Now that is a bold statement, especially considering there are some technical reductions in the AJP, but the fascinating thing is that it seems to make almost no difference where it matters in testing: the games. The D500E scored a superb 45.57 fps on X2: The Threat, nearly five frames faster than the M:860 and only three frames behind the XTR-3.4EE. Similarly, its results in 3DMark 2001 SE and 3DMark03 were equally excellent achieving overall results of 12,810 and 3,765 respectively. These are a long way ahead of the M:860 and very close to the XTR-3.4EE. It was the same story in AquaMark3 where an average fps of 30.08 blitzed the M:860’s 24.9 and came within a whisker of the XTR-3.4EE’s 31.4fps. So in real world terms, the AJP is a considerably faster performer than the Voodoo Envy M:860 and pretty much indistinguishable from current speed leader the XTR-3.4EE.
When it came to the Windows based tests, the extra RAM in the D500E’s rivals did turn things round a little. In SYSmark 2002, the D500E slipped behind the XTR-3.4EE in each test, although it did manage to keep pace with the M:860. But switching to PCMark 2004 we once again saw the remarkable performance of the D500E where, excluding the hard drive, it comprehensively outpaced the Envy M:860 and kept pace with the XTR-3.4EE.
So where are the downsides in all of this? Well, the most obvious answer is battery life where the D500E shares the same shortcomings as the XTR-3.4EE. Like the XTR-3.4EE, we could not even get a MobileMark score, such was the brevity of the battery, but rough estimates suggest no more than 30 minutes of gaming off a full charge and little more than an hour using Windows applications. In contrast, this was the M:860’s strong point, lasting 143 minutes in MobileMark and offering a genuine mobile gaming experience. However, this will cost you an extra thousand pounds.
If there is one other area of contention with the D500E, it’s the noise. Even performing simple Windows tasks, the D500E rumbles like a passenger jet approaching the runway and when intensive gaming starts it sounds like take off. Still, this is a problem that also afflicts the XTR-3.4EE and when playing games; it will be drowned out by the impressive speakers or blocked out by a pair of headphones.
In conclusion, I have to say I’m very impressed. Not only do we have a serious contender to the speed crowns of some ultra expensive laptops for a knock down price, it even sports the exact same casing as the current champ. Value gaming has arrived in the notebook market, and not a minute too soon.
It is extremely difficult to criticise a machine that beats every laptop bar one that we have had in the office and at the same time knocks hundreds off the price, so I won’t. AJP has also informed us it intends to shave a further £75 from the price listed above from 23rd August 2004. For gamers on a budget there is now nothing to hold you back. A well deserved Recommended Award.