ViewSonic VNB101 review

7 Sep 2009

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

ViewSonic VNB101
Price when reviewed 
297
4

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £258
Price inc VAT £297
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty

Physical specifications

Dimensions 266 x 182 x 25mm (WDH)
Weight 1.100kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N280
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 10.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 600
Resolution 1024 x 600
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 950
Graphics card RAM 128MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Internal disk interface SATA
Optical disc technology None
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 3,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support no
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type touchpad
Speaker location Front edge, base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 2hr 15min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 54min
Overall application benchmark score 0.43
Office application benchmark score 0.54
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.33
Encoding application benchmark score 0.41
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.45
3D performance (crysis) low settings Fail
3D performance setting Fail

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows XP Home SP3
OS family Windows XP
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied Linpus Quick OS