Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 (K685)

The ThinkPad Edge series consists of the cheapest ThinkPad models. Our 13.3 inch test model is available for as little as 399 Euros (without an operating system). The hardware may not be high-end but users who are looking for a matt display and first-class input devices will not be disappointed.

Last March (2010), we wrote an in-depth review on the first Edge 13. At that time, the test model had a glossy display and lacked an eSata port. Since then, the manufacturer has also replaced the AMD Turion X2 Neo K625 or L625 (1.5/1.6 GHz) CPU with a Neo K685 (1.80 GHz). The hard disk capacity has increased from 320 to 500 GB. In short: the latest Edge 13 comes with a few new features. So what should buyers expect?

The test model we picked was the cheapest available as it did not include an OS. As the input devices and the connectivity of the device have remained more or less the same, with the exception of the eSata interface, we will not discuss them at length in this review. In the following review we will concentrate on the new features the Edge 13 (NUE2UGE) has to offer.

Specifications Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 (665D817) :
  • Processor : AMD Turion II Neo K685 1.8 GHz
  • Mainboard : AMD M785
  • Memory : 4096 MB, 2x 2048MB
  • Graphics adapter : ATI Radeon HD 4225 - 256 MB, Core: 382 MHz, Memory: 400 MHz, Catalyst 9.7; 8.632.1.2000
  • Display : 13.3 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LP133WH2-TLM3, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : Hitachi HTS725050A9A364, 500GB 7200rpm
  • Soundcard : ATI RS690 HDMI @ ATI SB800
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: Audio in/out combi, Card Reader: 5-in-1 cardreader (SD (SDHC), MMC, MS, MS Pro, xD),
  • Networking : Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit), 802.11 b/g/n (bgn), 2.1 +EDR Bluetooth
  • Optical drive
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 25 x 332 x 228
  • Weight : 1.775 kg Power Supply: 0.237 kg
  • Battery : 63 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6-cell, 11.25V
  • Price : 399 Euro
  • Operating System : FreeDos
  • Additional features : Webcam: 2MP, Manuals, None, 12 Months Warranty.
The ThinkPad Edge has good connectivity. On the left side, the notebook offers a fast e-SATA interface which is combined with the third USB 2.0 port. A USB 3.0 port would have crowned the connectivity, however, that port is not (yet) available for notebooks of this price class.

The user will not be able to add extra ports as there is no ExpressCard slot. The placing of a few ports on the back of the device would have been better, but the battery hinders that. The power outlet and the USB 2.0 ports are placed far back on the right side, which means that the respective cables can be wound around the back of the laptop to prevent a clutter.

Sadly, the anti-glare panel from LG-Phillips (Type LP133WH2-TLM3) is nothing exceptional. The display has a 16:9 format and a native resolution of 1.366x768 pixels, which is standard for this form factor. The low contrast of 151:1 is also typical for subnotebooks. The displayed colors are not very strong, and the black areas of the screen seem to have a slight gray sheen.

The low contrast is not due to the matt display of the laptop. A glare type display would show stronger colors but the black value would remain the same. Our first Edge 13 (glare-type) also had a low contrast (164:1). The color space of the panel does not include the sRGB space, which means that it can not display the colors of that spectrum. However, this feature is only important to professional picture editors.

The new ThinkPad Edge 13 still uses an AMD Turion Neo X2. However, this time, instead of the L625 (1.6 GHz, TDP 18 W), the laptop is equipped with the K685 (1.8 GHz, TDP 15 W). The difference is in the specifications of the processor, as the latest processor is a Turion II, which means that it has a form factor of 45 nm (Geneva) instead of the old 65 nm (Congo). That is the reason why despite the higher clock frequency, the power consumption of the new CPU is lower.

The Level 1 cache has doubled (K685: 256 KB), and the Level 2 cache has stayed the same (1024 KB). The Geneva platform supports the faster DDR3 RAM (Congo could only support DDR2) via an integrated controller in the CPU.

The ATI Radeon HD 4225 graphic unit (IGP) is responsible for displaying the graphics on the laptop (Congo platform: HD 3200). The unit runs at a core frequency of 382 MHz, and memory is stored on the main RAM modules (up to 256 MB). The playback and decoding of HD videos is supported by the UVD 2 video decoder. The GPU is DirectX 10.1 ready but is too weak to run latest games.

Was the upgrade from the AMD Congo platform to the Geneva platform worth it? As the L625 (1.6 GHz) processor from the first Edge 13 is no longer available on the market, we used the K625 (1.5 GHz) and the E-350 (1.6 GHz) for our benchmarks. These AMD CPUs lie in the same price range of 330 to 420 Euros. Another alternative, the L325 (1.5 GHz), has not yet been tested by us.

The CPU Multi-Core test Cinebench R11.5 showed an end score of 1.0 points. The K625 (0.9) and the E-350 (0.6) are beaten by the result. The Intel alternative (i3 380UM - 2.1 GHz) also scores 1.0 (Sony Vaio VPC-YA1V9E/B) or 1.1 points (Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 NVY3PPB), but costs 100 Euros more. Other CPU benchmarks such as wPrime 2.0 (small results are better!) and Cinebench R10 Multi 64 Bit confirm the previous result: K625 (1.657/3.327), E-350 (2.200/2.250), 380UM (1.329/4.266). Our K685 reached 1.410/3.839 seconds/points. So among the AMD CPUs, the K685 (our test model) is number one. However, the Intel CPU processes slightly faster.

Can the Intel CPU stay on top in other system benchmarks which also include the HDD, RAM, GPU support? PCMark Vantage calculated a score of 3,753 points for our test model. This is the same score as the Edge 11 which has an i3 380UM and Intel HD Graphics (3,623 points). The AMD alternatives: K625 (3,017; Dell Inspiron M301z) and E-350 (2,293; HP Pavilion dm1-3180eg) are left far behind.

The new PCMark 7 provided a result of 1,235 points. The Edge 11 based on the E-350 (APU) manages to score 1,101 points. The reason for the small difference: PCMark 7 gives a higher score for better hardware support, which in this case is due to the HD 6310 (80 pipelines instead of 40, DirectX 11 instead of 10.1). That is why the HD 4225 got a lower score in this benchmark. Unfortunately, we do not have the results for the 380UM.

The fact that an i3 380UM Edge 13 is faster does not surprise us. Buyers would be picking the slowest Edge 13 laptop if they picked the brand-new E-350 APU. The better 3D performance of the HD 6310 in the APU will not be enough for most users who will have to deal with longer waiting times and weaker system performance. We recommend the buyer pick the K685 CPU, even if it costs a few more Euros.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (K345)

Key downgrade. Lenovo tinkers around on its budget ThinkPad and gives the mini a matt screen as well as a new Athlon processor. However, we're taken aback in view of the 32 watt hour battery. Will the upgrade downgrade the previously very good mobility?

The first ThinkPad Edge 11 with an Intel Core i3-380UM (1.33 GHZ) struggled its way through our tests in November 2010. We were delighted about the viable application performance, the screen's high resolution and the extensive communication equipment (3G). The only thing that didn't evoke enthusiasm was the glare screen.

The Edge 11 with AMD Athlon II Neo K325 (1.3 GHz) also followed in November 2010 and excelled the Intel version with a better battery life (low load). The reflective 11.6 inch display however was also a thorn in our side here.

In the meantime, Lenovo has remedied the glare type problem and offers its Edge 11 in the Intel and AMD configurations with an anti-glare screen. Besides the expensive Intel version (starts at 536 euros), the aggressively priced AMD configurations with Athlon II Neo can be found. Our test device is the Black Smooth alternative with matt black surfaces. Price: starts at 369 euros.
  • Athlon II Neo K125 (1.70 GHz, 2048MB, 320GB, 658D835, glare)
  • Athlon II Neo X2 K325 (1.30 GHz, 2048MB, 320GB, 658D817, glare)
  • Athlon II Neo X2 K345 (1.40 GHz, 4096MB, 320GB, 665D830)
  • Athlon II Neo X2 K345 (1.40 GHz, 4096MB, 320GB, 665D829, test device)
Which strengths does the new CPU have? Is there still a performance difference to the Core i3-380UM? Can the battery life of 5 hours be maintained? Will the matt screen be suitable for use out in the sun? This test update about the Edge 11 answers all these questions.

Specifications Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (665D830) :
  • Processor : AMD Athlon II Neo K345 1.4 GHz
  • Mainboard : AMD M785
  • Memory : 4096 MB, PC3-10600 (667 MHz)
  • Graphics adapter : ATI Radeon HD 4225 - 256 MB, Core: 382 MHz, Memory: 400 MHz, 8.753.0.0
  • Display : 11.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LP116WH1-TLP1, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : WDC WD3200BEVT, 320GB 5400rpm
  • Soundcard : ATI RS690 HDMI @ ATI SB800
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: combined headphone/microphone jack, Card Reader: 4in1 cardreader,
  • Networking : Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit), Thinkpad 1x1 11b/g/n Wireless LAN PCI Express Half Mini Card Adapter (bgn), 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth
  • Optical drive
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 30 x 284 x 211
  • Weight : 1.353 kg Power Supply: 0.244 kg
  • Battery : 32 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1V 2800mAh
  • Price : 399 Euro
  • Operating System : FreeDos
  • Additional features : Webcam: 0.3MP 640x480, none, 12 Months Warranty.
The handy case doesn't try to attract attention with fragility. The weight of 1353 grams is average for 11.6 inchers. For example, the Aspire One 722 weighs 1400 grams, and a Vaio YB1S1E/S has a weight of 1431 grams. The angular case with rounded edges is bulky to hold and we clearly sense that we are dealing with a serious work device.

Alike the 13.3 incher, the i-dot in both ThinkPad logos light up with a small red LED (permanent on / altering standby). Our model "Black Smooth" refers to the haptically non-slip but nevertheless smooth surfaces of wrist-rest and lid. To call them velvety would be exaggerated. It's more like light rubber that is mixed in the paint. This provides grip and prevents fingerprints to the largest extent.

