ pleas for a perfect notebook have been heard to by at least one manufacturer. The Sony VGN-FJ1SR is an example of a thing perfectly made.

 

The low-key classic design of this notebook with a mirror-like VIVO logotype is among the best in this class. The slim, light and robust case is equipped with a metal lid that keeps the screen safe against physical damage. The overall quality of manufacture is superb, but it’s expectable since Sony takes great care about quality assurance. And users appreciate this, even if they have to pay somewhat more than for competitors’ products. The VGN-FJ1SR costs about the same money as the other participating notebooks, but has a humbler configuration. It lacks a Bluetooth adapter and a discrete graphics core. The latter isn’t a serious drawback because an integrated graphics core is quite enough for a computer of this class whereas a Bluetooth adapter would have been appropriate, especially as it wouldn’t have made the notebook much more expensive.

There are not many connectors here, just an optimum selection for a business notebook. The front panel seems to be empty except for the card-reader:

But this is just at first sight. Besides Sony’s traditional MS/MS Pro card reader, there’s a row of system status indicators on the left, and a Wi-Fi switch.

The indicators are designed in such a way that they are only visible when shining. If the notebook is turned off, they merge into the front panel.

Not a single connector on the notebook’s back:

And this is quite right. There’s a docking station if you use the notebook as a desktop computer while in “traveling” mode it is just inconvenient to use back-panel connectors. The rest is on the notebook’s sides. Modem and LAN ports, a FireWire connector, connector for an external monitor, one of the USB ports, and PCMCIA slot are on the left panel:

On the right side of the notebook there are headphones and microphone connectors, TV output, two USB ports, DVD-burner, Kensington lock and a power adapter connector.

Sony’s exclusive TV output is implemented as an ordinary jack connector.

The company doesn’t include an appropriate adapter, making you take your soldering iron in your hands – it’s going to be cheaper and faster than purchasing a ready-made adapter from Sony. The soldering scheme can be found on the Web, but frankly speaking, few people ever use the video output of such notebooks.

The keyboard is very ordinary:

But after you’ve tried it, you won’t easily turn back to keyboards of other notebooks included in this review: the pressure force and key activation thresholds are so precisely set up that you have a minimum of mistypes and faulty presses. The single disadvantage of this keyboard is its not separated block of arrow keys.

This is due to the overall design of the notebook. If you take a look at its case from a side, you can see that the keyboard lies in a small depression. This easily solves the problem of scratched displays: MSI recommends putting soft cloth in between whereas Sony just sunk the keyboard a little deeper into the case. Simple and effective.

The touchpad follows the classic design:

The surrounding curb prevents your finger from slipping off the sensitive area. The keys are easily recognizable by touch and go down softly. The touchpad lacks any additional functionality, yet it is so agreeable to use that you almost forget you’re using it.

There are two additional buttons here:

They are marked as S1 and S2 and it’s up to you to assign them their functions. The photo doesn’t show it but the marking is made in a curious way – it’s visible only at a certain viewing angle. The keyboard status indicators are to the left.

Besides everything else, the notebook is equipped with an integrated web-camera and microphone which are going to be useful for video conferencing:

And surely the best thing about this notebook is its display manufactured by X-black technology. Its every parameter – color reproduction, brightness adjustment range, viewing angles, matrix response time – is superb. I have no doubt this is the best screen in this device category and one of the best notebook displays at all. Whence does this quality come? It’s just because Sony itself manufactures notebook displays and, unlike other manufacturers, equips its top-end models with appropriate matrixes. My general advice to you if you care about the display is to check out if there are any Sony models in the class you are interested in. Don’t expect high quality in an inexpensive model, but Sony’s notebooks priced at $1500 and higher are very unlikely to have a poor display – only good or very good matrixes.

The bottom panel indicates Sony’s principle of not letting the user tinker with the notebook’s internals.

You have to remove the whole bottom panel to access the components. Well, you may not actually need this, but the improper placement of the vent opening is a small problem.

If you feel that the notebook’s interface ports are not enough or if you work in your office and don’t want to attach the cables all the time, connect a docking station to the connector that is hidden under a movable shutter:

 

The battery’s parameters and size are typical enough:

 

The power adapter is smaller than those included with other notebooks tested in this review:

 

Overall, this is one of the best notebooks in its class which just cannot leave you disappointed. You get an ideally balanced computer capable of running any office application. Add also that the world-famous VAIO logotype has long become a kind of status indicator, something which other brands can only hope to achieve. In a rating of brands, Sony stands right after IBM, but IBM notebooks are now manufactured by another, China-based company and are inferior to Sony’s in the quality of the display. So, if you need a notebook that would tell everyone of your high status, there’s not much choice.

