So far, then, we’ve established that this is a fast and competitively priced system, which suffers aesthetically but is nonetheless functional and well built. Its basic specification means it’ll breeze through any applications you throw at it, within reason, while the 512MB 8600M GT will provide you with a modicum of gaming performance, particularly at the 1,280 x 800 native resolution.
As for the display itself it’s a solid but unspectacular affair. Viewing angles are pretty mediocre, but colours are warm, text is sharp and whites are relatively clean. Black levels are, however, not a strong point and though they’re by no means awful, there’s an overarching greyness where very dark images are concerned. Overall, though, it’ll do for most even if it isn’t the best screen we’ve seen of late.
Another slightly disappointing aspect is the keyboard. Never a strong point of the Zepto machines we’ve seen of late, the layout is actually okay – there’s a full-size Return key and the only real flaw is the Fn key placed to the left of the Ctrl key. However, the keys themselves just feel leaden, making it difficult to comfortably develop a fast typing speed. Doubtless it’s something you’ll get used to with prolonged use, but as far as laptop keyboards go you can do a good deal better.
Likewise, with connectivity the Zepto covers most bases but lacks in some departments where competing machines excel. On the plus side you get four USB ports, while a 54mm ExpressCard slot and a 3-in-1 memory card reader supporting SD, MMC and Memory Stick formats add some flexibility. But it lacks any digital audio or video outputs, with D-SUB and S-Video for video and lone headphone and microphone jacks for audio. Connectivity is rounded off by basics like a FireWire, Modem and Ethernet ports along with a lock slot, but the lack of useful extras like HDMI is a slight disappointment.
And, while we’re on a role of pointing out the various niggling faults, the integrated speakers are average at best. Set into the front edge they provide little in the way of warmth and don’t manage great volumes either, so a pair of decent desktop speakers or headphones might be in order – see the Creative Gigaworks T20, T40 or HD50 speakers for options.
Yet, despite these grumbles there are still some elements worthy of cheer. Along the top of the keyboard are touch sensitive shortcut buttons, with shortcuts for your web browser, email client and a mute button as well. More interesting, however, are the Q Power and USB Power buttons that sit to the left of the keyboard. Q Power is a rapid charge mode that when activated charges the battery to 70 per cent in one hour, while the USB Power button enables you to charge any item via USB even when the system is powered down. This is an indecently useful feature and one we’d love to see on more notebooks.