There is a small handle on the display's silver band to open the laptop. If you try to take hold of the lid in the center, you could accidentally pull up the touchpad keys as well. They close flush with the display lid and base unit. It seems as if the display is to be pulled up here because the gap between the moveable touchpad keys and the base unit are larger here than between the display lid and base unit.

The plastic case bids very good pressure stability and the base unit's and display's torsional stiffness is excellent for this price range. The display bezel that yields when pressure is applied is a small flaw. The battery fits tight in the case. However, it leaves a gap above the keyboard when it's removed.

The hinges are identical with the 13.3 incher's. The small metal hinges are mounted tightly on the case. They have a firm hold on the lid and it doesn't teeter. The wide opening angle of 180 degrees is perfect for such a small device. It allows you to see what's on the screen in tight spatial conditions. Both hands are needed for opening or increasing the opening angle due to the base unit's low weight.

There is no transportation fastener (latch). Small objects could penetrate and damage the screen since the lid opens a few centimeters. While these latches have disappeared in consumer notebooks, many business laptops still have one.

Our test device its the new Edge 11 AMD standard configuration on the market. The Athlon II Neo X2 K345 (1.40 GHz, Champlain) replaces the somewhat lower clocked K325 (1.3 GHz, Geneva) from the same type. Apart from the clock rate, there is no difference between the CPUs. The level 2 cache is still small with 256 KB and the TDP of 12 watts is still suitable for subnotebooks (45 nm structure width).

The incorporated GPU, AMD Radeon HD 4225 (up to 256 MB shared memory) is maintained and has the same clock rates as in the K325-Edge (core clock: 382 MHz, memory clock: 2775 MHz). The system is accompanied by a 4096 MB DDR3 memory and a slow rotating 320 GB hard disk from Western Digital.

The CPU benchmarks barely measure the change from K325 to K345 and are therefore actually irrelevant for the consumer. The K325 (0.7 points) and the K345 (0.8) are very close in Cinebench R11.5 CPU 64 bit. Wprime 1024 shows that the difference is almost negligible (fewer seconds is faster): K325 (1884s) and K345 (1742s). Another test, Cinebench R10, confirms this: K325 (2518 points) and K345 (2787). Thus, the difference is around 10-12%.

The Intel alternative runs overall faster through these tests. The i3-380UM (2x1.33GHz) manages 1.1 points (R11.5), 1329 seconds (Wprime) and 4266 points (R10) in the synthetic CPU benchmarks. The speed advantage with i3 thus equals 24 to 41%. It is primarily Hyper Threading (calculating on four threads on two cores) that brings advantages in multi-tasking.

The PCMark Vantage test adds up the overall performance and rates the interplay of CPU, Radeon graphics, RAM and HDD. The graphics performance plays an inferior role, but the hard disk's speed has a high impact. The Edge achieves a total score of 2409 points. Thus, the Edge clearly surpasses a Lenovo X100e with older hardware (Athlon Neo MV-40, HD3200, 1387 points). The K325 Edge is on a par with 2486 points. The Edge's Intel version can set itself apart clearly from this with 3619 points.

Potential buyers ought to consider the following should the ThinkPad Edge E125 (11 inch) or X120e with the Fusion APU, E-350 "Brazos", be launched onto the German market: Fusion will speed up certain applications with the faster Radeon HD 6310 (compared to HD 4225), but the overall application performance could be lower. For example, the HP Pavilion dm1-3180eg with this APU only accomplishes 2277 points in PCMark Vantage. First the brand new PCMark 7 gives the HD 6310 a bit more credit like the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e shows: 1101 points versus 1003 points of our Edge 11 K345.

The Edge reaches 980 points in 3DMark2006. Thus, the Radeon HD 4225 is clearly inferior to a HD 6310 (3588, Acer Aspire 5253) of future Edge laptops with Fusion APU E-350. Even the HD netbooks with the C-50 APU partly have more 3D power: Aspire One 521 (1046 3DMarks06), Asus Eee PC 1015PN (1155), Asus Eee PC 1015B (1411) and Aspire One 722 (1460). 3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven couldn't be executed due to the lack of DirectX 11.

The installed HD 4225 only manages 2.85 points in Cinebench R11.5's OpenGL test. All previous Fusion notebooks were clearly in the lead with 7.5 points (E-350) and 5.0 points (C-50) here.

Lenovo no longer relies on Hitachi but on Western Digital for the mass memory. However, the capacity of 320 GB stays the same. The HDTune rates of the 5400 rpm HDD turn out fairly low, as expected. The average in sequential read is 70 MB/s. CrystalDiskMark uses a different routine and determines a more comprehensive picture about the through puts during the read/write of small and large data packages (92 MB/s).

The low figures in read and write performance of random 4K blocks is striking (0.48 / 1.0 MB/s). This slowness is however typical for rotating HDDs because the write/read heads have to first be placed in position mechanically every time. This takes a lot of time and can only be remedied by an SSD.

Gaming: No issue for the Edge 11

There are better entry level cores than the HD 4225 for gaming, which we prove with a random test with Left4Dead. Zombie hunting runs even slower on the Edge 11 than on the 13.3 inch Edge with a higher clocked K685. It's only smooth in the utmost minimum resolution of 640x480 pixels (low details). This results in a just still smooth game play of 29 fps (34 fps, Edge 13 K685). The frames cave-in in high details with 1024x768: 12 fps (13 fps, Edge 13 K685).

Short: The Edge 11 K345 isn't suitable for gaming. If you'd like to add "a bit" more 3D to your work life, you should take a look at the upcoming Edge devices with a Fusion E-350 (11.6 inch: Lenovo ThinkPad X120e / X121e, Edge E125).

Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B

Multi-talent. Work, play and even a mobile light weight. Is the 13.3 incher overestimating itself? The specs are awesome: strong Radeon graphics, Core i7 and turbo SSD. But the price is too: just under 2400 euros.

The SB and SA models belong to Sony's Vaio S range. While SBs are positioned as affordable business all-rounders, the equally built SA is to cover the high priced sector. Almost 2400 euros is a lot of money for a 13 incher. But, the luxury-savvy customer is offered a lot - at least on paper.

Core i7 Dual Core, Radeon HD 6630M with de-activatable graphics, a 256 GB SSD in RAID0 and a matt WXGA++ screen. It is debatable if the price for this handy powerhouse is justified. However, it can't be denied that it is a very interesting test device due to the awesome combination of highest performance and portability. Our comprehensive review will reveal all information about the luxury 13.3 incher.

Specifications Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
  • Processor : Intel Core i7 2620M 2.7 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM67
  • Memory : 8192 MB,
  • Graphics adapter : AMD Radeon HD 6630M - 1024 MB, Core: 485 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, Switchable Intel HD 3000 (IGP), 8.823.0.0
  • Display : 13.3 inch 16:09, 1600x900 pixel, unbekannt, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : Samsung MZRPA128HMCD 256GB, 256GB 4x SAMSUNG MZRPA128HMCD 256GB (RAID0/SATA)
  • Soundcard : Realtek ALC275
  • Connections : 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: line out, Card Reader: Memory Stick Duo, SD, 1 Fingerprint Reader, battery slice port
  • Networking : Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (abgn), 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth, UMTS, HSDPA
  • Optical drive : Matshita BD-MLT UJ242AS
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 23.3 x 331 x 224.5
  • Weight : 1.652 kg Power Supply: 0.286 kg
  • Battery : 49 Wh Lithium-Polymer, VGP-BPS24 4400mAh 11.1V
  • Price : 2399 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 1.31MP 1280×1024 Exmor, Office Starter 2010, Transfer Support, Update, Smart Network, 24 Months Warranty.
Sony's 13.3 incher weighs 1652 grams and the 90 watt power adapter adds 286 grams. The case has a good torsional stiffness for mobile usages. The smooth wrist-rest convinces with a high stiffness and can't be dented even a bit anywhere. The work surface's matt and to the largest extent fingerprint resistant surface is very suitable for working on the go. Sony hasn't used any kind of glossy surfaces.

A clattering battery was a typical Sony characteristic for a long time. This is no longer the case because it can be found underneath a cover on the bottom. It's tightly locked there, but it can be removed.

The surfaces above the keys and the base plate fit tight and don't yield anywhere - not even over the optical drive (only marginally below). The aluminum magnesium alloy, which makes up the case, has a positive impact here. The material is stiff and looks high-end due to the hard, metallic cool surface (painted).

The matt lid is acceptably rigid in view of its flat design. We can twist the display by a few degrees when held at the corners. Nevertheless, light pressure on the lid's surface doesn't cause denting. The hinge has a firm grip on the lid, but it has a peculiarity. As of an 80 degree opening, the needed force lessens for the distance of about 20 degrees just to bid the known grip at 100 degrees again. This behavior, mechanically induced in the hinge, lets the lid open to the usually desired 130 degrees almost "by itself".

The lid's teetering that we reproached in the equally built SB range (German) hasn't completely, yet almost ceased. The lid's stop at the maximum opening is now also firmer than in the SB test device.

Almost all interfaces are located on the case's right. While front and rear don't supply any ports, we only find the headphone jack on the left. Three USB ports (among them 1 USB 3.0), VGA, HDMI and Ethernet are gathered on the right. The dual card reader (Memory Stick, SD) is standard on all Vaio notebooks. The port positioning allows a good cable routing to the right rear. The desk's left is spared from a cable mess.

Wireless communication is up to date: Gigabit LAN, draft n WLAN, Bluetooth and a Qualcomm Gobi HSDPA module for mobile Internet access. The SIM card for the latter is inserted into the base plate underneath a hard rubber cap.

The hardware security features don't go beyond a Kensington lock, a fingerprint reader and the shock-proof SSD.

