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It’s now been a couple of months since the launch of the new improved Centrino platform and with a wide range of manufacturers bringing out new products the price war is on. AJP has brought the Z71A out to compete and this is where we find out if it's a worthy contender or not. A low price doesn’t automatically make a winner however; you need a well rounded feature set these days or you have little to compete with.
The Z71A is a consumer level model and as such doesn’t have all the high-end features of more expensive notebooks. With a Pentium M 730 1.6GHz processor at its core the Z71A is mid-range in terms of CPU power. Add to this the Intel 915GM chipset and Intel 2915A/B/G wireless network card and you’ve got a fully Centrino branded machine. This in itself is nothing out of the ordinary, but AJP has added an 80GB 5,400rpm hard drive and 512MB of PC3200 DDR memory to make this quite an appealing package.
The chassis is the same as that of the Evesham Voyager C510, although as you might already have noticed the hardware specifications are quite different. The Z71A is using integrated graphics courtesy of the 915GM chipset. This is far from cutting edge, but it is far better than the previous generation of integrated graphics from Intel. It shares up to 64MB of the system memory, which is worth keeping in mind if you intend to use memory intensive application on your laptop.
The Z71A has a 15.4in widescreen display with a 1,280 x 800 resolution. While the resolution is still quite limited horizontally this widescreen aspect ratio is a definite real improvement over standard 1,024 x 768 screens. The AJP also includes an 8x DVD+/-R writer that also writes to DVD+/-RW media at 4x.
If you’re looking for features the Z71A has a lot going for it. Starting on the right hand side of the chassis you will find a Type II PC Card slot and a memory card reader for MMC, SD and MS/MS Pro cards. Furthermore there is a four-pin FireWire connector, a microphone and headphone socket – with the headphone socket doubling up as optical S/PDIF output – and a single USB 2.0 port.
Around the back you’ll find the connectors for the 56k modem and the integrated 10/100Mbit Ethernet as well as four additional USB 2.0 ports, a D-SUB connector and S-Video output. There are no additional connectors to be found as the left hand side of the chassis is dominated by the optical drive. The front has a set of playback buttons for audio CDs that enable you to listen to music without having to start Windows.