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It is amazing how cheap laptops have become in the last year and the Hi-Grade Notino C2000 is yet another step in the right direction for affordable mobile computing. This is one of the first really affordable Intel Centrino based laptops we’ve seen. It might not be the most powerfull or the lightest or even have the best battery life around, but at less than £1,000 there is little to complain about. So what do you get for your money?
Being based on the Intel Centrino platform, the Notino sports a Pentium-M processor, the 855GM chipset with integrated graphics and an Intel 802.11b wireless network adapter. Hi-Grade has gone for a 1.3GHz processor and as with all Pentium-M processors it comes with 1MB of cache. A reasonable 256MB of PC2100 DDR memory has also been fitted, but as 32MB is shared with the integrated Intel Extreme 2 graphics it could do with a bit more.
Storage comes in the form of a 30GB Hitachi hard drive and a Matsushita DVD/CD-RW combo drive. The combo drive is capable of reading DVDs at eight-speed and CDs at 24-speed. It will also write CD-Rs at 16-speed and CD-RWs at 10-speed. There is however no floppy drive as standard and Hi-Grade charges £45 for an optional USB floppy drive, which is a bit on the steep side.
There is a wide range of ports all around the Notino C2000 and starting on the left hand side you’ll find a single Type II PC Card slot, RJ45 connector for the integrated 10/100Mbit Intel LAN, two USB 2.0 ports, an S-Video connector, a D-Sub for VGA output and a power connector. The back is fairly barren with only a kensington lock point and a modem connector for the integrated V.90 56k modem.
On the right hand side is the DVD/CD-RW combo drive as well as an IrDA port, a four pin FireWire port and a third USB 2.0 port. On the front of the unit you’ll find a line out that doubles as a 3.5mm optical S/PDIF output as well as a microphone connector. A great addition if you have a digital camera is the memory card reader that can handle Smart Media, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card and Memory Stick. There is also a set of quick launch buttons on the left hand side that allows you to control the CD playback functionality as well as an on/off switch for the integrated wireless networking.
A set of stereo speakers just below the display add sound and there’s an integrated microphone in the front of the chassis as well. Next to the microphone is a set of bright blue LEDs that show drive activity, the usual function key locks and wireless networking activity. There’s also a separate blue LED for the memory card reader as well.
The display is a quality 14.1in unit that has a native resolution of 1,024 x 768. Although this might seem a bit low compared to some modern laptops, it is still a comfortable resolution to use on this size of display.
Just below the screen are three LEDs that indicate the power state of the laptop, ranging through mains connected, battery and charging.
The things most people use a laptop for is inputting information on the move, hence a good keyboard is crucial. And this, sadly, is the Notino C2000’s major downfall. The key travel is reasonable, but they are quite stiff and this leads to tired fingers after long typing sessions. The layout is not ideal and I would have liked to have seen a full size enter key as well as a larger space bar.
Apart from this most keys are in the right place although a function key has been added that allows you to control certain features of the laptop such as volume, external VGA, brightness and a few other functions such as num lock and scroll lock. There are three more functions that include quick access to switching the display off, but I’m not certain why you would use this function.
If you’re a mobile warrior and use your notebook constantly on the move you might want to consider something a bit lighter than the Notino C2000 as its 2.5Kg weight can be a bit of a burden. Hi-Grade supplies a suitable bag for the notino that doubles as an over-the-shoulder backpack as well as a more conventional carry case with two handles.
Our review machine came with Windows XP home edition and a copy of Microsoft Works 7.0 which is not a great bundle, but considering the overall price we didn’t expect much more. That said, Works is still a competent office application suite if you don’t have anything else.
The battery life is one of its stronger points as it managed 220 minutes in MobileMark 2002. The performance rating in MobileMark 2002 reached a score of 130 which should be adequate for all office tasks.
In Sysmark 2002 the Notino C2000 scored 140 which again means that it is fully capable of handling everyday office tasks without slowing you down. Neither score is amazing, but it’s what I would expect from a 1.3GHz Pentium-M.
So would I buy a Notino C2000? Well, no, because I primarily use a laptop for typing and I didn’t get along with the keyboard. However, taking the asking price into consideration as well as the amazing range of features, the Notino C2000 is as good as they come for under £1,000. If you intend to buy one, make sure you get a chance to try one out first so you can make your own mind up about the keyboard. I would however definitely recommend the Notino any day over a mobile Pentium 4 laptop due to its excellent battery life, which is a key feature if you intend to use a laptop on the move.
The integrated Wireless networking is also very handy as it allows you to get reasonably easy access to the Internet in many airports, hotels and even in Starbucks these days.
Hi-Grade has to be commended for making one of the first affordable Centrino based notebooks on the market with a good set of features that should appeal to a wide range of users.