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Offsetting these issues is the look of the machine, which to my eyes is extremely impressive. Its makeup has none of the lumps and bumps associated with your typical ruggedised machine and the build quality is first class. Elonex has a tradition of producing stylish products such as the eXentia Media Center PC we reviewed previously and the Safari certainly fits right in.
Typing is also a joy on the Safari. The spill proof keyboard not only offers more protection over standard laptops, but it feels more substantial too. There is a hardness about the keyboard without sacrificing tactility, and for me the travel and feedback from the keys is just about perfect. As far as layout goes, there is that old question of whether you prefer the Fn key inside or outside your Ctrl key, but for me outside is not a problem. Sound is also good, if not mind blowing. The speakers lack integrated bass, but are full enough to enjoy music without running for the nearest set of headphones.
Before I wax too lyrically, I do have a few gripes. The Safari is not a machine without faults. Having used it day-to-day for the past week, I have to admit I’m not a fan of its use of side hooks in the lid over a central clasp. For a start, although I would not claim to know more about structural integrity than the MIL-STD, they feel incredibly fragile while their unnecessarily sharp points have snagged my clothing on more than one occasion. Practically, the loss of the central locking clasp also means the lid can be pushed open and should this happen in cargo, items may slip inside and potentially damage the screen.
Benchmarking also proved a bit of a let down. The PCMark 2004 overall score of 3165 is some 400/500 points down on similarly specified laptops while the 3DMark 2001 and 2003 scores of 9578 and 2656 are barely a whisker ahead of the numbers achieved by the Systemax 5127 and AJP M6000N which used older Radeon 9600 cards with half the video memory. SYSmark was no better either with a distinctly average overall score of 217, with 259 for Internet Content Creation and 182 for Office Productivity. The saving grace was MobileMark which lasted 220 minutes and scored a respectable if also unremarkable 221 making it reasonably light on batteries.
In the Safari’s defense, I would argue that durability, style and comfort are of more concern to its potential customers than performance, but it would have been nice to see a bit more oomph.
In terms of software, our machine came with nothing other than Windows XP Professional, but retail Safaris will ship with copies of WinDVD and Nero while Microsoft Works Suite 2005 is available for a bargain price of £15 – well worth investing in. Standard warranty is just one year, but it does include accidental damage.
Elonex has achieved exactly what it set out to do with the Safari: produce a stylish, durable, affordable and portable laptop. It may not be the fasted mobile machine on the block, but if you’re looking for a notebook that can take some knocks and keep coming back for more, the Safari is worth considering.
The Safari may have an angelic face, but it’s not without its inner demons. But if durability is more important to you than out and out performance, the Safari would make a wise choice.