Review: MSI GT780 DX

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Review: MSI GT780 DX

Someone’s put some thought into the GT780 DX. For starters, this isn’t a badge engineering job using a commodity-spec whitebook as a starting point: MSI has commissioned a unique design.

The result isn’t going to have Apple rethinking its approach to laptop chassis quality but there is at least a frisson of flair in the multi-coloured (and user configurable) keyboard backlighting, slices of genuine brushed aluminium and bevelled chassis edges.

That keyboard is the result of an alliance with peripherals specialist SteelSeries and is probably the most tactile and satisfying we have used on any recent gaming laptop. Unlike the slightly rattle-prone and spongey boards offered by, for instance, Rock Xtreme 768 and Medion Erazer X6811, this one is solid of base and slick in action.

Speaking of partnerships, MSI has also teamed up with Dynaudio to sort out the sound. The idea is to project it carefully to the user, creating more depth and immersion. Put simply, it works. Although the sheer volume on offer is fairly modest, there’s a richness and expansiveness to the soundstage not many other laptops can match.

Another nice touch is the trackpad disable button. If you’re serious about serving up some online devastation, you’ll be using an external mouse. The last thing you want is accidental trackpad inputs. With the trackpad turned off, that’s not going to happen.

MSI trackpad

If the bits MSI is responsible for are best on test, what about the off-the-shelf components?

As TN LCD panels for laptops go, the 17.3-inch display is decent enough. Thanks to an LED backlight, whites are clean and bright. As TN screens go, the colours and viewing angles are far from shabby, too. Likewise, we’ve no beef with its responsiveness or the 1,920 x 1,080 native resolution.

The only problem is the existence of the Sony F Series and its drop-dead gorgeous screen. What’s been seen cannot be unseen and unfortunately the GT780DX’s LCD looks positively pedestrian by comparison.

Performance

Still, we’ve no such complaints about the gaming performance on offer. The quad-core Intel Core i7 2630QM and Nvidia GeForce GTX 570M are choice components.

Okay, we’d rather have a GTX 580M or AMD Radeon HD 6990M pumping the pixels. But with 336 shaders, 3GHz memory and a 192-bit bus, the GT780DX has genuine gaming chops. It certainly makes absolute mincemeat of Dirt 3, even at 1080p and with 4x anti-aliasing.

An average of 38 frames per second at the same settings in World in Conflict is very decent, too. Only the GPU-wilting Heaven benchmark really gets the better of it.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Rendering performance
Cinebench R10: Seconds: Quicker is better
MSI GT780 DX: 51s
Rock Xtreme 685: 46s

Battery life performance
Battery Life: Minutes: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 141
Rock Xtreme 685: 108

DX11 gaming performance (1,280×720, 4x AA)
Dirt 3: Frames per second: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 102
Rock Xtreme 685: 108

Industry standard 3D performance
3DMark 06: Index score: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 16,634
Rock Xtreme 685: 20,497

DX10 gaming performance (1,280×720, 4x AA)
WiC: Frames per second: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 57
Rock Xtreme 685: 74

Tessellation gaming performance (1,280 x 720, 4x AA)
Heaven: Frames per second: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 28
Rock Xtreme 685: 40

As an overall package, this MSI has got to be the best balanced and most desirable notebook here. It’s not the fastest, it hasn’t got the best screen, but as a full package it’s very hard to fault.

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Review: Asus U46 SV

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Review: Asus U46 SV

Overview

We’ve got to confess, the unveiling of the Asus Zenbook has spoiled us. The beautifully slender yet sturdy body is a marvel, yet it still makes room for some powerful components for (hopefully) excellent performance.

This makes reviewing the Asus U46SV – another new laptop from the Taiwanese giant – a rather tricky business. It’s not that this laptop is ugly or anything. But imagine embarking on an illicit one-night affair with Megan Fox, then hooking up with Hilary Duff. She’s probably a very nice girl and not bad looking, but you’d be thinking of Megan during sexy time.

Let’s begin by saying we really liked the Asus U36JC, a powerful and well-built ultra-portable laptop. The Asus U46SV is a spiritual successor to the U36JC, but we were surprised by how chunky and heavy it felt when we pulled it free of its box.

