It's a sign of the times that seeing a widescreen display on a notebook barely raises an eyebrow. This is great news for the consumer as widescreen is far preferable. For Excelaholics, the extra pixels mean less sideways scrolling, while its also great watching movies on DVD - especially when stuck on a plane. The neat thing about the screen being far wider than it is tall is that you’ll be able to open it up when sitting in the cramped economy class seats. And if that’s not an issue for you because you always fly first class then you should stop being a tightwad and go read a review of an expensive notebook instead.
If you’re still with me though, then you’ll appreciate the decent battery life score, which came in at 241 minutes - just over four hours. This was on a reduced, but still usable, brightness setting, so staying with our sitting-on-a-plane example, this would be enough to get you through a DVD or a mind numbing amount of Excel spreadsheets. At 2.1Kg this NEC is also quite portable though it's not quite in the sub-notebook category.
Another advantage of a widescreen display is that it provides more room for a keyboard and NEC has taken advantage of this with keys that in the main are full size. I say in the main as the backspace key and the right shift key have been shrunk down. The latter is a clear case of ‘leftism‘ as this is the one I normally use and apparently you bizarre right handed people out there tend to primarily use the left shift key. The typing action was pleasingly firm though and with full size keys and a firm base I found the NEC more comfortable to type on than my own Apple iBook.
The top row of keys also double up with a number of function keys, accessible using the Fn key at the bottom left. This provides access to media player controls and Hibernation as well as the integrated WiFi. However, there is actually a dedicated button at the front of the unit, so it’s either a dubious doubling up or a useful choice depending on your take. A real oddity is that there’s a shortcut for Bluetooth, but as there’s no Bluetooth module installed it doesn’t do anything. This is something of a shortcoming for any notebooks these days and might put off a few people.
It terms of overall style, the NEC is fairly plain looking with a silver but rather plasticky casing. It does feel fairly sturdy though. There’s also a good few blue lights around the screen such as the large power button on the top left, which always goes down well. Next to this are two shortcut keys configured for your browser and email software. Overall though, the chassis has an undeniably generic look about it. The touchpad below the keyboard is functional, as are the two selector buttons beneath it.
Interestingly the screen, with its 13in diagonal viewable area, is actually the first laptop display of this size we’ve ever seen. It sports a resolution of 1,280 x 768, which is no higher than 12in widescreen displays but the larger size, obviously, makes things that easier to see. The screen is perfectly reasonable but doesn’t feature a high contrast reflective coating that others such as MSi MegaBook S260 and the Samsung Q30. Viewing angles are reasonable and the screen can tilt all the way back 'till it’s flat. When you close the screen the laptop will go into standby with little fuss, but you have to press the power button for it to resume - though it will do so quickly.