ViewSonic ViewBook Pro review

24 Nov 2009

Good-looks and sturdy build quality are undermined by a fundamental problem with the trackpad

Price when reviewed: 
679(£678 inc VAT)
3

We've already seen the HP Envy 15 take inspiration from Apple, but it seems there's always room for more at the Cupertino school of design. Now, it's the turn of the ViewSonic ViewBook Pro (part code: VNB131) to doff its cap to the MacBook blueprint we all know so well.

The photographs of the ViewBook Pro on the box, for instance, are near-identical to those of Apple's laptops. The internal packaging is a tribute too. And, once you've extracted it from that packaging, you'll find familiar touches abound around the sturdy chassis: the logo is in the same place and printed in a similar font; the wristrest is free of stickers; and even the underside of the machine is smooth and uncluttered.

ViewSonic ViewBook Pro

Spend more time with the ViewBook, though, and its own strengths come to the fore. It's a handsome machine for starters: its matte-black finish, tapered front edge and minimal design make it look more attractive than many laptops at twice the price. And that uncluttered look is offset by the chrome hinges and power button, which are small enough to look understated rather than garish.

The ViewBook is a svelte machine, too, with a 28mm-thick body and 1.6kg weight, but critically it doesn't feel flimsy. The base feels firm, the wristrest sturdy, and there's plenty of protection for the ViewBook's 13.3in screen. Despite a worryingly thin 5mm profile, the lid is stiff and solid: the desktop didn't distort when we flexed and prodded it. The marriage of strong frame and that light weight means we'd have few qualms about slinging the ViewBook in a bag on a day-to-day basis.

You can reduce that weight even further by pulling out the optical drive and replacing it with a plastic blanker, which is supplied in the box. This drops the machine's weight by 136g - not much you may think, but every little helps if you're going to be lugging a laptop around all day.

The keyboard is good, and matches the rest of the unit for quality, with a solid base, wide and responsive keys, and a sensible layout. Battery life is fair too, with the ViewBook's 4,400mAh power pack lasting for five hours in our light-use test and just over half that length of time in our heavy-use benchmark.

And you can boost that life by 50% by slipping the optional extra battery into the optical drive bay. It's a decent result that's 30 minutes better than the best-in-class Samsung Q320, but bear in mind that the Samsung is a far quicker (albeit heavier) machine.

Details

Price ex VAT £590
Price inc VAT £679
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 3
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 321 x 240 x 28mm (WDH)
Weight 1.600kg
Travelling weight 1.9kg
Weight with extended battery N/A
Travelling weight with extended battery N/A

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo U7300
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500M
Graphics card RAM 32MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Western Digital Scorpio Blue
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Lite-On DU-8A2S
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £20
Replacement battery price inc VAT £23

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
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
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 4hr 58min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 35min
Overall application benchmark score 0.64
Office application benchmark score 0.65
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.76
Encoding application benchmark score 0.60
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.55
3D performance (crysis) low settings 5fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows 7
Software supplied Cyberlink YouCam 3,Cyberlink DVD Suite