The chassis is 38mm thick, which is rather bulky for a laptop of this size. It also weighs 2.3kg – a lot more than the Asus U36JC’s featherweight build. The U46SV won’t exactly weigh you down if you’re carrying it in a bag all day, but we expected something a lot slimmer and lighter. Compared to the Sony VAIO S Series, this is a boxy beast.

We also aren’t massive fans of the Asus U46SV’s aluminium build, which feels strangely like plastic. The lid is especially weak, and bends in the centre under light pressure. Both the lid and the palm rests feature a circular pattern that looks cheap compared to the beautiful finish of the Zenbook.

Asus u46 sv

Still, we can’t complain when it comes to the keyboard. The popular chiclet, or ‘isolation-style’, design means that keys are well spaced, which makes it perfect for touch-typists. The keys are a great size, with no tiny Shift or Return keys to spoil the party. Even the arrow keys get plenty of space, which is a welcome relief.

We also liked the smooth touchpad, which finds plenty of space to spread out across the Asus U46SV’s palm rests. The dedicated mouse buttons aren’t set too firmly and are a haven for grimy fingerprints, but they’re hugely preferable to those pesky integrated buttons.

Specifications

Asus u46 sv

For some reason, Asus built the U46SV with a jutting lip at the back, which prevents the lid from tilting back by more than 45 degrees. This makes it tricky to get a good view of the screen when this portable laptop is sat on your lap.

Thankfully the 14-inch display goes some way to rectifying this, with decent enough viewing angles. It’s also impressively bright, although blacks aren’t as deep as we’d like and images can occasionally look washed out. However, we still enjoyed watching high-definition movies and browsing our photo collection (holiday photos, not the other kind. Ahem).

Speaking of which, you can carry a large chunk of media around on the 500GB hard drive – over 100 HD films, or around a hundred thousand songs or photos. Only torrent fans should struggle to carry around their entire collections.

A five-in-one memory card reader can be used to boost storage space, or quickly copy your holiday snaps onto your laptop, ready to bore close friends and family. You also get VGA and HDMI ports for outputting to an external display, and three USB ports. One of those is USB 3.0, so you can quickly back up your files to a compatible hard drive.

Asus has also stuck an extra power button above the keyboard, for booting into its Express Gate OS. This gives you quick access to your media and the internet, booting up in mere seconds.

However, we still aren’t massive fans of the stripped-down user interface and limited functionality, and would rather wait the extra 20 seconds it takes to boot into Windows. Let’s face it, we’ve got nothing better to do with our time, except feed Doritos to the office gerbil.

You have built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi for hooking up to wireless internet networks and an Ethernet port if you prefer to trail cables across your lounge. You also get a built-in DVD drive, and in terms of features that’s about it.

We were surprised to see no more, but extras such as fingerprint scanners would probably go unused by most consumers anyway.

Performance

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Cinebench ’10: 9816
3D Mark ’06: 8771
Battery Eater: 330 minutes

While we’re less than impressed by the build and looks of the Asus U46SV, we can’t deny that the laptop is stuffed with power. One of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge chips, the Core i5 2410M, is ably backed up by 4GB of memory and is strong enough to run any number of applications at once.

The Cinebench score of 9,816 isn’t one of the best we’ve seen lately – that award goes to the Toshiba Qosmio X770, which managed a stupendous 17,063. However, we’re confident that even demanding users will get years of use from the Asus U46SV.

Asus u46 sv

This laptop also caters to movie and music editors with its Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card. You can run dedicated editing software without any kind of stuttering or issues, and even have a blast on modern games (although you’ll need to turn down detail levels on the more complex titles to keep a respectable frame rate).

If you’re more into watching movies than fiddling with them, you can enjoy HD video with smooth playback. We recommend plugging in some decent speakers or headphones, though. The Asus U46SV’s built-in efforts are tinny and, strangely, the sound seems to come from the right-hand side of the laptop instead of hitting you head-on.

Asus u46 sv

Despite the excellent performance and dedicated GPU, the Asus U46SV somehow pulls off fantastic battery life. We test our laptops by looping an HD video on full brightness, with performance settings turned to max, which gives a good indication of the minimum life to expect. Most portable laptops manage less than three hours before dying, but the Asus U46SV lasted almost double that before the screen went black.