Moreover, the VGN-FJ1SR notebook is priced rather modestly for a Sony product, so I personally have my favorite among the ten notebooks presented to you in this review and my opinion may only change after I’ve checked them in practical tests.

Toshiba Tecra A6-S513

Toshiba’s new Tecra A6-S513 is the last to be reviewed here.

 

Notebooks from Toshiba feature a very recognizable design, so you can guess the manufacturer without the prompting stickers. This consistency through generations is valuable for loyal fans of the brand that won’t be left without their favorite features after replacing their current notebook.

Like the notebook from Sony (see the previous section), this model offers but few interface connectors which are also not very conveniently placed around its case.

The intricately shaped front panel which is the result of the original relief of the notebook’s bottom (they even had to attach feet to it to make the computer steady) carries a Wi-Fi switch on the left…

…and headphones and microphone sockets with a volume control on the right:

Toshiba is not afraid of using such controls because their service time depends directly on the quality of the potentiometers and the company’s engineers have proved their quality in the numerous sold notebooks.

The notebook status indicators are located in the bottom left corner:

They are well visible even when the lid is closed. The back panel carries a power adapter connector, one USB port, and LAN and modem ports.

I can put up with the latter two, but I can’t understand why you would ever need a USB port at the back of your computer. The power adapter connector is rather too far from the edge, so you have to get used to it to learn to attach the adapter blindly.

The rest is ordinary enough. The right panel accommodates an optical drive and two USB connectors:

On the left panel, there is an external monitor output, one more USB port, S-Video output, FireWire port, PCMCIA slot, and card-reader.

 

This keyboard should be familiar to all users of Toshiba notebooks:

The layout is classic except that the Window and Context Menu keys are in the top row – if you are used to keyboard shortcuts involving these keys, you have to learn them anew. There are only two additional buttons here:

And one button of these two is responsible for switching between the displays which is not a very frequent action.

A fingerprint scanner is available:

So, the notebook is up to the latest trends in notebook-making. The touchpad looks like the one of the Sony notebook.

The same minimalism and functionality, but the cursor positioning accuracy seems a little worse to me.

The display is average. Its maximum brightness is not very high; its anti-glare coating is too “grainy”; its viewing angles are narrow and color reproduction is average. This display would suit an ordinary low-end product better than to a midrange business notebook.

The bottom panel is unique in its own right – I haven’t seen such an irregular bottom in any other notebook:

There are a lot of individual compartments here, so it’s not a problem to replace a component like memory or wireless adapter.

The battery is nearly standard:

 

It’s a little below average in capacity, and you’ll see in the Tests section how it tells on the notebook’s battery life.

And this is the included power adapter:

 

Its size and characteristics are average, so I have nothing more to add.

The Tecra A6-S513 is a kind of entry-level business-class notebook. With the configuration it has, it is not a low-end product, but it is not a normal business notebook, either. The most disturbing fact is its price. I doubt this model can make anyone interested when it costs the same or even bigger money than most other models in this review.

Test Methods

The tests were performed in a newly installed Windows XP Professional operating system with a necessary minimum of installed programs. The wireless adapters were disabled. We selected the “portable/laptop” power management scheme and prohibited to turn off the hard drive and monitor and to enable the screensaver or standby mode.

The screen brightness was set at 120-130 candelas per sq. m by means of a luxmeter for the battery life tests. This allows for better comparison than if we tested at the maximum screen brightness alone (the battery life measurements at the max and min brightness of the screen are also listed in the table below).

To check the performance in office and multimedia applications we used Business Winstone 2004 and Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004. PCMark 2004 was run to give us an overall performance rating as well as ratings of all the main components. 3DMark03 was used to check the performance of the notebooks’ graphics subsystems. Considering the business orientation of the tested models we also tried them in Photoshop CS by measuring the time of execution of a special script.

The battery life was measured with Battery Eater Pro 2.50 in Reader’s and Classic modes. The difference between the two modes is indicative of how well the power-saving management works in a notebook.

We also tested the notebooks on the Intel Core Solo/Duo platform on their batteries in Business Winstone 2004 and Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 to see if our method of using the portable/laptop scheme works with the new platform.

As we wrote in earlier reviews, when the portable/laptop power management scheme is selected, the notebook automatically yields its full processing power when necessary, and the system settings in the Classic mode correspond to the settings of the Always On scheme, and in the Reader’s mode to the Max Battery scheme. So, there’s no need to test these modes independently, but we need to check if this is true for the new platform.

For better comparison we suggest that you take a look at the table of specifications. This table also lists the average price and warranty terms for the tested models.


