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Zepto Znote 6214W review

Verdict

A decent machine with plenty of power, but not spectacular value for money

Review Date: 18 May 2006

Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson

Price when reviewed: (£946 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

A newcomer to the pages of PC Pro, Zepto is a Norwegian laptop builder with ambitions this side of the North Sea. The Znote 6214W represents the mid-point of its flagship Znote range, and the 1.66GHz Core Duo T2300 and 1GB of RAM means it fits the bill perfectly as a mid-range laptop. It proved fast enough in our application benchmarks, returning an overall score of 0.87 - more than enough to be your main PC. Unlike most system builders, Zepto decided to send in a bare machine, so we needed to install Windows before we could run our benchmarks. You'll need to pay the extra £52 for Windows XP Home, or £86 for Windows XP Professional; or, of course, you can buy the Znote and install another operating system of your choice.

OS aside, the 6214W is a well-specified system. The Intel processor, wireless card and chipset mean that it qualifies for Centrino branding, and there's also Bluetooth onboard. There's an 80GB Hitachi hard disk with a respectable 8MB buffer and a spin speed of 5,400rpm, while removable storage comes in the form of a memory card reader on the left-hand side and a slot-loading DVD writer. The memory card reader is compatible with SD, MMC and Memory Stick cards, and while it would be good to see xD-Picture and CompactFlash formats catered for, those with compatible digital cameras will have no cause for complaint.

There are a healthy number of other expansion ports: four USB 2 ports and a mini-FireWire port should be enough to keep most people happy, while the D-SUB VGA output is supplemented by an S-Video out for connecting to a TV. Sound is provided by Realtek's HD chip, and the headphone port doubles as an optical S/PDIF port for advanced speaker setups.

Nvidia's GeForce Go 7600 provides the graphics power, leaving the Znote a capable gaming machine. Average frame rates of 34fps in Far Cry and 32fps in Call of Duty 2 at our low settings mean that you shouldn't have a problem playing games. Upping the display resolution to its native 1,280 x 768 saw frame rates drop slightly to 27fps in Far Cry and 35fps in Call of Duty 2 - a great result for a mid-range notebook.

The TFT itself is a 14in widescreen. While the resolution isn't particularly high, it's good enough for spreadsheets and side-by-side page viewing in Microsoft Word. It's a murky display, though, and viewing angles are reminiscent of yesteryear, with the image becoming noticeably duller almost as soon as you move off-centre. We also noticed a lack of detail in many of our test images, signifying a poor contrast ratio that was confirmed in our DisplayMate tests. The screen is good enough for comfortable working, but watching films, particularly with more than one viewer, is a distinctly disappointing experience.

With the powerful core components on offer, we didn't expect record-breaking battery life, but the light-use time of 2hrs 37mins is respectable. Under intensive use, the time dropped to 1hr 33mins, so the Znote won't be a particularly practical machine for mobile business users. It's otherwise portable, though, with a footprint of 340 x 245mm and weight of 2.46kg.

The Znote's jet-black styling split opinions in the PC Pro office; the first arguing that the understated looks were clean and tidy, while others felt the finish to be dull and oppressive. It's a comfortable machine to use, however, and the keyboard is a decent unit with a solid base, making typing comfortable. The trackpad shares the same texture as the surrounding wristrest of the unit, which makes accidentally clicking, particularly while typing, much too easy. However, the trackpad can be instantly disabled by pressing the Fn and F6 keys.

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