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Laptops are constantly coming down in price, but the Systemax TourBook 5112 is something out of the ordinary. It is one of the first truly affordable Intel Centrino based notebooks and there are no corners cut. £1,056.33 will buy you one of the best all-round notebooks I have seen to date. It might seem a bit overzealous for me to start a review like this, but let me break down the specifications and you’ll see why I’m so keen.
The TourBook 5112 is fitted with a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB of PC2100 DDR SDRAM and a 60GB hard drive. Usually, laptops at the lower end of the price bracket come with two 256MB memory modules, but Systemax has gone for a single 512MB module which leaves a spare slot for future upgrades. Part of the Centrino badge is of course integrated Intel 802.11b wireless networking, but Systemax has gone one step further with the TourBook 5112 and has also included support for 802.11g. 802.11g is part of Intel’s updated Centrino standard, whereas before the use of a non-Intel 802.11g card meant the loss of Centrino branding.
The 15in display might not be the most impressive laptop screen, with many of the latest top spec machines coming with widescreen displays. However, it is capable of delivering a resolution of 1,400 x 1,050 which has become the accepted standard on modern laptops. The image quality is good and there’s no problem using the Systemax for extended periods, in fact it’s perfectly acceptable as your sole computer. The display is powered by an ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 with 64MB of graphics memory. Even though there are faster alternatives available now, this is still one of the best mobile graphics chipsets out there. The only downside would be that you have to lower the resolution to be able to play modern games, which is not ideal on a TFT display as the picture gets a little blurry. This however, is a problem that plagues every notebook with a high resolution screen, and is an acceptable trade-off for the majority of users.
For those all important backups Systemax has also included a Ricoh DVD writer capable of writing DVD+R at four-speed and DVD+RW at 2.4-speed. It can also write CD-R discs at 16-speed and CD-RW media at eight-speed. This might not sound impressive compared to modern desktop DVD writers, but it’s still a competitive offering on the laptop market. The drive is front mounted, which can make it a bit awkward to get to if you’re using the laptop on your lap, but it can make things more convenient when working at a desk – swings and roundabouts really.
On the left hand side is a combined SD/MMC/Memory Stick slot as well as a single Type II PC Card slot. Bucking the current trend you’ll also find an IrDA window here for infrared data transmission. This does somewhat make up for the lack of Bluetooth, but then again, you can’t expect all the bells and whistles at this price point. At the very rear of the left hand side is the volume control.