The SB models' docking solution, VGP-PRS20 (about 129 euros) also fits on our SA device. Please see our detailed review of the docking station and battery slice. In addition to HDMI, VGA and 2 RJ45s (LAN), it supplies four USB ports. The HDMI, VGA & RJ45 on the laptop can no longer be used when the 13 incher is on the station. The battery slice, VGP-BPSC24 (lithium polymer), costs 130 euros and is clicked on underneath the chassis.

The manufacturer's warranty is 24 months. The customer, however, only receives this period at registration subsequent to purchase. An according warranty extension (plus one year) is adhered to the box. If you'd like onsite repair, you can buy the service pack, VGPE-VPPSL/3, valid for three years (270 euros).

The dual Core i7-2620M (2x2.70 GHz, 32nm) has already provided power in business machines, such as HP's EliteBook 8460p. The processor's Turbo Boost 2.0 can clock up to 3.4 GHz (one core) and the "Dynamic Range @ Turbo Frequency Limits" can even add a bit of clock providing there is a sufficient cooling. We will devote ourselves to the themes clock rate and throttling in "Temperature".

The dual core 2620M (TDP 35 watts) is always installed when a 45 watt 2630QM (quad core) goes beyond the cooling limits as it would be the case in 13 inch devices. It is frequently used in high performance 13 inchers, e.g. Acer's Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-2628G12nbb or Dell's Vostro 3350, due to the CPU's low idle power consumption.

The Radeon HD 6630M isn't actually designed for subnotebooks because of its strong performance (and high power consumption). Nevertheless, Sony installs it into the SA, SB and CA range. Moreover, there is adequate 8 GB of RAM and an extremely fast Samsung RAID0 SSD that bids a memory capacity of 256 GB. Again, the S range typical Speed Mode switch that disables the HD 6630M is present.

The i7-2620 scores 9452 points in Cinebench R10 Multi. That is a bit more than an i5-2540M with 9154 points (also 4 threads). Its quad core brother, 2720QM (8 threads), manages 14273 points (+35%) in test notebooks. We see: The processing speed's difference compared with a Core i5 is low.

Is the slim and light 13.3 incher's cooling efficient enough to keep the CPU performance upright during consistent load? We look at the i7-2620 in various other devices. Almost all 2620M candidates reach about 9450 points (+/- 150) in Cinebench R10 Multi. Only the Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch 2011-02 MC724LL/A fails this rate due to throttling.

Four of eight laptops achieved 3.1 points in the Cinebench R11.5 CPU 64 bit test. The Vaio SA2 test device doesn't belong to them because it is on the same level as the Vostro 3350 and XMG A501 with 3.0, respectively 2.9 points (-3%). Again, it is only the aforementioned MacBook that merely reaches 2.6 points due to throttling (-16%). Short: The i7-2620M calculates on the expected level in pure CPU performance. The cooling seems sufficient for normal load scenarios.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HP Pavilion dv7-6101eg

Inexpensive entertainer. HP's dv7-6101eg is a powerful 17-inch notebook, which will appeal to multimedia fans and also occasional gamers, thanks to its Blu-Ray drive and decent graphics card. We put it to the test, to see whether HP has produced a well-rounded package or whether it has tried to save money in the wrong places.

There are masses of 17-inch entertainment notebooks to be found in the great expanse of the internet. But if you sift through them looking for the best possible performance for a reasonable price, you will quickly find yourself looking at the HP dv7-6100 series. For less than €1,000 you can get a graphics card from the top of the mid range. The models that come with the Radeon HD 6770M are definitely preferable in terms of performance to the ones with the HD 6755G2 or HD 6490M.

The processor is either a dual-core (Core i5-2410M) or a quad-core (Core i7-2630QM or A6-3410MX). The DDR3 RAM ranges from 4 GB up to a maximum of 8 GB, while the hard drive capacity ranges from 500 to 2000 GB. Film fans should definitely choose a version with a Blu-Ray drive, or they will have to put up with a conventional DVD burner. The buyer has no choice when it comes to the operating system; Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit is pre-installed, which is standard for notebooks.

Specifications HP Pavilion dv7-6101eg :
  • Processor : Intel Core i5 2410M 2.3 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM65
  • Memory : 6144 MB, 2048 + 4096 MB DDR3-RAM (1333 MHz), max. 8 GB, 2 slots
  • Graphics adapter : AMD Radeon HD 6770M - 2048 MB, Core: 725 MHz, Memory: 1600 MHz, GDDR5-VRAM, 8.830.6.1000
  • Display : 17.3 inch 16:9, 1600x900 pixel, Samsung 173KT01-K01 (SEC3354), HD+, LED backlighting, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : Toshiba MK6465GSX, 640GB 5400rpm
  • Soundcard : IDT 92HD81B1X @ Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
  • Connections : 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 2x headphone output, 1x microphone input, Card Reader: SD, MMC, 1 Fingerprint Reader,
  • Networking : Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Broadcom 4313 802.11b/g/n (bgn)
  • Optical drive : HP DVDWBD TS-LB23L
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 40 x 416 x 275
  • Weight : 3.122 kg Power Supply: 0.63 kg
  • Battery : 62 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1 V, 0.328 kg, 6 cells
  • Price : 799 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: TrueVision HD, Mains adaptor: 120 Watts, quick start guide, CyberLink PowerDVD 10, 24 Months Warranty.
We think the dv7-6101eg has a great look. The steel-grey metal surfaces are scratch resistant and give the laptop a high-quality appearance. The build quality of our review model was convincing, apart from the hard bottom edge of the keyboard, and the screen edging which sticks out slightly. The laptop’s shape and overall design are fresh and yet classy at the same time; the notebook looks smart from every angle.

The very robust base unit is another point in the notebook’s favour. Only under strong pressure do the keyboard (particularly the number block) and the area around the HP logo start to flex a little. However, the lid can be flexed noticeably - a typical notebook shortcoming. The hinges come in for a lot of criticism; the display can wobble heavily when the base unit is shaken, and you need two hands to open the lid.

Overall HP have got almost everything right, with the case feeling like a cross between the Dell XPS 17 and the HP Envy 17. The size and weight are acceptable for a notebook; at 3.1 kg it can be readily transported.

At work inside the dv7-6101eg is a dual-core processor, one of Intel’s powerful Sandy Bridge generation. The Core i5-2410M is an incredibly popular mid-range model which has more than 624 transistors as well as a 3 MB L3 cache. Like all the Sandy Bridge CPUs, it is made using the latest 32 nm process. Thanks to Hyperthreading technology the processor can handle up to four threads simultaneously; this is achieved by simulating two virtual cores.

But for gamers, the processor’s Turbo Mode is more important. Depending on the temperature and system load, the speed of each core is made to vary between the standard 2.30 GHz and a maximum of 2.90 GHz. We briefly tested Turbo Mode using the Cinebench R10 tool. While the speed in the single-core rendering varied between 2.80 and 2.90 GHz, in the multi-core rendering the processor settled at 2.7 GHz. The thermal design power of 35 Watts is not exactly low, but on the other hand the Core i5-2410M does also contain a HD Graphics 3000 graphics chip.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


The U31SD's specifications are rank-and-file; given the product's intended use is casual computing, they are more than up to the task, however. The second-generation Intel Core i3 processor is fast in its own right. Paired with the dedicated Nvidia graphics card, this machine is even capable of some light gaming. Of special note is the two-year limited warranty, which includes a year of accidental damage coverage. This is not something competitors have matched - and ASUS has been offering such warranty coverage for several years now. The MSRP of $799 is slightly on the high side though the warranty makes up for some of the difference.

Our ASUS U31SD-A1 review unit is configured as follows:
  • 13.3-inch glossy 720p display (1366x768 resolution)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i3-2310M dual-core processor (2.1GHz, 3MB cache, 35W TDP)
  • Intel HM65 chipset
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 520 w/ 1GB DDR3 dedicated video memory
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM (1x 4GB; supports up to 8GB - 2x 2GB)
  • 640GB 5400RPM Western Digital hard drive (WD6400BPVT)
  • Intel Centrino Wireless-N 100 wireless network adapter
  • No internal Bluetooth
  • Integrated webcam
  • No internal optical drive
  • 2-year global limited warranty w/ 1 year accidental damage coverage
  • 8-cell Li-ion battery (14.4V, 5800mAh, 83Wh)
  • Weight: 4 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 12.9 x 9.2 x 1 inches
  • MSRP: $799
Build and Design
ASUS continues to use a now-familiar two-tone silver and black exterior. The U31SD is made of plastic with the exception of the lid backing, which is aluminum. The plastics are of average quality, not thin enough to qualify as cheap but not the opposite either. The chassis lacks internal strength; it twists easily when flexed by the corners. This flexing puts the circuit boards at risk for stress cracks over time, which in the U31SD's case is magnified since the notebook will likely be carried around extensively.

The aluminum display back provides decent protection from pressure; pushing in on the back of the display lid does not yield any significant ripples on the screen. The aluminum is a nice touch; it would have been nice of the palm rest were covered as well; alas, it is only a plastic imitation. Overall the build quality could use revision in the next iteration of this notebook. As it stands, the quality is passable but only barely.

Do-it-yourselfers wanting to upgrade the U31SD will find it relatively simple to do; there is a single large access panel on the bottom of the notebook held on by a single screw. Under the cover are two RAM slots, the hard drive, and the wireless card. Only one of the RAM slots is occupied.

Lenovo G570

Part of the Lenovo G-Series line, the Lenovo G570 is a budget-priced 15.6-inch notebook made for consumer general use. Check out our full review to see how this notebook has improved from the last generation and if it can land a spot in your household.

