Aside from its generous hardware bundle, it’s on the software front that the Dot S2 manages to distinguish itself. Windows 7 Starter is installed, which despite some limitations still provides a far superior experience to XP. However, the undoubted highlight is a full version of Adobe Photoshop Elements 7. It’s a great bonus for any digital photography or design enthusiasts and at £40 retail makes for a good value-add too. It's worth bearing in mind that the Dot S2’s weak specification does occasionally struggle with this application, but as long as you don’t apply complicated effects to large image files it generally runs okay.
Inexplicably, battery life is slightly poorer than that of the Asus Eee PC 1005PE, despite using identical internals and a battery that’s rated at the same 4,400mAh (48Watt-hour) capacity. PB deserves credit for quoting a more realistic eight-hour battery life (compared to Asus’ claim of 11 hours) on its packaging, though confusingly it states 10 hours on its website. In our usual test, running a looped video file at 50 per cent screen brightness with wireless turned off, the Dot S2 managed just over six hours: an hour less than the 1005PE. Mind you, on its own merits this is still plenty for many users.
An MSRP of £299 is in line with other basic Pine Trail netbooks coming to market. As discussed in the Eee PC 1005PE review, that makes for a rather poor proposition as you can get the likes of Toshiba’s excellent NB200 for around £220 these days. However, if you like the sound of XSync and Photoshop Elements 7, the Packard Bell represents decent value and this should be further enhanced as older models go out of stock and these new ones begin to fall in price. If you're looking for something more powerful and with digital video out, keep in mind that netbooks like the HP Compaq Mini 311c offer an HD-resolution 11.6in screen and 1080p video playback, CUDA acceleration and HDMI thanks to nVidia's ION chipset, all while costing only a little extra.
It's not the prettiest netbook around, but the Packard Bell Dot S2 offers an excellent keyboard and touchpad, decent screen and speakers, and some innovative and genuinely useful extras. It’s definitely one of the better Pine Trail models so far, but it’s still worth looking at older generation netbooks if you're on a tight budget.