Always a concern on cheap laptops are the input devices; the keyboard and touchpad. Unfortunately, it’s with these that the E3211 really begins to falter, particularly the keyboard. From a distance it looks okay, but Medion commits that old sin of the Fn key sitting outside the left-Ctrl key, thus constantly interfering with shortcuts. It’s the keys themselves that are the real problem, though. Key actions feel soft and uneven, providing little by way of positive feedback. In comparison, the touchpad is okay, but its coarse texture only serves to enhance the cheap feel of this machine.
Another weakness is the integrated speakers. They’re very weak and tinny, though the Medion is hardly alone in this respect – Acer’s range is no more impressive. Likewise the display, which has a 1,366 x 768 native resolution, suffers from the usual poor viewing angles. On the plus side the display also has a non-reflective, matt finish, which is something we wish more laptops would adopt. Are we seeing a return to common sense? Probably not, but it’s nice to dream!
Looking at the performance charts reinforces the fact that, faster than Atom or not, the single-core Pentium is no Road Runner. Indeed, the Medion is even slower than the similarly-specified Acer Aspire 4810T-353, whose 1.4GHz processor had slightly more L2 Cache: 3MB vs. 2MB. More startling is how the Acer Ferrari One, which uses a dual-core AMD processor and is classed as a netbook, outperforms both quite comfortably. Of course you are punished with less battery life and a machine that’s both rather hot and noisy, neither of which you can accuse the Medion of being, but the performance difference is a good 25 per cent overall.
Subjectively the machine isn’t too rapid, either. It’s a fact not helped by the presence of Windows Vista Home Premium (a Windows 7 upgrade is available for 19.95 Euros), but nonetheless this system is best suited to basic tasks. Ultimately, while it is faster than an Atom-based netbook, it’s not by an order of magnitude.
Being a CULV laptop, battery life should be very good – it’s why this segment exists, after all. This is true of the E3211, though not to the same extent as Acer’s Timeline range. Utilising a six-cell, 47 Watt-hour battery, it managed a creditable four hours, 27 minutes in the Productivity segment of MobileMark 2007, while just shy of two and half hours of DVD playback allows for a long-ish film or a few TV episodes between trips to the wall socket.
The Medion Akoya E3211 is a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde product. On light side it’s cheap, well-featured, has decent battery life and offers an optical drive where competitors have none; on the dark it looks and feels like its price, has a poor keyboard and performance is lacklustre. If you’ve been looking at similar products but don’t want to sacrifice a disc spinner, it’s worth a punt, but we’d recommend waiting to see what else comes along.