Packard Bell Easynote MB88-P-003 review

10 Mar 2008

An attempt at a 'trendy' laptop seriously backfires: garish looks and mediocre ergonomics hamper this Limited Edition model.

Price when reviewed 
509
3

Packard Bell has tried to make a statement with its 'Limited Edition' EasyNote laptop. Clad in white plastic, there's a bright white light that slashes across the wrist-rest and it's available in a choice of three colours - Lime Green, Sunny Orange and Dark Chocolate - to brighten up the edges.

It certainly makes you sit up and take notice, but alas the effect is more more boy racer than German engineering. Opening the lid doesn't improved matters either, revealing a silly-looking circular trackpad interrupting that blinding white strip light.

Above the trackpad, the keyboard has escaped the 'stylish' treatment - and it feels reasonably comfortable to type on. But its plasticky keys don't feel particularly robust or hard-wearing, and the decision to squeeze in a numeric keypad is a strange one. While this would be a sensible decision on a larger laptop with a 17in screen, the Packard Bell's 15.4in TFT, and its resulting limited dimensions, means that the keyboard feels cramped. The typing position certainly required some adjustment before we got used to it - we'd have much rather done without the numeric keypad in the first place.

While the keyboard is just about adequate, the aforementioned trackpad is anything but. Its circular design means that, unlike many rectangular units, it doesn't include a scroll area.

It isn't the most responsive we've used, and the single mouse button, which hangs over the curved edge of the machine, doesn't help matters either. It's incredibly stiff and unresponsive, which makes a single press cumbersome and a double-click downright annoying.

The questionable build quality extends to the screen - it has an element of flex that just doesn't inspire confidence. And those hoping for decent image quality to compensate for this will be sorely disappointed. Despite boasting 'Diamond View' technology for improved image clarity, we were distinctly underwhelmed.

Edges were consistently blurry, which had an especially detrimental effect on text and photographs. Colours at the darker end of the scale were well reproduced, but depth and definition disappeared as tones lightened up - pale and vapid colours robbed the 15.4in LCD of life and punch.

And it's a similar story inside the MB88, with a disappointing core specification. You get a low-end 1.66GHz T5500 coupled with 2GB of RAM, which leaves it with an unremarkable score in our 2D benchmarks of just 0.80. This puts the EasyNote behind many of its competitors, although there's still enough power to cope with most desktop applications.

The A-Listed Samsung R700, for example, scored 0.89 - and the Samsung NP-R60FY05 , which is almost £100 cheaper (and much more portable), scored 0.88. It's not a huge difference, but those laptops both combined better ergonomics and sophisticated looks with that improved performance.

Graphically, performance is better. Its GeForce 8600M GS is a mid-range chip and scored a commendable 29fps in Crysis at low settings. And it's good news on the connections front too. That garish orange band around the side of the EasyNote encompasses a good selection of ports and sockets. HDMI and DVI-I outputs (although no VGA) provide plenty of possibilities for connecting the EasyNote to a more capable monitor or TV.

The inclusion of an eSATA port will be useful if you find yourself running out of space on the MB88's 160GB hard disk, and there's a decent provision of USB ports too - you get four, with three on the right-hand size of the laptop, and the last on the rear. Ideally we'd have preferred to see them shared around a little more, though.