It’s a damn shame the body isn’t slimmer or lighter, or this would be one of the most portable laptops we’ve used in a long time.

Verdict

Asus u46 sv

After enjoying our time with the Asus U36JC, we really hoped that the Asus U46SV would be a worthy update, packing similarly strong performance into another light and slender chassis. However, when we pulled the U46SV from its box, it wasn’t quite what we expected.

We liked

We certainly weren’t disappointed with the performance. The Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor can multitask with the best of them, while a dedicated Nvidia graphics card copes with video editing and gaming.

Despite the powerful components, you can still enjoy movies for almost six hours before the battery dies. This is one of the best results we’ve seen in a long time. Movies look good on the bright 14-inch screen, even if colours are occasionally saturated.

If you’d rather bash out a novel or chat with friends online, the firm isolation-style keyboard will keep you satisfied. You can store plenty of files on the 500GB hard drive, and you get a decent range of ports, including USB 3.0.

We disliked

Performance impressed, but the build of the Asus U46SV is a letdown. While the Asus U36JC had a sleek ultra-portable body, this update has a chunkier chassis and weighs a meaty 2.3kg. It’s still portable, but we expected this laptop to be just as light, if not lighter.

We were also disappointed by the build quality. The lid flexes far too easily under pressure, and the design isn’t too appealing. There’s also a lack of exciting features.

Verdict

While the Asus U46SV is powerful and its impressive battery life makes up in some part for the bulky build, we’d recommend holding off for the upcoming Asus Zenbook instead.

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Review: Toshiba NB520-10U

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Review: Toshiba NB520-10U

From the lime-green rubberised lid to the integrated Harmon/Kardon speakers, the Toshiba NB520-10U is a netbook that demands attention.

Not content to be a standard black business appliance, the Toshiba NB520-10U wants to be the life and soul of the party. It’s cooler and louder than the Asus Eee PC and one of the best netbooks worth owning.

The Toshiba comes in a choice of colours; green, blue or brown. Your chosen hue extends to the lid, mouse buttons and speaker edging while the rest of the chassis is solid black. The textured rubber of the lid is pleasant to touch and won’t get covered in grubby fingerprints.

There’s no flex to be found around the chassis and the netbook is easily light enough to carry around without a problem. There’s also a little extra bulk given to the battery compartment so, when open, the netbook is slightly raised at the back giving you a nice typing angle to work with.

The only minor gripes we had with the design was a particularly thick bezel and an awkwardly placed power button that’s nestled in the hinge below the centre of the screen. These are some tiny niggles but overall the design of the Toshiba is catching and stylish with a Converse-cool kind of appeal.

Of course, most noticeable are the twin speakers built into the palm rest. They’ve been developed with Harman/Kardon technology and will reach a genuinely impressive volume for a netbook. We were also impressed with the bass we could get out of it.

The 120GB disk space will likely preclude you from loading your entire music collection onto the hard drive, but if you subscribe to a streaming service like Spotify, the Toshiba would be a great addition to any house party.

If you want to work with this netbook then using the keyboard isn’t immediately intuitive as it’s packed pretty tightly into the chassis. Frankly, we preferred typing on the Acer Aspire One or Asus Eee PC, but anyone using this netbook regularly will adapt to the feeling of the keys quickly.

Toshiba nb520-10u

The touchpad is neither too responsive nor sluggish and is positioned well – you can use your thumb without your fingers leaving the keyboard. Although, being a netbook, it’s a little on the small side.

The standard Intel Atom processor, 1GB RAM and Windows 7 Starter OS means this won’t rival a laptop for performance. But if you want to browse the web and type out an email while streaming some music, you won’t have any problems here.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 220 minutes
Cinebench: 521
3DMark 2006: 151

On top of that, the battery life is exemplary. By far and away the most important feature for a netbook, Toshiba has ensured you won’t need to regularly charge and the NB520 lasted for 220 minutes under our barrage of tests.

Advanced features

Toshiba has thrown some nice features into the NB520 to make it an even better choice for a netbook purchase. Plug an MP3 player into the USB port and you can use the Toshiba’s speakers to play your music, even when the machine is in standby or switched off.

