To see what else Sideshow could do I downloaded and installed a Picture Viewer. It was only in Beta and had a tendency to disappear and was rather slow but it did work. It reported that I had a 100 pictures to view and let me view start to view them immediately. Initially, I could only view the first few, because it was still pulling the picture from the hard disk into the Sideshow memory. After that I could view the pictures at the same time as playing music using Sideshow. It was good to see that Sideshow worked independently of Vista, with only a very short pause interrupting music playback as Vista went to sleep or resumed.
You can also set Sideshow to wake your PC up from a sleep state in order to update itself, so that the latest information is available to it. Al in all it easy to just view Sideshow as a bit of a gimmick as I’d be pushing to too far to suggest that’s it’s a must have feature, especially while there’s no Sideshow gadget for Outlook email. Even so it’s certainly a nice feature to have though it’s up to you if it’s enough to sway you into purchasing this notebook.
As I said earlier, this notebook is simply a Sideshow equipped version of the W5F. A year ago I was quite impressed with the W5Fs combination of power and portability but things have moved on. I can’t fault the 1.6Kg weight – while it’s not ultra-portable territory, it’s certainly light enough to put into a shoulder bag and carry round with you, without giving yourself a hernia – so it’s a thumbs up in that regard. The extra size over the real tiddlers means that it can pack a powerful Core 2 Duo T7400 CPU. This runs at 2.16GHz, which as our PC Mark 2005 scores proves is quite a bit more powerful that the Core Duo CPU supplied in last year’s machine. Equally the 512MB we were given last year would have been a bit of a joke running Vista, which is why this machine has 1.5GBs of RAM. However, this is actually the highest configuration possible – a legacy of using the W5F chassis. It’s enough for running Vista but only just, and there was a lot of hard disk activity evident under prolonged use.
The hard disk is a generous 160GB, and on the left hand side there’s a dual-layer DVD burner built in too. Squeezed in above this is an SD card and you‘ll also find a modem and 100Mbps Ethernet socket and a mini Firewire port. On the right hand edge you’ll find an Express card slot and headphone and microphone sockets. The volume control is a actual rocker switch, which is great.
There are a good number of features on the notebook, such as shortcuts for the webcam on right hand side of the screen, a proper circular volume switch on the right hand edge and a VGA out. However, there are several of negatives – the bezel is huge, even accounting for the webcam at the top and it really spoils the look of the display. Even more disappointing though are the viewing angles on the screen. Colour shift is huge, especially noticeable when booting Windows Vista, with the graphic changing colour completely. That said under normal lighting condition the screen is fine when viewed directly on.
I did have a few issues when using the notebook due to it being an engineering sample such as the webcam locking up and the USB ports temporarily stopping working but I’m assured that these issues are sorted out for production units.