Evesham kindly agreed to take part in this little feature, and sent us the Quest A245 which starts at Â£499.00 inc. VAT. As with previous Evesham systems, the Quest A245 is based on an MSI OEM chassis. This particular model comes with an AMD Sempron 3200+, which is a single-core chip running at 1.6GHz. It's supported by 1GB 667MHz DDR2 RAM, nVidia GeForce Go 6100 graphics, DVD Re-writer drive and a 80GB SATA hard drive â€“ our sample came with a 120GB drive which actually costs an extra Â£9.99.
To be honest this spec set alarm bells ringing immediately. A single-core CPU running at 1.6GHz hardly seems suitable for running Vista Home Premium, and this fear was verified when we started using the A245. It's definitely on the sluggish side, and an overall PC Mark score of 1,482 and a CPU score of 2,169 bore this out.
Another problem is the video solution, which uses up 128MB of the onboard memory, leaving only 895MB for system applications. One advantage with going with a company like Evesham is that you can spec what you want, and for an extra Â£55 you can spec a dual-core Turion 64 X2 TL-50. This is something we'd recommend as it will boost performance significantly.
Now, this does mean it costs a little more than comparable systems but this is due in part to the warranty that's provided. Whereas the Acer comes with a standard one year warranty, this Evesham comes with a three year Silver Warranty which consists of one year on-site (at home) parts and labour service, and then two more years of return-to-base labour support. Evesham has a good reputation for customer support so this will appeal to some, though when you're spending this little money it's questionable whether a three year warranty is really necessary.
One immediate difference between this and other notebooks of this size is the keyboard. The Evesham features a full size number pad. For many this might be an attractive option, but it doesn't come without a price because the keyboard layout suffers. The Enter key is prohibitively small, as is the right Shift and the cursor keys aren't offset and as such get in the way. The Fn key is also placed to the left of the Ctrl key, which is a particular bug bear at TR. Overall, the keyboard is a poor effort, with mediocre key response and an awkward layout.
Happily the Quest A245 doesn't want for connectivity. There are four USB ports, a 4-pin FireWire port, D-Sub and component S-Video while an ExpressCard slot is also provided. Mic, Headphone and S/PDIF outputs are arranged on the front edge, as is the card reader. Naturally there's also 10/100 LAN and 802.11a/b/g wireless as well, though again, there's no Bluetooth.
From a design perspective the A245 is as generic as they come. It's finished almost entirely in black with exception of the silver touch pad. Weighing in at 2.6kg, a little less than the Acer, it's light enough to be carried short distances even if it isn't an ultra-portable in any way.
As with the Acer, this Evesham system has a glossy 15.4in display, though it isn't quite up to the same standard. That said it's by no means bad with a decent level of vibrancy and surprisingly good black levels. Battery performance was slightly better than the Acer, with two hours and 20 minutes in an idle test. This is okay, though one can't imagine straying too far away from your power supply.
Although the price is right, the spec isn't and this makes the Quest A245 an imperfect investment. A few tweaks to the specification would help, but you'll be paying over the odds compared to what else is available.