It also has built in sleep-and-charge facility, so you can charge up a USB device while the laptop is powered down and idle.

This is a netbook a little different from others available and Toshiba has put together a great product – highly recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy their collection of music when they are on the move.

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Review: Toshiba Qosmio X770

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Review: Toshiba Qosmio X770

Overview

Although it’s easy to dismiss 3D as a gimmick that might disappear in a couple of years, there’s no denying its current popularity. As a result, we’ve seen plenty of 3D-compatible laptops in recent times, such as Sony’s ridiculously enormous VAIO F-Series and the HP Envy 17 3D.

Some 3D laptops were heavier than a baby elephant, while some of the earlier models made us so nauseous that we almost threw up and passed out.

One of the best reasons to buy an Nvidia 3D Vision laptop is the huge variety of supported games. All of the AAA titles such as Battlefield, Portal and Fifa now come 3D-ready, and we have to admit that the extra dimension really does immerse you in the game. There’s nothing like squinting down the barrel of a shotgun as a screaming Nazi hurtles out of the screen at you.

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Toshiba’s Qosmio X770-107 is clearly intended for 3D gaming, with its red-and-black rough-edge design. Thankfully it’s a lot more subtle than the likes of Alienware’s laptops, with their glowing headlights and angular spacecraft bodies, and it’s also a bit lighter than most gaming laptops.

However, the bulky 3.7kg body is still best left on a desk at home. Only Captain America would use this as an everyday travel companion.

The Toshiba Qosmio X770-107’s chassis is reasonably solid, although the palm rests and edges do flex under pressure.

The keyboard is thankfully a lot firmer, with its keys separated out in the popular isolation-style design. You’re less likely to bash the wrong key during frantic action games, and it’s also a great board to touch-type on.

We especially liked the subtle red backlighting, for those late-night gaming sessions.

Above the keyboard is a row of media shortcut keys. These can be used to adjust the volume, play and pause your media, and of course turn the 3D graphics on and off.

Specifications

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Setting up the 3D is a simple two-minute task using Nvidia’s software. We were watching 3D movies on the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 in no time, and simultaneously taking abuse from co-workers over the dorky glasses.

Those glasses are a major repellent, and if you wear spectacles to correct your vision, the two definitely don’t sit together comfortably. The biggest problem is the extra pressure around the bridge of the nose. We felt a migraine coming on after just a few minutes, and had to switch to contact lenses to continue.

Still, if your eyes aren’t knackered like ours, you’ll find the experience a lot more entertaining.

The 3D graphics are a good excuse to play classics such as Battlefield 2 all over again, and we were particularly impressed by driving games, where the 3D made it easier to judge corners and distances.

The Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 will also keep your sprogs quiet, thanks to the plethora of 3D cartoons and movies.

We’ve found that 3D-compatible screens are often rather dim, but this laptop’s 17.3-inch display is a refreshing exception. Not only is it comfortably bright, it’s also pleasingly vibrant. The full HD 1080p resolution means you can enjoy HD movies and the latest games with crystal-clear visuals.

We’re often derogatory about laptop speakers, but the harman/kardon efforts built into the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 are impressively powerful. The bass is especially strong, and our dubstep samples made the entire chassis vibrate.

Of course, music buffs are going to need a dedicated external pair to hear every note as it was intended, but for the purposes of films and games, you can’t go wrong.

If you have a meaty collection of games and movies, you can carry a huge number around on the 1TB hard drive. The Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 might be a bulky machine, but at least you won’t have to lug an external hard drive around too.

If you’re carrying the laptop around during use, Toshiba’s built-in HDD protection shuts the drive down so it doesn’t get damaged. You also get a built-in Blu-ray drive, while an HDMI port lets you hook up a widescreen TV at home.

Performance

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Of course, you can have all the 3D whiz-gimmickry you like, but if the laptop’s specs are rubbish, any game you play is going to be a juddering mess. Thankfully, the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 packs in some powerful components.

The brain of the operation is an Intel Core i7 2630QM processor, running at 2GHz. This quad-core beauty is one of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge efforts, and the scores we churned out of Cinebench were mightily impressive.

