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Before I get onto that, however, let's take a closer look at the specification. Starting with a Core 2 Duo T7500 running at 2.2 GHz, the Zieo features 2GB DD2 667Mhz RAM, a generous 160GB 5,400rpm hard-drive, DVD/CD-RW/ Dual-Layer DVD-RW drive, a 17in 1,680 x 1,050 display and a nVidia 512MB 8600M-GT graphics. There's also in-built Bluetooth, a 6-in-1 Card Reader, Gigabit LAN, a 1.3 Megapixel web cam and an internal Digital TV Tuner.
Overall this is an excellent specification, though there are few quibbles to be had. First, considering the new Core 2 Duo's have an effective 800MHz FSB the memory being clocked at 667MHz is a potential bottleneck, though in actual performance terms the difference will be minimal, if anything at all.
At this point I was going to complain about the lack of 802.11n wireless, or Draft N, but though our review unit didn't have it Evesham has since assured us that the Zieo N500-HD will ship with this. As noted previously this is a key feature for high-definition streaming, and as such it's just as well it will be there.
In which case, for £1,099 inc. VAT it's clear that this an astoundingly good spec for the price, and that includes an Evesham Gold Warranty, which is two years of in-house cover and a third year of return-to-base support. Naturally Vista Home Premium is the operating system of choice, and it comes pre-loaded with Works 8.5, Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 and Bullguard Anti-Virus.
So, it's well specified and competitively priced, is there a catch? Inevitably, yes. This particular model uses an OEM chassis manufactured by MSI, and it's not one of its better ones either. To be completely blunt, it's on the precipice of going beyond simply generic and into the realms of the plain ugly. The graphite black outer finish isn't too bad, but inside reveals dull silver plastic which is unpleasant to the eye and touch making the Zieo more Toilet Duck than Duck a L'orange.
Measuring 395 x 278 x 26.5-34.9 mm, and weighing 3.6kg, makes the Zieo fairly large while this and the 17in display indicates that it's intended as a desktop replacement. This is no bad thing necessarily, and to underline its pretensions the Zieo features a full 10-digit number pad. Regrettably, either the chassis isn't large enough, or the designers simply having been clever enough to incorporate the number pad while maintaining a good keyboard layout. One has to expect some compromises in this department, but there are rather too many here for comfort.
Alarms bells rang immediately upon discovering the Fn key on the far left, with the Ctrl key to the right of it. This is often a cause for complaint in the TR offices, and things don't get any better. Fitting in the number pad has made the right side of the keyboard very cramped, with very small Right Shift and Return keys the first obvious problems. More annoying, however, is the half size full-stop key. Since writing is my primary activity, this is tragically difficult to get used to and seriously undermines any pretensions of being an effective desktop replacement.
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