Our Lenovo G570 review unit has the following specifications:
  • 15.6-inch 720p (1366x768) HD glare with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5-2410M dual-core processor
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 dual-channel RAM (2x2GB)
  • 500GB 5400rpm Western Digital hard drive (WD5000BPVT)
  • Atheros AR9285 802.11n wireless LAN card
  • DVD-multi burner
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery (10.8V, 48Wh)
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Weight: 5.73 lbs
  • Dimensions: 14.8” (L) x 9.8” (W) x 0.7~1.4” (H)
  • MSRP: $899 (starting at $449)
Our review unit is built for general use computing, but the Intel Core i5 dual-core processor and 4GB of system memory should work well with multitasking. This system will not, however, be able to run most major 3D games without flaw because of the Intel integrated graphics card, the HD graphics 3000. Other upgrade options upon first customization include 750GB capacity hard drive at 5400rpm, 8GB RAM (1333MHz), and a Blu-ray/DVD combo.

Build and Design
The G570's outer build does not differ that much from its prior model, the G560. The G570 has a simplistic design, glossy plastics on the display lid with molded plastics throughout, and brushed aluminum across the entire top of the chassis around the keyboard. With the Li-ion battery, this unit weighs in at just under 6 pounds and measures in at about 1.5" thick, making it doable for light travel.

Even though it is made almost entirely of plastic material, the overall build quality feels very good and considerably solid. There is minimal flex when pushing down on the palmrests, but due to the brushed aluminum it is not significant; the aluminum also helps to keep this area where your palms and hands will rest stay cool even when the notebook is under exertion. The notebook is not, however, as durable as it could be thanks to the plastic build. The bottom plastic panels will hold up fine on your desk if you aren't a frequent traveler.

The chassis itself is solid; when a lot tension is applied to the keyboard there is only minimal flex. Typing with heavy pressure should not cause any problems as far as chassis flex or "bounce" is concerned.

Because of its glossiness, the dark lid will inherently collect fingerprints, dust, grime, and so forth, so be aware that this notebook may be high maintenance. The glossy lid does add a touch of style, however, to an otherwise simple design. The lid also flexes easily when any amount of pressure is applied and when bending it inward at the corners, so much so that ripples did appear on the LCD display. Overall, the build quality is good; my only complaint is the average build quality of the glossy lid.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Acer Aspire 3750-2314G50MNkk

TestIT2011!, the fifth Handy, long battery life, good input devices and inexpensive on top. These traits could boost the 580 euro 13 incher to success. Find out why the Aspire 3750 doesn't exploit this potential in this review.

Update: Now a reader could also form his own opinion about the tested Aspire 3750 laptop as a part of the Intel TestIT!2011 campaign. In general the laptop under review was equally built, but its Intel Core i5-2410M CPU is slightly more powerful. Apart from a small performance gain the TestIT!2011 should achieve results close to the previously tested i3-model in our measurements (display, temperature, system noise, battery life,...)

The TimelineX-Modell Aspire 3820TG (Arrandale CPU), was Acer's most successful 13.3 incher in 2010 up to the beginning of 2011. The omission of an optical drive made it possible to install two fans which allowed good ergonomics (low waste heat, system noise) despite a Core i5 and Radeon HD 5650/6550M. Thus, it wasn't a surprise that the demand for the strong 13 inchers was, and is, high.

Acer has now transferred the demand for the 13 inchers to the less expensive Aspire range. The handily sized Aspire 3750 comes onto the stage of portability with the looks of a 5750G (Sandy Bridge CPU generation). The Core i3-2310M with an incorporated Intel HD 3000 graphics and a 500 GB hard disk are the performers. There's no doubt whether or not the Core i3 can deal with mobile use. However, uncertainty about the WXGA glare type TFT's practicability creeps in. Is this justified? Find out in this review.

Specifications Acer Aspire 3750-2314G50MNkk :
  • Processor : Intel Core i3 2310M 2.1 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM65
  • Memory : 4096 MB, 2x2048
  • Graphics adapter : Intel HD Graphics 3000, Core: 650 MHz
  • Display : 13.3 inch , 1366x768 pixel, AUO B133XW03 V2, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : WDC WD5000BPVT-22HXZT1, 500GB 5400rpm
  • Soundcard : Realtek ALC269 @ Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
  • Connections : 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: line out, microphone, Card Reader: SD, MMC, xD, MS, MSPro,
  • Networking : Atheros AR8151 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros AR5B97 Wireless Network Adapter (bgn), 3.0+HS Bluetooth
  • Optical drive : Pioneer DVD-RW DVRTD10RS
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 34 x 327 x 229
  • Weight : 2.068 kg Power Supply: 0.199 kg
  • Battery : 63 Wh Lithium-Ion, 10 .8V 5800mAh
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 1280x1024 1.3MP, 24 Months Warranty
Acer's 13.3 incher is equipped with an Intel Core i3-2310M (2x2.1 GHz). The Core i3 2-core CPU isn't capable of Turbo Boost. It is however capable of Hyper Threading (processing 4 threads). The CPU power consumption is 35 watts according to TDP. Both computer cores need 25 watts from this. 10 watts are for the incorporated Intel HD 3000 graphics solution and the internal DDR3 memory controller.

In contrast to expensive Core i5 models, such as i5-2540M, the i3-2310M doesn't have AES New Instructions support. AES supports applications in decrypting and encrypting (business feature). If the i3 is too weak for you, the 3750-2414G50MNkk could be an alternative: Core i5-2410M (2x2.30 GHz, no AES!) + NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M for a price of 699 euros.

As usual, a 4096 MB DDR3 RAM is installed, whereas the available slots are occupied. A 500 GB HDD from Western Digital (WD5000BPVT-22HXZT1) with 5400 rpm is used as the hard disk.

In Cinebench R10 Single 32bit, the Sandy Bridge Core i3-2310M (2x2.1 GHz) achieves as many points as the considerably higher clocking i3-380M (2x2.5 GHz) from the Arrandale generation in single core processing (2751 points). The big brother, i5-2410M (2.3 GHz, Turbo Boost), achieves a clearly faster score of 4510 points (64bit).

However, multi-threading is more relevant for routine work (Cinebench R10 Multi 64bit). The i3-2310M achieves 7538 points in this exercise, alike an i3-380M (7811). The i5-2410M, respectively i5-2520M, achieve 9451, respectively 10128 points, due to Turbo Boost 2.0. We see that the Sandy Bridge Core i3 is almost on par with its higher clocking Arrandale predecessors in its smallest 2.1 GHz alternative.

PCMark Vantage determines a score of 5317 points. That is on par with older systems like the Core i3-380M (e.g. Samsung RV511: 5432) or i3-370M (Samsung SF510).

3DMark2006, for assessing the gaming suitability, reaches 3798 points. The 2010 Intel HD generation (also incorporated in CPU) only achieves 1500 points on average (depending on CPU +/- 200 points). This indicates an increased gaming suitability. We have comprehensively examined how this turns out in the article "Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics solution". We would also refer to the HD Graphics 3000's spec sheet.

Gaming is possible with the Intel HD 3000 to an extent. The dedicated entry level GPU, Radeon HD 6470M, is only 3% faster (3DMark2006). Less demanding games, such as Fifa 11, even run smoothly in high details. Hardware intensive gaming, like StarCraft2 or Battlefield: Bad Company 2, have to be set back to minimum details or lower resolutions though.

The 500 GB HDD (WDC WD5000BPVT-22HXZT1) from the manufacturer, Western Digital, works fairly fast, although it is a standardly rotating 5400 rpm HDD. It reads with only 60 MB/s in sequential read (HDTune). However, the second test with CrystalDiskMark records 75 MB/s (different test routine than HDTune). PCMark Vantage's HDD score shows a better result with 3562 points (sub score) than HDTune and CrystalDiskMark would let you presume.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HP EliteBook 8460p

Boxy Business Notebook. A vivid, high-quality display? The Elitebooks constitute the best that HP has to offer in terms of business laptops. Can the 2011 series maintain this good reputation or even improve it?

The EliteBook is for HP what the ThinkPad T-series is for Lenovo. Above and beyond "Essentials" and "ProBooks", we find the premium segment of business laptops with the highest-quality craftsmanship and newest technology. And as far as the technical specs go, the EliteBook 8460p here is quite appealing with its Core i7-2620M CPU and on-board HD 6470M graphics card as well as its high-resolution display (14", 1600x900).

But is the EliteBook quite as pristine in its performance as its sleek matte aluminum finish makes it out to be? Not quite. A few shortcomings keep this premium-grade business laptop from achieving a rating of "Very Good".

Specifications HP EliteBook 8460p
  • Processor : Intel Core i7 2620M 2.7 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel QM67
  • Memory : 4096 MB, 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM 2xSODIMM
  • Graphics adapter : AMD Radeon HD 6470M - 1024 MB, Core: 750 MHz, Memory: 900 MHz, Catalyst 8.821.1.0
  • Display : 14.0 inch 16:9, 1600x900 pixel, AntiGlare, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : Hitachi HTS723232A7A364, 320GB 7200rpm
  • Soundcard : IDT 92HD81B1X @ Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
  • Connections : 1 Express Card 54mm, 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 Firewire, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, RJ-11 Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: line-out, microphone jack, Card Reader: SD, MMC, 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader, port for second battery
  • Networking : Intel 82579LM Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (abgn), 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth
  • Optical drive : HP CDDVDW TS-L633R
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 31.8 x 338 x 231.3
  • Weight : 2.442 kg Power Supply: 0.353 kg
  • Battery : 55 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells, 10.8V
  • Price : 1412 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 720p HD, Roxio My DVD 2010 SE, HP 3D DriveGuard, 36 Months Warranty.
We were first acquainted with the Intel Core i7-2620M CPU (2x2.7 GHz) in our review of the Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch (2011-02 MC724LL/A). The processor is the fastest of the dual-core Sandy Bridge CPUs first released in early 2011. The CPU offers all the special functions of the Sandy Bridge architecture including Hyper-Threading for more efficient use of multiple cores and Turbo Boost 2.0 for automatic overclocking (3.4 GHz). See the Specs List for the Intel Core i7-2620M for more details.