Toshiba’s Qosmio X770-107 is as powerful as some top-end gaming machines, including Alienware’s M14X and M18X. Backed up by a generous 8GB of memory, you’ll have no trouble running any modern game, or the very best editing software.

You can run your games with the highest possible graphics settings too, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphics card. We didn’t notice any frame rate issues, even when playing intensive titles such as Crysis 2. Few other laptops have produced such a confident graphical performance in recent times.

Despite the impressive performance, this laptop is whisper-quiet. Even during the most intensive gun battles, we heard almost no whirring and creaking from the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107’s innards. The chassis also stays relatively cool, apart from the vents on the left side, which gush hot air.

Unfortunately, the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107’s battery dies faster than a lemming in Dover. We didn’t even get an hour into a movie before it gave up. This is a poor effort even for a powerful laptop like this – especially when you consider that the Alienware M18X clung on for a little over an hour. You’ll need to pack the charger if you lug this beast outside.

Cinebench 10: 17063
3D Mark 06: 15114
Battery Eater: 44 mins

Verdict

Toshiba qosmio x770-107

Whether 3D is here to stay or a mere flash in the pan, there’s no ignoring its popularity. Toshiba’s Qosmio X770-107 is another laptop that caters to the considerable 3D public demand, but does so with style and a considerable amount of grunt.

We liked

The 17.3-inch screen is a great way to take in a movie, either in 2D or 3D, thanks to its sharp 1080p resolution and impressive vibrancy. It’s also a surprisingly bright panel, which is rare for a 3D laptop.

We have to admit, the Nvidia 3D Vision tech works well with certain games, especially driving simulators and trusty FPS games. However, even if you aren’t too bothered about the 3D effects, there’s still plenty for gamers to enjoy here.

You can play any modern title thanks to the Intel Core i7 Sandy Bridge processor, backed up by 8GB of memory, and the dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics card means those frantic gun battles look amazing. You can also enjoy HD movies via the built-in Blu-ray drive.

We disliked

Not everyone will enjoy the black-and-red design, but it’s less garish than some other gaming laptops. However, like its rivals, you can’t lug the Toshiba Qosmio X770-107 around on a regular basis. The bulky 3.7kg chassis is difficult to fit in a bag and a pain to drag around on public transport, while the battery life sucks.

Final verdict

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop and are sold by the 3D gimmick, the Qosmio offers everything you could possibly need.

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Review: Lenovo G770

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Review: Lenovo G770

The Lenovo G770 packs fantastic power and good graphical performance into a solid big-screen laptop which is great for the home. We’d recommend it to anyone looking for a desktop replacement, but movie buffs will be disappointed about the lack of a 1080p screen.

The first thing that strikes you when opening the G770 is the fantastic build quality. There’s an expanse of brushed metal, in which sits a generous isolation-style keyboard with well-cushioned keys. It took us a while to get used to the travel between the keys, but it was comfortable to use for long periods.

Under the hood is a generous amount of power, and enough for anyone who’s looking for a few years of good use. The processor is a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i7 2620M 2.7GHz, which is the same found in the MacBook Pro, which costs £1000 more.

Elsewhere, the AMD Radeon HD 6650M is nearly identical to the MacBook Pro, and there’s more RAM with 6GB packed in. This simply shows that the Lenovo is able to handle anything that’s thrown at it for a few years to come. Editing photos using Photoshop, creating home videos, and dealing with demanding video content are all easily within the G770s capabilities.

If you’re looking to play games, the G770 won’t disappoint either. It’s no true gaming machine, like the Alienware M18x, but it will play most of the latest games. We played Battlefield 2 with no real problems, and it looked great on the 17.3-inch screen, although we did have to turn down the graphics to avoid the frame rate dropping.

Powerful processor

In our tests the Lenovo fell short of the dizzying heights of the Acer Aspire 5750G, but still out-performed the more expensive HP Envy 14. There was a strong score from the processor, which trounced the likes of the Dell Inspiron 17r and the Samsung R720.

Again there was no 1080p panel provided, which will disappoint movie buffs looking for the best possible picture, but if you already own an HD display such as a TV, then you can connect the G770 via HDMI. We’ve seen better, sharper screens, but it’s adequate for working and enjoying media and photos.

