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Those who follow the technology industry will know that ViewSonic has long been associated with monitors, both CRTs and more recently LCDs. As that market has become increasingly difficult, however, the company has sought to branch out into a number of new segments. We've already seen some fruits of its labour, such as the VPD400 Portable Media Player, VPC100 All-in-One PC and the VMP30 Digital Media Player, but the ViewSonic ViewBook Pro we're looking at now is the first laptop we've seen from the company.
It's a 13.3in portable laptop which, despite weighing just 1.65kg and measuring 17-25mm thick, features an integrated optical drive. Clearly ViewSonic has taken some liberal inspiration from several quarters in creating the ViewBook Pro. Its name, of course, is somewhat reminiscent of Apple's MacBook Pro and even the packaging and the ViewBook's promotional website (US version) have more than a little bit of Cupertino about them. Subtle it is not.
Unsurprisingly, however, ViewSonic isn't in the position to ape Apple where the actual laptop is concerned. Here it has taken its cue from the Toshiba Protege R600, known for being the lightest laptop in the world back when people actually cared about such statistics - it's all about being thin these days! This is probably a better fit as ViewSonic's stated target market is "professionals".
As such the design of the ViewBook Pro is really quite conservative. Our version is shod in matt silver inside and out, though there's also a black version that actually retails for some £23 less. This all-silver cladding is only interrupted by the black screen bezel, which is attached to the body of the machine via two faux-chromed hinges. Some well-placed curves and the exceedingly slim 25mm height create a nice sense of sleekness, but otherwise it's merely a solid, as opposed to exciting, chassis.
It also shares the slightly flimsy, tacky feel of the Protege R600. Its plastics feel thin and slightly coarse, while there's a segment on the top edge of the screen that you can easily lift up with your fingernail. In fairness, however, the ViewBook Pro feels reasonably well screwed together, albeit with one or two little quirks. Moreover, considering it houses an integrated optical drive - not a given where slim, ultra-portable laptops are concerned - the ViewBook Pro's 1.65kg weight is very low.
To emphasise the ViewBook Pro's more professional outlook, ViewSonic has also included a couple of security features. One is the obvious fingerprint reader that's nestled between the two touchpad buttons, but the other is more left field - a theft alarm. It's activated using a button that occupies one quarter of the otherwise circular power button, which then locks the laptop (still running) until you enter your password. If your laptop is moved when in this mode an alarm sounds, alerting you or anyone in the vicinity. It's pretty crude and we wonder how effective or useful it really would be, particularly as the machine must remain on for it to work, but it might do enough to scare someone off.