Anyone who has popped into a Aldi store will know the name Medion. This German-based PC manufacturer is renowned for its affordable, high-spec laptops and PCs, particularly ones sold at ridiculous knock-down prices in said retailer. Today we're looking at the Medion Akoya E3211, a 13.3in laptop that's one of the company's entrants into the burgeoning Intel CULV segment.
One thing that separates the E3211 from similar offerings such as the Acer TravelMate Timeline 8371 is the presence of an optical drive. Typically, in this part of the market at least, optical drives are only found in 14in models like the Acer 4810T or equivalents. Having an optical drive does mean the Medion isn't as svelte as competing offerings, weighing 1.7kg and measuring 31.5mm thick, but if you do use optical media regularly but find a 14in laptop too large then this could be the option for you.
At £499.99 from Medion's own online store, it's a very cheap option, too. This affordability is reflected in the design and build quality, though. While the glossy black lid and plain silver body are inoffensive, they lend the E3211 an exceedingly dull, unimaginative exterior. Likewise the plastics used feel thin and weak, though in general they've been screwed together well. Only the rather loose feeling screen hinge provides genuine cause for concern as it's only going to get worse over time.
As is generally the case with Medion, then, it's all about the 'inner beauty'. Yes the single-core, 1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU2700 is pretty restrictive, but it's to be expected at this price-point and the E3211 makes up for this in other departments. In addition to the optical drive there's a plentiful 4GB of DDR2 RAM on-board, as well as a capacious 320GB hard drive. Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet are also present, so you needn't sacrifice network speed as well as processing power.
Another obvious weakness, one that's common to most CULV laptops, is the use of Intel's underpowered integrated graphics. However, provided you use a media player that supports GPU acceleration (e.g. Media Player Classic Home Cinema) you can watch HD videos encoded in H.264 with around 30 per cent CPU utilisation. Gaming and HD flash video - until Adobe supports GPU acceleration at least - is still out of the question, but the basics are all present and correct.
Connectivity is reasonable, with three USB ports, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, a memory card reader, headphone and microphone jacks and a 34mm ExpressCard slot all included, but the lack of HDMI is another cost cutting measure. We can understand this omission on a cheap machine like this, but we'd always prefer to see it than not.