Medion might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of computer products here in the UK, but it's actually pretty big in Germany and is associated with a little supermarket you might have been to: Aldi. Those who have looked at the often amazing value-for-money technology deals the chain offers will have come across many Medion products, including Desktop PCs and Notebooks. One of the former is what we'll be taking a look at now, more specifically the 15.4in Akoya S5610, though this particular model isn't being sold through the chain but directly from Medion and Sainsbury's.
As ever, Medion seems to offer fantastic value, since you get a Centrino 2 laptop with a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 3GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive for £499. Of course, specifications alone do not a good notebook make, so we're here to see if corners have been cut or if this is one of the better deals you can get.
Taking the S5610 from its box, initial impressions are certainly positive. In some respects it is styled similarly to Sony's Ultra Portable VAIO range, in that it has a large, rounded 'hinge' at the back with the power button on its left side. Hinge has inverted commas because the machine's actual hinges are small ones on both sides, similar to what you'd find on most cheap notebooks.
Still, the design is very attractive, and personally I prefer the Akoya's blue glowing power button to Sony's green version. At this kind of price point, you can't expect much metal or carbon fibre in the construction like with the Sony, but Medion's machine nevertheless features relatively strong and quality feeling plastics, lending the machine a sturdy and reassuring feel.
The entire laptop is finished in graphite black, which is pleasantly discreet and doesn't suffer from fingerprints the way many competitors' glossy efforts do. The lid is subtly curved and is only marked by the Medion and Akoya names in small white lettering.
On the notebook's bottom half there is a transparent ridge towards the front, which in addition to further enhancing the Akoya S5610's visual charm also contains all the machine's status LEDs, making them easily visible even with the lid closed. This is quite a useful feature if, like me, you often leave the lid down while your notebook is downloading or working on a file.
Opening the Medion up, the good impressions continue. As mentioned, the finish is consistent throughout, lending this notebook a sense of cohesion and durability some notebooks lack. The only exceptions are a small silver ring around the inside of the webcam integrated above the display and a silver metal strip which runs just above the keyboard, though both enhance rather than detract from the overall look of the machine.