Lenovo g770

Again, there’s a lack of Blu-ray, but we honestly feel that a future-proof system can do without this as more media moves to the cloud. At 2.9kg, the Lenovo G770 is a true desktop replacement system, and it’s really too large and heavy to consider taking around with you on a daily basis. However, the large screen more than makes up for it and, unlike the HP Envy 14, its weight pays off with a much more comfortable experience.

The Lenovo G770 is a fantastic purchase for anyone looking for a future-proof desktop replacement. It’s packed with power and matches many of its more expensive competitors for speed and performance, without breaking the bank.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 158 minutes
Cinebench: 11524
3DMark 2006: 7667

We’d like to have seen a Full HD screen in a laptop of this type, and if you’re looking for a future-proof media centre for watching movies, then you might want to look at more expensive alternatives like the Dell XPS 15Z.

However, if you just want to ensure you can carry on using your favourite programs and surfing the web for a few years to come, then this machine will certainly offer a great return on your investment.

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Review: Acer Aspire 5742Z

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Review: Acer Aspire 5742Z

Acer is one of the most prolific manufacturers we know, producing everything from huge multimedia powerhouses such as the Aspire Ethos 8951G to stripped-down budget models. The Aspire 5742Z is one of the latter, and another strong entry-level contender.

At this price range, you won’t be getting the latest technology and performance will be limited. However, the 5742Z features an Intel Pentium P6200 processor backed up by a staggering 6GB of memory, much more than we usually see at this price. Only the MSI CR620 and Asus K52F performed better in our tests.

We managed to write this review, stream music over the internet and back up our files all at once, with no slowdown at all. Applications started up quickly and ran smoothly.

However, you only get basic integrated graphics to keep the price low. This means that you’re limited in what you can do with your media. Browsing your photo collection and touching up images with basic editing tools are perfectly possible, and we were impressed that high-definition movies played smoothly. However, don’t expect to be able to edit videos or play anything but basic or elderly games.

Optical drive

Acer aspire 5742z review

You can watch DVDs thanks to the built-in optical drive, although the 5742z’s speakers are far too quiet for enjoying music or movies. We recommend you attach an external pair.

Thankfully, the 15.6-inch screen is fine for enjoying films, with sharp contrast and rich colours. If you want to work on a larger display, VGA and HDMI ports can be used to hook up an external television or monitor.

Of course, you probably want a laptop for work as well as play, right? The Acer is a great option in this respect too, thanks to the firmly constructed keyboard which stretches the full width of the interior. Some may find the perfectly flat keys a little awkward at first if they’re used to bevelled keys, which feature slanted edges.

However, the keys are well sized, with the exception of the arrow keys which are flattened into a single row. You also have a separate numeric keypad to the right. The rest of the laptop is well constructed, although the palmrests do flex when you push on them.

The lid is solid enough to protect the screen against any knocks. We weren’t huge fans of the plain black design, but it doesn’t look particularly bad. The 5742Z simply won’t be winning any beauty awards.

At 2.3kg, it’s a lightweight laptop and would suit the regular commuter. The slim 35mm body slips easily into a bag or rucksack big enough to hold a 15.6-inch laptop, but make sure you pack the charger too.

The battery died before we finished a two-hour film and only lasts half an hour longer if you limit your use to basic office software.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 113 minutes
Cinebench: 5661
3DMark 2006: 1703

Still, at least you can carry your entire media collection if you take to the road, thanks to the generous 640GB hard drive. This is the largest amount of storage offered by any laptop here, and something we would expect from more expensive mid-range models.

The Aspire 5742Z offers strong value for money, although the poor battery life is a shame. If you want a highly portable laptop, the Lenovo IdeaPad S205 may be more suitable.

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Review: Zoostorm 3390-2012/A

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Review: Zoostorm 3390-2012/A

The Zoostorm 3390-2012/A is a good looking laptop, with a subtly lined black and grey chassis. While it’s certainly not the thinnest laptop we’ve seen – the new MacBook Air can sleep easy in that department – it’s not bulky either, and it’s perfectly easy to carry around.