The AMD Radeon HD 6470M (1,024 MB DDR3) is the dedicated graphics card here. This CPU/GPU duo has 4 GB DDR3 at its disposal (1 x 4,096 MB). The package would, of course, be incomplete without the 320 GB hard drive from Hitachi (7200 RPM).

The Cinebench R11.5 CPU test (Multi, 64 Bit) awards our processor a high 3.1 points. This is a great deal higher than the previous generation i7-620M (2.5; HP 8540w) managed to earn. The Dell Latitude E6520 i7/FHD and Dell Vostro 3550—equipped wit the same CPU—achieved the same score. Only smaller laptops can't manage such high scores on account of their cooling systems, that is, they can't make optimal use of Dynamic Frequency (Turbo 2.0): Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch 2011-02 MC724LL/A (2.6 points) and Dell Vostro 3350 (3.0 points).

Instead of choosing a Core i7, the wise investment would be an SSD (in place of HDD). The workflow speed you experience as well as overall score in PCMark Vantage would then jump even higher. This system performance benchmark awards the EliteBook 7,734 points. The Schenker XMG A501 equipped with the same 2620M CPU and a GeForce GT 540M GPU, managed to squeeze out an astounding 14,153 points. Compared to other laptops with the same hardware configuration, the 8460p ranks in just below the Dell Vostro 3350 (8,354) and the Latitude E6520 i7/FHD (8,548).

The new system benchmark PCMark 7 gave 1,994 points to our EliteBook. This is virtually the same score as the Dell Vostro 3350 (2620M) achieved, even though it has a more powerful HD 6630M GPU. The popular 2630QM quad-core CPU barely results in a higher 2,157 points (Fujitsu Lifebook NH751, 2630QM, GeForce GT525M).

The Radeon HD 6470M (1024MB) is a small DirectX-11 GPU marketed as a starter graphics card by AMD. The GPU indeed runs at 750/900 MHz (core/memory) exactly as AMD states. The GPU doesn't limit itself just to games, rather it's quite useful in other applications, utilizing 160 stream processors via DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.1, DirectCompute 11 or OpenCL for its calculations (Magix & CyberLink products). For details, see the specs sheet of the HD 6470M.

The gaming performance is not exactly first-rate. 3,674 points in 3DMarks06 speak to entry-level gaming capability, a good deal below the 4,988 points earned by the HP Elitebook 8560p-LQ589AW or the 4,839 points the Dell Vostro 3350 (2410M) managed, both equipped with the same GPU. We performed still more tests like 3DMark11 (P595), Heaven 2.1 (5.7 fps) and 3DMarkVantage (P1665). The scores of similar laptops also come out considerably higher here: P634 (Vostro 3350, same hardware), 7.2 fps (Vostro 3350; 2410M) and P2339 (Vostro 3350, same hardware). In short, the graphics performance of our EliteBook 8460p ranks in worse than similar devices (GPU). The culprit here is throttling of the GPU (core: 400 instead of 750 MHz) and CPU. Find more details in the "Temperature" section.

The fast-spinning hard drive (320GB, 7200 RPM) brings about some high data transfer rates. The HDD score in PCMark Vantage comes to 4,022 points, a good average for a 7200RPM HDD. In the HD Tune benchmark (76 MB/s read) and Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 (88 MB/s read), the hard drive shows a good performance. Those interested in fast access only have one way to go, choosing the (128 GB) SSD configuration (LG746EA). The HDD activity LED is located along the front edge of the base unit and is hard to notice since it's so small.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

HP Pavilion dv6-6110eg (Llano)

Low-cost Crossfire. After AMD processors were almost non-existent in our tests for a long time, we now looked at the brand new Llano APU A6. There are even two graphic cores doing their job on the platform. Crossfire and turbo for everyone?

Specifications HP Pavilion dv6-6110eg :
  • Processor : AMD A-Series A6-3410MX 1.6 GHz
  • Mainboard : AMD RS880M
  • Memory : 1144 MB, 1 x 2GB, 1 x 4GB
  • Graphics adapter : AMD Radeon HD 6755G2 - 1024 MB, Core: 600 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, Dual GPU HD 6750M + HD 6520G (IGP), 8.832.0.0
  • Display : 15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, SAMSUNG 156AT05-H07, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : Hitachi HTS725050A9A364, 500GB 7200rpm
  • Soundcard : HD Audio
  • Connections : 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 2 headphone outs, 1 microphone in, Card Reader: SD, MMC, 1 Fingerprint Reader,
  • Networking : Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Ralink RT5390 802.11 b/g/n WiFi Adapter (bgn)
  • Optical drive : HP CDDVDW TS-L633J
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 35.2 x 378 x 246.8
  • Weight : 2.668 kg Power Supply: 0.63 kg
  • Battery : 55 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells, 10.8V
  • Price : 599 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 1280x800, Cyberlink DVD Suite, Cyberlink YouCam, CoolSense, ProtectSmart, Recovery Manager, 24 Months Warranty
AMD based platforms have clearly lost market shares in mobile systems in past years. A small success could be registered in netbooks with APU concept. They were suddenly stronger than the Atom competition and supplied almost the same battery life (e.g., see Toshiba NB550D).

With the Llano generation, the manufacturer has expanded the APU concept of a main processor with incorporated graphics to bigger systems. The codename Llano covers Accelerated Processing Units that are a blend of Northbridge, a dual or quad core and a dedicated graphics. See our report: Llano APUs officially launched.

The Pavilion dv6-6110eg bids all keywords that find an open ear in Media Markt (German consumer electronics chain) fliers: dual graphics, quad core, turbo, Crossfire and long battery life. This bundle is available for less than 600 euros. A tempting bargain? We'll check the capabilities of this new platform for multimedia fans and gamers. Can AMD hold a candle to the Intel Cores? All answers in this comprehensive review.

Four computing cores work under the umbrella of the Fusion APU A series, A6-3410MX (1.6-2.3 GHz) and a HD 6520G incorporated in the APU in the Pavilion dv6-6110eg. A dedicated HD 6750M is connected to this. The processing cores can now also overclock at AMD (Turbo Core 2.0). An APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) is a main processor with an incorporated graphics unit. Consequently, CPU, GPU and video as well as other hardware accelerators are united on one die, like in the Intel Core processors. For details, see AMD: Llano APUs officially launched an the CPU's spec page.

Up to date, we have only gotten to know APU based devices in netbooks, subnotebooks and performance weak office notebooks, e.g. Lenovo G575, ThinkPad X120E, Vaio YB1 (E350) or Aspire One 522, Eee PC 1015B, Toshiba NB550D (C50). The A series at hand was launched in June 2011 and also includes desktop processors. There is also a fast rotating, 7200 rpm hard disk from Hitachi and a six gigabyte RAM (1 x 2 GB, 1 x 4 GB) installed.

HP Pavilion g6-1141sg Notebook

TestIT!2011, the fourth. HP also provides a suitable office notebook for the Intel TestIT!2011. The HP Pavilion g6 is ready to be checked and rated by a reader, as well as from our experienced editors. Read in this review how this rating ultimately turns out.

Of course, HP shouldn't be left out in Germany's biggest notebook test either, and is at the start with the Pavilion g6. Alike the competition, an Intel Core i5 is installed in the HP notebook. The processor-incorporated graphics solution, Intel HD Graphics 3000, is used as the graphics card. The HP laptop relies more on a plain and serious exterior and tries to tempt the buyer this way. The price of 499 euros also speaks a clear language. We will find out, in collaboration with our reader cum reporter, if HP wanted to make too many cutbacks, or if it has done a good job in this review.

Specifications HP Pavilion g6-1141sg :
  • Processor : Intel Core i5 2410M 2.3 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM65
  • Memory : 4096 MB, Samsung, DDR3-1333 667 MHz, max. 8x GB, 2 slots
  • Graphics adapter : Intel HD Graphics 3000,
  • Display : 15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LG Display LGD02AC, LED backlight, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : Seagate ST9500325AS, 500GB 5400rpm
  • Soundcard : HD Audio
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 2 audios (headphone, microphone), Card Reader: 2in1 card reader (SD, MMC),
  • Networking : Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller (10/100MBit), Atheros AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter (bgn)
  • Optical drive : HP DVD RW AD-7721H
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 31 x 374 x 245
  • Weight : 2.5 kg Power Supply: 0.2 kg
  • Battery : 47 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells, 10.8 volts
  • Price : 499 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: HP Webcam mit integr. Digitalmikro, power adapter, documentation, notebook, Tool for creating a recovery CD/DVD , Symantec Norton Internet Security 2011 (60 day live update), assistance & support for notebook, HP Setup, Setup Manager, HP Support Assistant, HP ProtectSmart, Windows Live application, HP gaming console, E, 12 Months Warranty, color: anthracite-gray.
The Pavilion g6's heart is the Intel Core i5-2410M CPU from the latest Sandy Bridge family. This processor is a dual core model with a base clock of 2.3 GHz each. The processor can also be overclocked dynamically thanks to the improved Turbo Boost 2.0 technology. Either both cores can be overclocked to 2.6 GHz or one single core to 2.9 GHz, depending on the processor's load. Thus, the processor should also be able to supply enough reserves even at performance peaks.
In return, the processor has many energy saving mechanisms that, for example, reduce the processor's clock during low load. Consequently, the notebook's battery life benefits. The processor is a midrange model from Intel's current array and covers a wide range of possible applications. This make it to a good, all-round processor. The processor places itself in the midfield with a TDP of 35 watts, in terms of cooling. Therefore, the Intel Core i5-2410M is also favored for notebooks with a display size of 13-14 inches or more.

The Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics solution is a GPU incorporated in the GPU. It doesn't supply as much performance as, for example, dedicated graphic cards. But it also doesn't use as much energy as a dedicated solution, either. Nevertheless, the new generation of incorporated graphic cards has also made quite a bit of progress. Thus, the Intel HD Graphics 3000 is roughly comparable to the dedicated entry-level graphics card, Nvidia GeForce 310M. It is possible to render older games smoothly with this graphics card and even makes a few newer tracks playable. But only in low details and resolutions.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook

First Netbook. Is Google's Chrome browser enough to be happy in the Web-world? We logged into our Google account. How much Office is actually possible with this browser? Do Google Docs, Picasa and DropBox suffice? Found out in our review.

The first true netbook. The netbook class developed as a simple mobile computer capable of carrying out marginal Office programs whilst serving as a player and web browser. Since 2007, manufacturers have brought countless netbooks of this ilk to the market. But have the Eee-PCs and the other Windows-minis really done their job?

Yes, yes they have. But in serving the simple task of “Web-surfing”, the entire Windows infrastructure was dragged along in the process. One should consider that in order to merely surf the Internet and read emails, the user had to, and still has to fight off viruses and Trojans, go along with Windows updates and put up with long booting times. Couldn’t it be a bit simpler?

It can be with the Linus-based Chrome OS of our Samsung Chromebook (Series 5 500C21). The user is confronted with nothing more than the familiar Chrome Web browser. Is this enough for a fulfilling web-experience? Can the Chromebook replace a Windows netbook? Find out the answers in this review.

Specifications Samsung Chromebook Series 5
  • Processor : Intel Atom N570 1.66 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel NM10
  • Memory : 2048 MB, 1 x 2048 MB DDR3
  • Graphics adapter : Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3150
  • Display : 12.1 inch 16:10, 1.366x768 pixel, 300 cd/m², glossy: no
  • Harddisk : 16GB SSD, GB
  • Soundcard : none
  • Connections : 2 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, Audio Connections: Kopfhörer, Mikrofoneingang, über einen Anschluss, Card Reader: MMC, SDHC, SDXC, SD, TPM Modul
  • Networking : 802.11a/b/g/n (abgn), 3G Modem
  • Optical drive : none
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 19.9 x 294.2 x 219.5
  • Weight : 1.485 kg Power Supply: 0.165 kg
  • Battery : Lithium-Ion, 6 cell 8200 mAh
  • Price : 450 Euro
  • Operating System : Google Chrome OS
  • Additional features : Webcam: 1.3MPixel SVGA, Mini-VGA auf VGA D-Sub Adapter, 24 Months Warranty.
Samsung relies on an Atom N570 CPU with two cores (2x1.66GHz) for its 2011 netbook. The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3150 as well as a memory controller for DDR3 (1x2.048 MB) are integrated into the CPU. The TDP is around 8.5 watts. The CPU is something of a descendent of the often used Atom N550 (2x1.5 GHz), which is found in many consumer netbooks. The memory of the Chrome OS (Linux) is only available through a single non-sensitive 16 GB Flash memory (SSD). But this isn’t intended to save the user’s data.

We tested the application performance of the browser with the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 0.9.1:1517 ms (the smaller, the better). As a comparison, the Windows-based Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 (Atom Z670 1.50GHz) we tested at the same time needed 1907 ms (+25%). The result speaks for the energy savings of the Chrome OS on the Samsung.

We dared to carry out a further benchmark with the Peacekeeper (Futuremark) Browser Benchmark. The browser benchmark tracks its speed with computing Java script functions. We got 1.373 points (version 12) with the Chromebook. But the Windows System Stylistic Q550 with a very similar system (Atom Z670 1.50GHz, 30GB SSD, Intel GMA 600, Chrome Version 12) got an even better 1653 points. The Chromebook looses out in areas like social networking and complex graphics. This could be because of the slow GMA 3150 (200 MHz) instead of the GMA 600 (400 MHz).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Toshiba Satellite L755-14P

The Japanese manufacturer, Toshiba, also takes part in the big notebook test 2011 with the Satellite L755-14P. Of course, Notebookcheck takes a closer look at this device, as well. Does the Toshiba Satellite L755-14P, an entry-level 15 incher, perhaps have the makings of a winner?

The Toshiba Satellite L755-14P is currently on the road as a participant of "TestIT2011, Germany's biggest notebook test". The notebook is equipped with a 15.6 inch screen and an Intel Core i5-2410M CPU so that it can be used in both an office environment as well as by consumers.

The processor's built-in graphics card is responsible for video output and - as the benchmarks prove - has enough power for the Satellite L755-14P's screen in many cases. Even a few new games are playable in a still acceptable graphics quality. However, the device's strengths are found in office, Internet and home applications. The Toshiba Satellite L755-14P has a price of about 700 euros.

Specifications Toshiba Satellite L755-14P :
  • Processor : Intel Core i5 2410M 2.3 GHz
  • Memory : 4096 MB, Hynix HMT351S6BFR8C-H9
  • Graphics adapter : Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Display : 15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LG Philips LP156WH2-TLAA, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : TOSHIBA MK5065GSX, 500GB 5400rpm (500 GB, 5400 rpm, SATA-II)
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, Audio Connections: Kopfhörer, Mikrofon, Card Reader: miniSD, microSD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MMC,
  • Networking : Atheros AR8152 PCI-E Fast Ethernet Controller (10/100MBit), Atheros AR9002WB-1NG Wireless Network Adapter (bgn), Bluetooth 3.0 + HS Bluetooth
  • Optical drive : HL-DT-ST DVD+-RW GS30N
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 38 x 380 x 250
  • Weight : 2.5 kg Power Supply: 0.09 kg
  • Battery : 57.1 Wh Lithium-Ion, SANYOPA3817U-1BRS
  • Price : 699 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 0.3 MP, Micosoft Office 10 (Starter), Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, Cyberlink, PowerDVD 10, Cyberlink Powerdirector, Arcsoft Media Converter 7, 24 Months Warranty.
The Intel Core i5-2410M, which is standardly clocked with 2.3 GHz, belongs to the Sandy Bridge processor generation and can be increased to a clock of 2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost. Overclocking happens automatically and is determined by the required performance in every case. In addition to both CPU core units there is also a 3 MB L3 cache and the incorporated HD Graphics 3000 on the processor's die. The front side bus (FSB) work with 1333 MHz in this system.

The CPU initially ran up to 2.9 GHz during the stress test. The maximum frequencies could be reached less frequently, the higher the temperatures climbed. It's great that the CPU doesn't throttle. That means that the CPU's clock didn't fall below 2.3 GHz (all four threads loaded).

CPU Performance
The benchmark results are on the expected level and don't show any outliers. The laptop achieved a score of 3699 points in Cinebench R10's single rendering (32 bit). It was 7946 (32 bit) and 9662 points (64 bit) in multi rendering.

Even the rates in the PCMark series were impressive. The achieved scores are on a par with the opponents in the 3DMark series' graphic benchmarks.

GPU Performance
The DirectX 10 capable graphics unit, Intel HD Graphics 3000, is located directly in the Intel Core i5-2410M and shares the level 3, respectively the last level cache with the processor. The graphics performance is a lot better than in the older Intel HD Graphics and is on a par with an entry-level graphics card (for example, the Nvidia GeForce 310M). The Intel HD graphics is also dynamically clocked from 650 to 1200 MHz thanks to Turbo Boost.

The HD Graphics 3000's performance is for example seen in 3DMark 2006, where the Toshiba L755 scores accordingly for the configuration at hand with 3641 points. Intel's GMA HD predecessor only achieved about 1000 points in comparison.
Besides the classic office and multimedia tasks (video rendering), the performance even suffices for more demanding tasks, such as simple HD video editing or games in low graphic details.

The installed 2.5 inch Toshiba hard disk reads with 68.4 MB/s in sequential read (HDTune). This rate was confirmed by the second test program, Crystal Disk Mark (63 MB/s). The built-in Toshiba hard disk is on the expected level of a common 5400 rpm memory with these results. However, even faster memory solutions are available. The access rate of only 17 ms (HDTune) has to be noted positively.

HP ProBook 6560b

Heavy metal reloaded. The ProBook 6560 LG658EA is an entry level business device from Hewlett Packard in a robust aluminum case. In addition to its high-end looks, the installed hardware is also impressive: a dual core CPU from Intel's second generation processors, dedicated AMD graphics and a 15.6 inch matt display with a high resolution. Price: about 900 euros.

Specifications HP ProBook 6560b-LG658EA :
  • Processor : Intel Core i5 2520M 2.5 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM65
  • Memory : 4096 MB, Elpida 2Rx8 PC3-10600S-9-10-F2
  • Graphics adapter : AMD Radeon HD 6470M - 512 MB, Core: 750 MHz, Memory: 900 MHz, Seymour, atiumdag 8.821.1.0
  • Display : 15.6 inch 16:9, 1600x900 pixel, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : WDC WD5000BEKT, 500GB 7200rpm
  • Soundcard : Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
  • Connections : 1 Express Card 54mm, 4 USB 2.0, 1 Firewire, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, LSI HDA Modem Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Serial Port, 1 eSata, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: 2, Card Reader: 2in1 Secure Digital Card (SD), MultiMediaCard (MMC) , 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader,
  • Networking : Intel 82579V Gigabit Network Connection (10/1000MBit), Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n (abgn), 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth, HSPA+ mobile broadband module
  • Optical drive : HP CDDVDW TS-L633R
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 34 x 374 x 251
  • Weight : 2.9 kg
  • Battery : 55 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells
  • Price : 899 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 2.0 Megapixel HD-Web, 720p, Roxio Secure Burn, Microsoft Office 2010, Norton Internet Security 2011 (60 day subscription), 12 Months Warranty.
The ProBook 6560-LG658EA is a 15.6 inch laptop from Hewlett Packard that is equipped with special business features. Not only the inner values count to this, but the modern design as well. The display bezel is made of pearl blasted aluminum. The case is additionally reinforced with magnesium. The 39.6 cm HD display (15.6 inch) in a 16:9 format can reproduce a resolution of 1600x900 pixels. Thus, it is also perfectly suitable to work with several adjacently opened windows.

