- Review Price: £1249.00
As the dust settles on the Intel Centrino Duo launch, several machines based on the new technology have started to appear on the market. After the Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi our second Centrino Duo laptop comes from a UK company – not what you expect when you have massive players like Dell, IBM and HP on the case. The Voyager C550 is actually rather cunningly using an established Asus chassis and this is why Evesham has a product available so soon after the launch.
If you want all the technical details about the new platform I’d suggest you go and read the Acer review as it covers all the basics of what the new Centrino Duo platform has to offer. The Voyager C550 isn’t as highly specified as the Acer, but it also cost a lot less as a result. The processor is an Intel Core Duo T2400 clocked at 1.83GHz, which in itself isn’t bad. But the T2400 also represents the best value in the Core Duo range, offering great performance while costing considerably less than the 2GHz T2500 seen in the Acer.
With 1GB of DDR2 667MHz memory and a 100GB 7,200rpm SATA hard drive the base specs are very good indeed. Add to this an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics adapter with 256MB of memory and you get close to a desktop spec laptop. Besides the slower CPU and more modest memory complement, the Voyager C550 is so far quite similar to the Acer in terms of specification and it does of course use the same Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG 802.11a/b/g wireless card as this is part of the new Centrino standard. Bluetooth 2.0 is also part of the wireless specification.
The DVD writer is from LG and handles all types of writeable DVD media. It will write to DVD+/-R media at 8x, DVD+/-RW at 4x, DVD+/-R dual layer at 2.4x and finally DVD-RAM at 5x. In terms of design the Voyager C550 looks almost identical to the Asus A6Km-Q002H, which isn’t really a bad thing, but it’s definitely not as stylish as the carbon fibre finished Acer.
In terms of ports, everything is located in the same place as the Asus. You’ve got the optical drive on the left; the rear is home to four USB 2.0 ports, both D-SUB and DVI ports and the power connector. The parallel port seen on the Asus A6Km-Q002H has been dropped in favour for the DVI connector. Moving on to the right hand side reveals the modem and network ports – the Voyager C550 has integrated Gigabit Ethernet – along with a four-pin FireWire port and three audio connectors of which one doubles as an optical S/PDIF out. Sadly the Voyager C550 doesn’t support more than 2 channels of analogue sound despite having an HD audio codec that supports 7.1-channels.
Finally there’s an IrDA port, a PC Card slot – Express Card is missing – and a multi format card reader for SD, MMC, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro cards. The screen is also the same size at 15.4in in widescreen but offers a higher resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 – which is the same as the Acer. The Voyager C550 also features the 1.3Mpixel web camera just above the screen but once again the Acer topples it by having a rotating camera.
In terms of size and weight there really isn’t much between the Voyager C550 and the Acer as both machines weigh 2.9kg. The Voyager C550 measures 345 x 284 x 35.2mm (WxDxH) compared to 363 x 266 x 34mm for the Acer, so there isn’t much difference there either.
Performance wise the Voyager C550 lags behind the Acer, although this was kind of expected due to the slower processor and amount of memory. However, the gap between the two was a lot bigger than anyone in the office would have guessed as the Evesham only scored 290 in SYSMark 2002 – that’s 72 points slower than the Acer. The PCMark 2005 scores were much closer together and the faster hard drive in the Voyager C550 scored it a few extra points. The MobileMark 2005 performance score is also a way behind the Acer with 184 up against 259 points.
Sadly the battery life was less than impressive on the Voyager C550 turning in a time a minute short of two hours in MobileMark 2005 – not what I expected to see from a brand new Centrino Duo notebook. Although this might improve slightly on production models – this was a pre-production sample and it wasn’t set up entirely as well as it should’ve been. The DVD playback test in MobileMark 2005 showed equally poor battery life at 113 minutes, that’s seven minutes short of two hours, so forget about watching even the normal version of a Lord of the Rings movie on the Voyager C550.
In terms of 3D performance the X1600 chipset is more than capable of producing playable frame rates in the latest games, albeit some won’t be able to do this at the full screen resolution. The Voyager C550 managed 66.35fps in Far Cry at 1,024 x 768 which is very playable.
Where Evesham does beat Acer slightly is on the warranty as you get no less than three years warranty with the Voyager C550, although this is UK only and the last year is return to base instead of on-site. The price is of course a lot lower as well, with Evesham asking only £1,249 for the Voyager C550, some £500 less than the Acer. Saying that, you do get less for your money as well, not only in terms of features, but the Voyager C550 just isn’t as well designed as the Acer. Still, if you can’t afford the Acer the Voyager C550 isn’t a bad laptop by any means.
It’s impressive to see a Centrino Duo machine this quick from a UK system integrator but the Evesham Voyager C550 falls short in more ways than one, with most disappointing aspect being the poor battery life. That said, it does sport a decent specification and a very attractive price.
Due to some supply issues with the 1,680×1,050 panels from Asus, initial models of the Voyager C550 will ship with 1,280×800 panels. Consequently Evesham has reduced the price on these models to £1,199.00 inc VAT.
Score in detail
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