Regular readers may remember Zepto. Just over a year ago we reviewed the Znote 6214W, and it walked away with the coveted Recommended Award thanks to its combination of fast components at a superb price. One of its benefits was that it provided a modicum of gaming performance inside a moderately portable 14.1 chassis, and the Znote 6224W we're looking at today is more or less a complete update of that model.
I say complete update; it's more of a refresh than anything else, with the internals upgraded to the latest mobile technology while the chassis receives little more than the smallest of tweaks. On the outside this is no bad thing. Fine, it isn't eye-catching like the Sony VAIO CR, but the matte black combined with the pleasing curves on the lid create a sleek, almost low profile look that's quite pleasing to behold. Zepto's classy logo lettering certainly helps too, and is certainly an improvement over the garish bold lettering found on Toshiba notebooks or massive badges on Dell machines.
Another particular bonus is the size. Fine, a 14.1in notebook isn't ultra-portable or anything, but weighing 2.4kg and measuring 341mm wide, 247mm deep and only 27mm high it's perfectly portable, and once you read what's inside the relative size and weight is all the more impressive.
Unfortunately, though the outside is perfectly palatable, opening up the lid reveals a rather less attractive state of affairs. First to draw ire is the speakers, which are situated in a gap just below the screen. This is actually quite neat since the speakers are projecting toward you rather than into the desk or upward into nothingness, but the plastic moulded grill that accompanies them is nothing but an eye sore and really upsets one's overall impression of the machine.
Similarly the silver accenting, one of the few visual changes, isn't an especially good one. It just looks rather cheap, as does the glossy black panel just above the keyboard and the buttons that are set into it. Overall there's a definite lack of finesse in the some of the design, though it is at least solidly put together and inspires some confidence in this respect.
At the core of our sample was an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, which runs at a breezy 2GHz with 4MB L2 Cache on a 800MHz front-side bus. This is backed up by a single stick of 2GB 667MHz DRR2 RAM, and most impressively a 512MB nVidia GeForce 8600M GT. This is a very powerful set up, especially for a notebook of this size, and should allow for a good deal of gaming performance.
Slightly disappointingly our sample came with an 80GB SATA HDD, though it was a 7200rpm Hitachi drive so it was at least nippy. Thankfully, you can specify a 160GB 5400rpm drive for as little as £13.18 more, with options going all the way up to 250GB for 5400rpm drives and 200GB for the 7200rpm versions. This is a very comprehensive selection, and even compared to other built-to-order companies Zepto provides a massive range of options - more on which shortly.