An Intel dual core CPU, model Core i5 2520M, works inside the entry level business laptop. It runs with a clock rate of 2.5 GHz and can even overclock single cores up to 3.2 GHz thanks to the Turbo Boost technology. Besides the incorporated Intel graphics, this notebook also has a dedicated graphics card from AMD. The Radeon HD 6470M supplies its own video memory of 512 MBs.

Moreover, a 500 GB hard disk, a DVD burner and 4 GB of RAM are installed. HP has also integrated WWAN (3G) and a 56k V9.92 modem next to WLAN, Bluetooth and Gigabit LAN for connectivity in our test model.

An Intel Core i5 processor from the Sandy Bridge generation is used in the HP ProBook 6560b-LG658EA. The dual core CPU (Intel Core i5-2520M) works with a base clock of 2.5 GHz. The number of computing cores is virtually doubled (4) thanks to Hyper Threading support. The CPU is automatically clocked up to 3.2 GHz by the Turbo Boost mode when required. The processor has a 3 MB level 3 cache and is produced in the 32 nm technology.

The Sandy Bridge dual core processor also includes the incorporated DirectX 10 capable Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics card and the memory controller in the specified TDP of 35 watts. Besides the CPU's HD graphics, a dedicated graphics, model AMD Radeon HD 6470M, is also used in the ProBook.

CPU Performance
The 2520M CPU's maximum clock rage of up to 3.2 GHz also remains stable during load (Cinebench's single CPU rendering). That means it exploits its turbo reserves well. The CPU's clock stayed constant at at least 2.5 GHz in our simulated stress test over 180 minutes – both Prime and Furmark ran simultaneously.
Turbo also pushed the CPU rate to its limits of 3.2 GHz in the first few minutes. The hotter the die temperature got, the less "turbo" was used. However, the Intel Core i5-2520M 's clock rate never fell below 2.5 GHz, so the specified base clock of all cores, during load.

The achieved results in the Cinebench R10 benchmark tests are within the expected range for the used CPU in both the single core as well as in the multi core rendering test.

System Performance
This laptop was no exception and had to run through many tests in the benchmark marathon. The total package (CPU, GPU, memory and hard disk) are assessed with cross component test tools, such as PCMark05, PCMark 7 and PC Mark Vantage.
Moreover, the notebook had to endure a few synthetic benchmarks, among others from Futuremark. These test tools specify just how fast the laptop's graphic functions are. This is only secondary in a business notebook, but this point shouldn't be underestimated. In particular since many applications can benefit from the resources of a dedicated GPU.

The device achieved a score of 7680 points in PCMark Vantage. Thus it is in the upper range of all notebooks that we have tested without a built-in solid state drive (SSD). Our experience shows that they would push the total score to over 10000 points. This would also be a possibility for the user to increase the 6560b's application performance considerably after buying.
In comparison, the HP Elitebook 8460p (2620M/HD6470M) places itself insignificantly higher, the workstation from the previous Elitebook generation, the 8540w (620M/FX880M) lags even slightly behind with 7510 points.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Alienware M17x R3

The M17x is now in its third iteration with the R3 edition. Unlike its predecessors, the R3 has a single graphics card; to get a dual graphics card setup (AMD CrossFireX or Nvidia SLI), you need to step up to the monstrous 18.4-inch M18x. Still, the M17x R3 packs serious firepower as configured.

Options include the slightly faster i7-2720QM processor (the i7-2630QM is standard), AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics card with a whopping 2GB of its own memory (a 1GB HD 6870M is standard), the upgraded Intel 6300 AGN wireless card, and the 1.5TB RAID 0 hard drive array.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G

Surround system. The new 18 inch flagship comes with the quad core processor, Intel Core i7-2630QM, and the Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphics solution. Not only are the 16 GB RAM and the installed speedy SSD striking, but the touchpad as well. It can be removed and used as a remote control. The steep price for the notebook: 1699 euros.

Acer announced new models of the Acer Aspire Ethos range in June. The model Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G is available in the most various alternatives in the meantime. The predecessor of the previously reviewed Acer Aspire Ethos 8950G belongs to the heavyweight category with just under four kilos. Acer's 18.4 incher is available starting at 1300 euros, depending on the configuration. The Taiwanese manufacturer relies on Intel's quad core, i7-2630QM , together with Nvidia's Geforce GT 555M for this. The combination of the quad core processor, based on the Sandy Bridge architecture with a base clock of 2 GHz, and the fast midrange graphics card are to supply multimedia and game fans with the needed power.

Our test device, called 8951G-2631687Wnkk (LX.RJ202.059), has a price of about 1699 euros. The buyer gets a fast solid state drive, model Intel X25-M, with a memory capacity of 120GBs, though. And there is also quite a bit of main memory available because Acer has equipped its Aspire Ethos 8951G with 16 GB of DDR3 RAM. Acer has also installed a 750 GB hard disk (7200 revolutions per minute) from Western Digital for the other memory requirements. A BluRay drive has also not been forgotten. The manufacturer provides an optical drive from Matshita for this. The 18.4 inch sized Full HD display supplies a maximum resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. The 5.1 sound system, which promises a great sound experience, is one of the special features. In addition, the touchpad can be removed and used as a remote control. Moreover, features like USB 3.0 or a fingerprint reader have also been installed.

System Performance
We simulate the test device's application performance with the benchmark tools PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7 from the software developers Futuremark. The Acer Aspire 8951G places itself in the front ranks with 11637 points in PCMark Vantage. The laptop, Alienware M14x with the same CPU and GPU, clearly achieves more points (14302 points) in PCMark Vantage. However, the Dell model, XPS 17-L702X, reaches considerably fewer points (7649). The system currently is on the 4th place in PCMark 7 (status: 06. 28. 2011). The Alienware Notebook M14x again achieves more points, even if only fewer (3595 points). Overall, a top performance in terms of application performance, which is mainly due to the installed SSD.

Specifications Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G-2631687Wnkk
  • Processor : Intel Core i7 2630QM 2 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM65
  • Memory : 16384 MB, DDR3 SDRAM-PC3-8500-1066 MHz
  • Graphics adapter : NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M, - nVIDIA ForceWare 268.30
  • Display : 18.4 inch , 1920x1080 pixel, CMO1807, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : INTEL SSDSA2M120G2GC, 120GB SSD
  • Soundcard : none
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 Firewire, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: 1 line in, 1 line out, 1 S/PDIF, Card Reader: MMC, SD Memory Card, xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, SDXC, 1 Fingerprint Reader,
  • Networking : Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros AR5B97 Wireless Network Adapter (bgn), Bluetooth 3.0 + HS Bluetooth
  • Optical drive : Matshita BD-MLT UJ240AF
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 39 x 440 x 295
  • Weight : 3.9 kg
  • Battery : Lithium-Ion, 8 cells
  • Price : 1600 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 1.3 Megapixel, 24 Months Warranty 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

HP Mini 100e

HP Mini 100 netbook is the latest of education to get oriented to the market, aiming only at school and lack of channels of consumption patterns. This model has a unique clamshell design with integrated handle and body are very difficult. In this review, we will see how well it stands out compared to similar models, including Dell Latitude 2100, so you can decide if it's a netbook that is right for your school.

Our HP Mini-100E specifications:
  • 10.1 "WSVGA (1024 x 600) with LED backlight
  • Intel Atom N455 (1.66 GHz, 667 MHz FSB)
  • Intel GMA 3150
  • 802.11b / g, LAN 10/100
  • DDR3 1 GB (2 GB max)
  • 160GB hard drive and SD card reader
  • Dimensions 10.9 x 9.9 x 1.57 inches
  • Weight 3.10 pounds with 6 cell battery
  • Batteries: 3 28 Wh lithium-ion its
  • Warranty: 1 year (extended warranty available)
  • Price: less than U.S. $ 300 (prices vary depending on configuration ordered and units)
Construction and Design
HP Mini-100E is not like most netbooks currently on the market. HP started fresh medium and a computer is super powerful, easy to use and easy to carry. From top to bottom of the netbook is designed for the abuse of all children, day after day and continue to work as expected. Mini-100E has a white plastic outer skin and a very large palette of colors inside the laptop.

The same plastic that are found everywhere on laptops, including the touchpad and the display panel, giving the system a very industrial. If you want a designer netbook, look elsewhere. Features such as built-in handle is all about function over form, eliminating the need to drag the case out of the system.

The whole system is designed for school administrators hope the repair is simple and easy to store, at the end of the day when schools. Mini 100 is a durable plastic body seems more at ease in a rugged notebook, not netbook. When the system is the open space around the keyboard on the screen each time.

The wrist rest is just rock with a keyboard and pad, near the display hinges. The hinges are very strong, completely free from doubt, and keep the screen closed when the system is closed. Even the keyboard seems a step above what is found in standard laptop, with the mark recorded for each symbol, not only to print on the surface of the button.

HP Mini-100E is very easy to update, even though we were surprised to see a child deterence mechanisms to prevent tampering by students. With the battery removed, the two screws holding the cover reveals that in place. When the lid, you will have access to wireless card, hard disk and system memory.

Hard disks have partial protection against the impact of grommets to isolate the chassis of the small car that can take hours to dry. In general, one can easily say that this netbook is one of if not the easiest to update the models on the market.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


If you're someone who wants a high-performance gaming notebook packed with 1TB of storage, a 1GB Nvidia GTX 285M graphics card and one of the most powerful Intel Core i7 processors currently on the market then you better be prepared to pay close to $2,500. Well, that was before the MSI GT660R arrived in stores. This 16-inch gaming notebook is packed with premium components, a fantastic speaker system and the ability to overclock the CPU and the GPU for $1,700. Keep reading to find out more.