The laptop’s chassis does feel slightly cheap and brittle, lacking the sturdiness of the Sony VAIO S Series VPCSB1V9E’s build quality.

As we’ve seen with other laptops, the inclusion of Intel’s second-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors gives them a big power advantage. The Zoostorm is no exception, and the model we tested comes with an Intel Core i3-2310 2.10GHz processor.

Backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, this makes the Zoostorm 3390-2012/A a fast and responsive laptop that’s excellent at multitasking. Boosting performance even further is the inclusion of a solid state drive that drastically cuts down the time it takes for the laptop to boot into Windows 7.

Microsoft has designed its OS to take advantage of SSD technology, and this is evident in its sheer speed. The technology comes at a premium though, and the model we reviewed – which costs £479 – comes with only 64GB of storage. With Windows 7 Home Premium and the default programs installed there’s only 34GB of hard drive space left. If you need more then you’ll need to either use an external hard drive or opt for the 128GB model, which costs £549.

The only area where the Zoostorm 3390-2012/A is let down by its hardware is in the graphics department. Whilst the onboard graphics that come with second Intel Core processors is perfectly capable, it can’t compete with laptops that have dedicated GPUs. The Zoostorm’s 3DMark score was 7,564, compared with the Sony VAIO S Series’ 12,230.

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Review: Zoostorm 3390-2012/A

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Review: Zoostorm 3390-2012/A

The Zoostorm 3390-2012/A is a good looking laptop, with a subtly lined black and grey chassis. While it’s certainly not the thinnest laptop we’ve seen – the new MacBook Air can sleep easy in that department – it’s not bulky either, and it’s perfectly easy to carry around.

The laptop’s chassis does feel slightly cheap and brittle, lacking the sturdiness of the Sony VAIO S Series VPCSB1V9E’s build quality.

As we’ve seen with other laptops, the inclusion of Intel’s second-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors gives them a big power advantage. The Zoostorm is no exception, and the model we tested comes with an Intel Core i3-2310 2.10GHz processor.

Backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, this makes the Zoostorm 3390-2012/A a fast and responsive laptop that’s excellent at multitasking. Boosting performance even further is the inclusion of a solid state drive that drastically cuts down the time it takes for the laptop to boot into Windows 7.

Microsoft has designed its OS to take advantage of SSD technology, and this is evident in its sheer speed. The technology comes at a premium though, and the model we reviewed – which costs £479 – comes with only 64GB of storage. With Windows 7 Home Premium and the default programs installed there’s only 34GB of hard drive space left. If you need more then you’ll need to either use an external hard drive or opt for the 128GB model, which costs £549.

The only area where the Zoostorm 3390-2012/A is let down by its hardware is in the graphics department. Whilst the onboard graphics that come with second Intel Core processors is perfectly capable, it can’t compete with laptops that have dedicated GPUs. The Zoostorm’s 3DMark score was 7,564, compared with the Sony VAIO S Series’ 12,230.

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Review: Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid

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Review: Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid

Nothing polarises opinion like a pink design, and the Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid is very, very pink.

At the risk of stereotyping, we’ll assume this design will find more traction on the female side of the market, but it’s great to see Asus reaching out beyond the technology industry to renowned designer Karim Rashid to spice things up a little.

The interesting design covers the lid with an uneven, undulating surface and overlays this with hundreds of tiny rectangles. Running your hand over it is akin to touching a bag made from alligator hide.

Lift the lid and you see that the pink outer design is complimented with solid black on the rest of the laptop – the exception being the single clickbar beneath the touchpad that is chrome silver. If pink isn’t your ideal choice, then don’t worry as the laptop also comes in a dark brown colour.

The keys use the isolation-style design, which looks nicer than a standard keyboard and also works better for typing. The extra space between the keys means there’s less chance of hitting the wrong key by accident.

The touchpad is also easy to use. It’s responsive and the textured surface feels better than any kind of regular smooth touchpad.

Conventional power

Asus eee pc 1008p karim rashid

Even though it looks great on the outside, the workings of the Eee PC are much the same as any conventional netbook. Power comes courtesy of an Intel Atom N450 processor and the 1GB of RAM is basic, even in the netbook market.