Click to enlarge

Performance

First I checked the notebooks in Business Winstone 2004 and Content Creation Winstone 2004 benchmarks:

It’s hard to comment on the results of this test because there’s no detailed information about it and I don’t know what weights its subtests have in the overall score. So, it’s just “this notebook is faster than that one” – and you can compare the reviewed models as they are ranked in the diagrams. The results of the battery life test are much more interesting. As I had supposed it doesn’t matter how many cores a processor has. I tested two notebooks: LG T1 and Toshiba Tecra A6-S513.

As you can see, the notebooks perform better when powered from the wall socket, but the difference is rather small.

And here are the results produced by PCMark04:

It’s all clear with the first two diagrams, but then there are some things I’d want to single out. The LW40 is very fast in the memory test; it’s the best Centrino-based notebook I’ve seen in this benchmark. The Acer TravelMate 3222WXMi is unrivalled in the graphics subsystem test just because it has the fastest graphics adapter among the tested notebooks.

Nvidia’s GeForce Go 7400 is downright disappointing. If you need fast graphics, buy a notebook that has dedicated graphics memory. Graphics subsystems of other kind (with such suffixes as TC, HM) are not much better than integrated graphics and cannot ensure high performance in 3D. In the disk subsystem test the notebooks rank up according to the spindle rotation speed of the hard drive they use.

The results of the Photoshop CS are indicative of the overall performance of the CPU, platform and hard drive:

The well-balanced LW40 is almost as fast as the two notebooks on the new platform. Other notebooks are slower. The two slowest models shouldn’t be used to run such applications at all – they are only capable of performing office tasks like processing text and spreadsheets, browsing the Web, etc.

The next test shows what you can expect from these notebooks in gaming applications:

I performed this test using the maximum display resolution of each notebook, except for the LG T1 (I used 1280x800 with it because 1440x900 would have been too much for its integrated graphics core). The Acer TravelMate 3222WXMi is the best and can cope with modern games if you don’t use the highest graphics quality settings. Among other notebooks, only models with the X600 are interesting. The Samsung X11 is second after the TravelMate 3222WXMi but I doubt it’s going to be that fast in real games.

I also published the results of the CPU subtest to show you that 3DMark03 favors the Centrino Core Duo platform. This is indicated by the Samsung X11’s results. This platform is the most promising one when it comes to games, considering that all the leading game developers have confirmed support for dual-core processors in their upcoming products.

And now, the results of the most important test:

I put the results the notebooks achieved in Reader’s mode and under maximum load into one diagram because the difference between the two is indicative of how well the manufacturer set up the power-saving parameters. The Sony VGN-FJ1SR looks best here as it yields you its full computing power under max load but is very economical in Reader’s mode. Besides the Sony, there are two more leaders: LG’s T1 with a high-capacity battery and an L series Core Duo processor which features low power consumption, and ASUS W3H00V. The latter proved to be a bit of a cheater, though. Even under max load with the portable/laptop power management scheme selected this notebook never increased its CPU frequency higher than 1.3GHz.

Conclusion

The main problem with modern business notebooks, and the biggest hindrance to their development, is the lack of normal batteries they would last on for at least one workday. The performance of the platform is long not a crucial factor – top-end configurations on the ordinary Centrino were more than enough for the majority of users, so all the progress in the platform field has been due to the sheer necessity to progress rather than to any real need. Until there are normal power sources, there is no real mobility and you can’t help this by adding more cores to the processor.

The second problem I am now quite sure of after the numerous test sessions we’ve carried out is that a bulk of notebooks comes with low-quality displays. I don’t have an explanation for that – maybe they are just saving money because you can’t buy a notebook without a screen. As a result, the Sony VGN-FJ1SR is the only notebook in this review to have a really high-quality display. Besides it, the ASUS W3H00V and MSI MegaBook S425 have good displays. Others are equipped with mediocre ones. This looks strange considering the rapid progress of LCD matrixes in desktop monitors, so I’m inclined to think that the manufacturers just don’t want to improve anything because again, you can’t choose the screen.

It’s hard to tell which of the reviewed models is best because it all depends on your personal needs and tastes. In my personal chart the Sony VGN-FJ1SR takes the first place for its excellent design and ergonomics and good battery life. Well, I confess I just like it. The MSI MegaBook S425 is an interesting buy as it combines a low price and an advanced configuration. Moreover, this notebook is your only chance to get a good display for decent money. The other tested notebooks are either inferior to the Sony in the quality of the display or cost almost two times the price of the MegaBook. Purchasing low-end models like Acer TravelMate 2423NWXMi only makes sense when you are not going to do anything but office tasks. Such notebooks just don’t suit for anything more.

It’s only you who knows what exactly you will be doing on your notebook and it’s up to you to make the choice. I hope this review can be of some help to you in making up your mind.