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ViewSonic ViewBook Pro VNB131 - 13.3in Laptop - ViewSonic ViewBook Pro
Inside the somewhat plagiarised chassis it's no surprise to see one of Intel's increasingly popular CULV processors. It's an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300, which has two 1.3GHz cores sharing 3MB L2 Cache. This is one of the faster CULV options, but it's paired with only 2GB of DDR2 RAM and a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. Upgrading could prove tricky, too; there's only one SODIMM slot and there's a warranty voiding seal over one of the (many) screws. This machine is crying out for an access panel for the RAM.
For storage you get a generous 320GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, which benefits from fall detecting motion sensors to aid hard drive protection. Other sundries include Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, though the wired networking is of the slower 10/100Mbit variety. Graphics is the usual frugal yet weak Intel GMA 4500M, though the 13.3in screen it powers bucks the modern trend in sticking with a 16:10 aspect, 1,280 x 800 native resolution.
Connectivity on the ViewBook covers the basics, but isn't overly generous. Both HDMI and VGA are present, which is a plus, but you only get two USB ports and they're sat right next to each other - a potential problem for large USB devices if you want to use both ports at the same time. In addition you'll find two audio jacks (one headphone-out, one mic-in), a multi-format memory card reader, a 34mm ExpressCard slot and an Ethernet port.
Where things go a little further awry is with the input devices: the keyboard and touchpad. Starting with the former, things start off fairly well - it's got a sensible layout and the keys are large and usable. Unfortunately the key actions are muddy and imprecise, with a hint of irritating rattle thrown in too. It's still okay to use and is a far cry from the dreadful keyboard on Medion's Akoya E3211, but the likes of the HP Pavilion dm3-1020ea take it to the cleaners.
As for the touchpad, it's not that bad, but the surface - like the chassis as a whole - feels a little rough. Its two buttons are fine, though, not lacking for definition even if their response is a little uneven.
Returning to the 13.3in screen, we found it outstanding in some respects but slightly mediocre in others. Its viewing angles are extremely wide, right up there with the likes of the Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro - in fact, we wouldn't be surprised if it was the same panel. It's also very bright and, when the brightness is brought down a shade, it produces a nice pure black. Equally its white-level is very clean compared to most laptop screens.
However, much like the MacBooks, it's seemingly tuned to compress dark shades and slightly over-blow lighter ones. As a result, it's superficially a very rich, colourful screen, but struggles to bring out finer details. At its brightest there's also some very obvious bleed from the LED backlighting, though reducing the brightness to 80 per cent does tune this out.
On reflection, though, we'd happily take some of its weaknesses to enjoy its wide viewing angles and crisp look. We can also report that the ViewBook has speakers. They're really bad, but they are there.