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ViewSonic VNB101 review

ViewSonic VNB101

Verdict

Solid and well-built, but offers nothing we haven’t seen from a dozen other netbooks

Review Date: 7 Sep 2009

Reviewed By: David Bayon

Price when reviewed: £258 (£297 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

The world and his wife seem to be producing netbooks these days, and ViewSonic is the latest to jump in. Anyone expecting innovation will be disappointed, though, as the VNB101 is pretty standard fare, with a 1.66GHz Atom, 1GB of RAM and 160GB hard disk forming the core.

It does at least brighten things up with a choice of red, gold or black finishes for those who dislike the plain white or grey of the masses. Build quality is generally good, with a firm base and just a bit of flex to the lid, and the glossy 10in screen is clean and crisp, if a little dull. It's also very reflective, so not ideal for use under bright lights. It uses a familiar 1,024 x 600 resolution, and there's a 0.3-megapixel webcam above the screen.

The keyboard is firm and sensibly laid out, and the large trackpad is nicely textured. It also supports rudimentary multitouch if you have any applications that offer it, so a pinch of the fingers will zoom out, just like the iPhone. It isn’t exactly a killer app, but it at least shows a bit of effort.

Around the base you'll find a D-SUB output, three USB ports and a card reader for Memory Stick, SD Card and MMC formats. There's no Gigabit Ethernet – you're limited to 10/100 speed – and the wireless is only 802.11bg, so it looks as though that 1.66GHz Atom is the extent of ViewSonic's technological boundary pushing.

And there are certainly no records being broken by the 3,400mAh battery. A mere 2hrs 15mins of light-use life would take away much of the appeal of any netbook, and a benchmark score of 0.43 rules out blistering performance as a cause. That's a little quicker than most netbooks, but it's hardly going to have you multitasking or running anything intensive.

And that's the problem with this ViewSonic. There simply isn’t much that manufacturers can do right now to make their netbooks stand out from the ludicrously packed crowd. Faster processors make little noticeable difference, and multitouch is something photo editors might want – but not netbook users.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the VNB101, it's actually quite a nice first attempt from a manufacturer not known for producing laptops. But battery life is poor, and we'll need something game-changing – Nvidia's ION or the dual-core Atom – before any more new netbooks jump up above the tried-and-tested best.

Author: David Bayon

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