Touted as the last “book” you need, this particular model is actually targeted at students, with the claim that graduates will find the laptop adequate in serving their needs even after they leave school. I’d say this is an innovative marketing idea, since the student population is a sizable target audience. I bought this machine during the Sitex exhibition where obviously the “last book” tagline doesn’t apply. Instead, it is highlighted as being a “portable all-rounder”.
At 1.95kg, it is not exactly lightweight, especially when you try holding it with one hand. If you were to carry it in a laptop bag though (the one that comes with your purchase is a rather nice one), you’ll find that indeed it is a lighter load than the typical 14″ entry-level laptops. Battery life is pretty good too, easily giving you 4 hours or more of moderate usage (e.g. surfing) if you’re on wifi (instead of mobile broadband) and tone down the screen brightness. The performance coming from the Core i5 processor is also sufficient for more demanding tasks like photo processing or software development, though booting up is a bit slow, as are launching programs. I eagerly await the day when i swap the HDD for an SSD, which should make instant program launch possible. The screen has above average sharpness and average colours. The trackpad button requires too much force – half the time you’ll have to press it twice.
Overall, it does live up to being a “portable all-rounder” without costing you an arm and a leg.
The most critical part of your laptop is the battery, because it is what gives value to a laptop, allowing you to perform tasks without having to be plugged-in to a power source. At the same time, it is also the component that wears out quickest. If you don’t take care of the battery, it’s life may soon become shortened drastically. This was what happened to my previous laptop, and the battery life was cut short to only half an hour. Because of this, plus my own negligence, i put the laptop aside after the battery power was used up and forgot about the laptop altogether! So you see, not only does a short battery life render a laptop useless, it can also be dangerous.
The Windows Operating System does not tell you much about your laptop battery except the percentage of power left and the estimated time left before power runs out (which is mostly inaccurate). However, Windows has a power plan setting that is fairly useful. Out of the box, Windows Vista and Windows 7 has 3 types of power plans – Balanced, Power saver and Higher performance, the default setting being “Balanced”. When you’re using your laptop on battery, it makes sense to switch over to the “Power saver” power plan to conserve battery life. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make this happen automatically in Windows.
The freeware BatteryCare utility program fills this gap, and more. Besides having automatic power plan switching, it also turns off the graphics accelerated theme and power intensive services when in battery mode. In addition to that, it tells you the remaining time of the laptop based on a statistical estimate which is more accurate than the windows estimate, and it keeps track of the number of discharge cycles the battery has gone through. A full discharge and charging is suggested to be performed after every 30 discharge cycles to keep the battery level gauge sensor calibrated. See the informative guide written by the author of the program on how to take care of your laptop battery, which is something you must do!