The benchmark tests we ran returned average results, although we would have liked to see a little more staying power from the battery.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 158 minutes
Cinebench: 565
3DMark 2006: 100

The 250GB hard drive is perfectly suitable for a netbook and, in fact, the Eee PC beats the Dell Adamo XPS when it comes to storage, even though it’s less than half the price.

Graphical performance on any netbook will be severely limited, as it is the first thing manufacturers cut back on to keep battery life up and weight down.

The Eee PC has a standard integrated Intel chip that is enough to keep a couple of browser windows open and play video at the same time, but don’t expect it to do much more than that.

When playing video, you will most likely want to invest in some external speakers. As expected on a portable machine, the built-in speakers lack punch and are on the tinny side.

The Eee PC does feature Asus’ Express Gate fast boot-up software, which is now being packaged with Asus’ newer models.

Outward connectivity is also par for the course, with two USB slots, an Ethernet slot and a space for a MicroSD card to boost the storage space. All the ports are covered to continue the unbroken alligator-skin design which runs over the base of the netbook as well as the lid.

Obviously, being a netbook means the Eee PC is exceptionally light and, as well as looking good, the outward design makes it easier to grip the device. Both of these features add to its portability and the Eee PC is perfect for slipping into a bag and takiing out an about with you.

We’re big fans of the Eee PC range. Asus was the first to market with the netbook format and it continues to produce some of the best machines.

The Eee PC 1018P would be a better choice if you value power and features on your netbook but, in terms of style, the Karim Rashid Eee PC is the most striking we’ve seen.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520

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Lenovo’s ThinkPad range is traditionally aimed at business users, but has recently taken a more consumer-friendly turn, with less imposing builds and price tags. The ThinkPad Edge E520 is one of the more powerful laptops in the range and can keep you entertained on the move as well as at home.

The excellent performance is down to the latest Intel Sandy Bridge technology. This means you can do almost anything on this laptop, with incredibly fast response rates. Even complex editing software opens in seconds and happily runs alongside web browsers, media players and other applications. You won’t need to replace this laptop for a long time.

This laptop also scored high in our graphical tests, beaten only narrowly by the Acer Aspire 5750G. We tested out some recent games and found they ran smoothly, although we occasionally had to turn down detail levels.

You can also check out and play around with your photos or home movies. Of course, if you’d rather relax with a film, the Lenovo won’t let you down. High-definition (HD) films play perfectly and look good on the 15.6-inch widescreen display.

However, while many other laptops use Super-TFT screens, which use a glossy surface layer to produce richer colours, the Lenovo has a matt TFT display. Images aren’t quite as vibrant as a result but, on the flipside, the screen isn’t reflective, so you can use the laptop outside.

If you do want a portable to keep you entertained out of the home, this laptop has a lot going for it. Firstly, while the Toshiba Satellite L730-10G is a fair bit lighter, the Lenovo’s solid frame weighs just 2.5kg. We comfortably carried it around all day in a backpack.

Even better, we were able to watch an entire three-hour movie before the battery died, and lighter use will prolong the battery life by almost two hours.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 183 minutes
Cinebench: 9431
3DMark 2006: 7167

An isolation-style keyboard is in place. It’s one of our favourites with firmly set keys that are very comfortable to type on. A separate numeric keypad is included, along with various shortcuts – you can lock the laptop, search your files or bring up the calculator with a press of a button.

Our only complaint is that the Left Ctrl and the Function keys have been swapped around. This won’t bother most people, but anyone who uses Windows shortcuts will be constantly frustrated when they hit the Function key by mistake.

Love or hate?

Lenovo thinkpad edge e520 review

The touchpad covers a wide area and you get the trademark nipple in the centre of the keyboard, which can also be used to move the on-screen cursor. We can’t stand the thing, but we’re sure that some people out there might prefer it.

Features are comprehensive, from the 500GB of storage to the eSATA port which can be used to transfer data at high speeds with external hard drives. There’s also an ExpressCard slot for expanding the laptop’s potential, but most people will never use it.

The ThinkPad Edge E520 is a mobile machine that’s as good for work as it is for entertainment. If you need something to keep you busy on the move, this is one of the best laptops here.

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