This odd arrangement is compounded by the leaden, heavy feeling of the keys; making typing on the Zieo a real chore. If you’re used to using the Right Shift then you better be prepared to change because you’ll certainly find yourself hitting the arrow keys or something else nearby other than the Shift key. Happily the Left Shift is of a good size, avoiding the inadvertent pressing of the Caps Lock problem often prevalent on notebooks. Regrettably this is a small consolation, and one rather wishes there was either no number pad, or the arrow keys were done away with. Either of these options would have opened up space for a more usable layout, and without arrow keys one easily could use those on the number pad instead.
Connections wise the Evesham is pretty good. On the front edge there is a Firewire port, the 6-in-1 card reader and Mic, Line Out and S/PDIF connections, while on the right you’ll find the Express Card slot, an HDMI port and D-Sub. On the left there are a further two USB ports, along with the optical drive and the aerial connection.
For the size of the chassis, three USB ports is a tad on the stingy side, and I’d certainly expect to see at least four. HDMI is always a welcome addition, and the D-Sub port provides handy legacy support. There are also Ethernet and Modem ports on the back of the unit, providing more or less everything you need.
Bringing things back to the working area of the notebook, there a few other features to take a look at. Obviously there’s a track pad, which is fine though the two mouse buttons are tad on the tough side. There’s also an internal microphone situated just below the arrow keys. Just above the keyboard are a set of media keys. Nothing too interesting to report here; one button launches your web browser, one the web camera and the other controls wireless. Another, labelled ‘P1’, is still something of a mystery. One presumes it’s programmable, but how I’ve yet to discover – answers on a postcard.
Continuing the slightly budget feel is the screen. At 17 inches it’s a good size, and the 1,680 x 1,050 native resolution is good too. There’s a glossy finish for boosting colours and black levels, which considering the nature the notebook is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, the quality of the panel is merely average. Black levels are more grey than black, with the final scenes of Apocalypse Now illustrating its weakness in this area. Colours meanwhile aren’t especially vibrant, and the panel isn’t bright either, struggling in high light environments.
For testing we ran our usual set of tests for notebooks under Vista, using our own 2D benchmarks for real-world performance and PC Mark 05 for a more general idea. Since the Zieo has a 512MB 8600M-GT we also ran our suite of gaming tests. Since this is our first retail Santa Rosa notebook we also ran our test with Turbo Memory enabled and disabled to help us get a bearing of its effect, and clocked boot-up times as well.