MSI offers multiple configurations of the GT660. Our review unit of the MSI GT660R comes with the following features:
  • 16-inch 720p (1366x768) display with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Intel Core i7-740QM (1.73GHz) Overclockable
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 285M (1GB DDR3) Overclockable
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM 1066MHz (2GB x 3)
  • 1TB of storage (two 500GB 7200rpm HDD in RAID 0)
  • Super-Multi/Blu-Ray optical drive
  • 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth
  • 9-cell Li-ion battery with 150W power adapter
  • Weight: 7.74 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15 x 10.25 x 1.78 inches
  • MSRP: $1,699.99
Build and Design
The MSI GT660 series was designed in partnership with Dynaudio to create a gaming notebook chassis that also offers a "true-to-life sound experience." The speaker housing structures, speaker circuits and overall position of the stereo speakers and subwoofer were designed to combine the extreme performance of a gaming notebook with the rich audio performance of a premium multimedia notebook.

Despite the heavy use of plastics, the exterior surfaces of the GT660R are covered in a scratch-resistant coating to improve durability. The screen lid itself is also covered in "MSI Color Film Print Technology" which is essentially in multi-layer printed image imbedded into the plastic. In this case you can see a faint honeycomb pattern in the lid similar to the texture used on the palm rests when you open the notebook.

The build quality of the MSI GT660R is a combination of good and bad. The solid main chassis doesn't squeak, creak, or flex even under significant pressure. Unfortunately, the keyboard suffers from quite a bit of obvious flex under heavy typing pressure and the screen lid flexes inward with ease. The screen hinges are nice and tight, but the heavy use of glossy plastics means that your fingerprints and smudges quickly cover every exposed surface of the notebook and make it look dirty unless you constantly clean your notebook with a microfiber cloth. The metal-reinforced main chassis offers a fair amount of structural rigidity for the plethora of high-performance components inside, but this also adds to the bulk and weight of the notebook.

The bottom of the notebook includes a single, massive access plate for the RAM, wireless cards and the dual hard drives. The battery also clips into the bottom of the notebook underneath one of the palm rests. The three RAM slots are stacked, making use of the extra chassis thickness necessitated by the high-performance graphics card. Despite the thickness and weight of this notebook, the internal layout helps keep the chassis design as thin as possible. My only complaint here is that you have to remove too many screws to get inside the GT660. Considering that the target audience for this notebook is likely upgrade the RAM or hard drives at some point (possibly as soon as they buy it) we would have appreciated it if MSI made it easier to get inside this notebook.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y560d

The IdeaPad Y560d is a consumer multimedia notebook featuring a powerful Intel quad-core processor and ATI graphics. The most interesting aspect of this notebook is the 3D-capable screen. Does this feature make the notebook worth extra money? Read our review to find out.

Our Lenovo IdeaPad Y560d review unit has the following specifications:
  • 15.6-inch 720p (1366x768) glossy panel with LED backlighting and 120Hz refresh rate
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-720QM quad-core processor (1.6GHz/2.8GHz Turbo Mode, 6MB L3, 2.5GT/s QPI, 45W TDP)
  • Intel PM55 chipset
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 w/ 1GB GDDR3 video memory
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 dual-channel RAM (2x 2GB)
  • 500GB 7200RPM Hitachi 7K500 hard drive (HTS725050A9A364)
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 AGN wireless
  • Built-in Bluetooth v2.1+EDR
  • DVD burner (Slimtype DVD A DS8A4S)
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery (11.1V, 57Wh)
  • Weight: 5.95 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15.1” (L) x 8.5” (D) x 0.8~1.30”” (H)
  • MSRP: $1,599
The specifications are enthusiast-grade; the most noteworthy components are the Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and 1GB ATI graphics card. The Y560d's screen has a 120Hz refresh rate, which is what allows it to produce the illusion of 3D when combined with the included special polarized glasses and TriDef software. The Manufacturer's suggested retail price is a bit steep; however this notebook can often be found for several hundred less online.

Build and Design
The Y560d has an aesthetically pleasing design. The notebook is quite thin and light for its class, coming in at six pounds and just over one inch thin. The chassis has a standard rectangular shape. All corners are generously rounded off, giving the Y560d a soft appearance compared to business notebooks. Numerous white status lights dot the chassis, including a backlit “IdeaPad” logo in the bottom right of the palm rest. The keyboard is flanked by two impressive-looking JBL-branded speakers.

The back of the lid is where the design gets interesting. A gaudy-looking tattoo covers the entire surface; I am not sure what it is supposed to be. It will likely be a deal-breaker for some. Fortunately the standard Y560 non-3D notebook is available with a plain lid. The Y560d is constructed entirely of plastic. The chassis willingly flexes when twisted by the corners, which indicates the internal frame is not that strong. Surfaces around the keyboard also bend visibly when pressure is applied. The lid is again easy to twist, however no ripples appear on the screen when pushed in from behind; there is some measure of protection there. The display hinges are rather weak; I can move them around where they connect to the chassis. The hinges should also be stiffer than they are; the display wobbles for some time after abruptly letting go of the screen while opening/closing it.

The biggest problem I have with the Y560d is the fact that every visible surface is covered in glossy, smudge-prone plastic. It is nearly impossible to keep clean and is not all that durable. Overall, the build quality is below average for a notebook priced north of a grand. The glossy plastic and gaudy lid tattoo may turn off prospective customers.

HP Mini 5103 Multitouch

The new HP Mini 5103 is an update to the previous 5102 netbook, adding the newest dual-core Intel Atom N455 to the spec-sheet. This 10.1-inch netbook can be configured with an optional multi-touch display and has a starting price of $399.99. Check out our review to see our verdict on this small system.

Our HP Mini 5103 has the following specifications:
  • Windows 7 Professional (32-bit)
  • Processor: Intel Atom N550 Processor 1.5GHz (1MB cache)
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage: 160GB 7200rpm SATA HDD
  • Display: 10.1-inch multitouch LED-backlit display (1366x678, matte finish)
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 3150 integrated graphics
  • Wireless: Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR
  • Expansion: 4-in-1 media card slot
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 10.30 x 7.09 x 0.98 in
  • Weight: 3.01 lb with 6-cell battery (not including weight of AC adapter).
  • Power: Standard 4-cell (28WHr)Lithium-ion battery or 6-cell (66WHr) extended-life battery
  • Warranty: One-year standard warranty
  • Price: $399.99 Starting
Build and Design
The HP Mini 5103 has a very business-like appearance with a squared-off chassis and rugged-looking brushed metal finish. The design hasn't changed much over the years, first seen with the Mini 5101 and the 5102 earlier this year. The appearance is almost as if the small and medium-business ProBook 4520s was hit with a shrinkray and this was the result. The brushed metal finish holds up well to daily abuse, but it seemed to attract a few fingerprints without much effort. The inside has a rubbery dark paint covering the palmrest with a glossy black touchpad recessed slightly below the surface. On top of the keyboard HP throws in two quick-launch buttons to launch an internet browser and default email client ... probably the two most used applications on a business notebook.

Build quality is a step above most consumer netbooks with a very sturdy chassis and durable finishes inside and out. The brushed metal screen cover held up well against everything except fingerprints-easier to wipe off than scratches -- and also added some extra protection for the LCD. When closed, the netbook had very little flex, which is just what you would expect from a business-grade system. The only aspect that seemed to clash with the business-theme was an abundance of glossy finishes, including the touchpad, keyboard bezel, and screen bezel that increase reflection and attract fingerprints more compared to matte or rough finishes.

The HP Mini 5103 wasn't as easy to upgrade as most business notebooks. The designers only included access for the system memory, although that is still a step up from the ProBook 4520s which needed to be fully dismantled to access the RAM. A few added perks to the design included battery charge-indicators on the 4 and 6-cell batteries which give an instant readout of capacity without having to turn the system on. The Mini 5103 also made use of the larger full-size notebook AC-adapter plug, which looks and feels more solid than your average netbook power connector.

Lenovo G560

The Essential G560 is Lenovo’s entry-level 15.6” notebook. It sports an Intel Core i3 processor, full-size keyboard with number pad, and a starting price around $600. Read our review to find out more.

Our Lenovo Essential G560 review unit has the following specifications:
  • 15.6-inch 720p (1366x768) glossy panel with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i3-330M dual-core processor (2.13GHz, 3MB L3 cache, 2.5GT/s QPI, 35W TDP)
  • Intel HM55 chipset
  • Integrated Intel HD graphics w/ shared video memory
  • 4GB DDR3-1066 dual-channel RAM (2x 2GB)
  • 320GB 5400RPM Western Digital hard drive (WD3200BEVT)
  • Broadcom 802.11n wireless LAN card
  • DVD burner (Optiarc DVD RW AD-7585H)
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery (11.1V, 48Wh)
  • Weight: 5.73 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 14.8” (L) x 9.8” (D) x 0.7~1.4” (H)
  • MSRP: $699
Our test unit has specifications appropriate for what it was designed for – basic use. The Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM ensure smooth multitasking. Something this machine will not be able to do is play 3D games since it has integrated graphics.

Build and Design
The G560 has a modest-looking exterior with a few high-quality touches. The palm rest area is inlaid with brushed aluminum, which feels cool to the touch. The G560 is rather thin and light given its 15.6” screen, coming in at a shade under six pounds and about 1.3” thin. Despite its all-plastic construction the G560 has a solid feel. The palm rest and areas surrounding the keyboard have good support and do not flex, even under abnormal pressure. The plastic used in the construction has satisfactory quality; it is thick enough to not feel brittle yet not something I would classify as durable.

Unlike the chassis, the lid is covered in smooth glossy plastic, which attracts dust and fingerprints. This is a con – the glossy plastic gets messy quickly unless a microfiber cloth is kept handy at all times. The build quality of the lid itself is average and not as good as the chassis. It flexes easily when twisted by the corners and I made ripples appear on the screen when I pushed in on the back. The G560’s overall build quality is satisfactory; my only real complaint is the glossy plastic used on the lid.