Unless you happen to be from the Nordic region, where Zepto is apparently the biggest OEM notebook producer, the chances of you having heard of Zepto are incredibly slim. Although initially sounding like a completely made up word, it’s actually a prefix that means one sextillionth, or ten to the power of -21. So one zepto-second would be a very small amount of time, or indeed something very fast. But then we all knew that – right?
Clever naming and geek humour aside, Zepto products have recently been launched into the UK market starting with this notebook – the Znote 6214W.
On the inside things are fairly well specced. There is an Intel Core Duo T2300, which is a dual core “Yonah” processor, operating at 1.66GHz. The chipset is 945PM, which is of course necessary for dual core operation. There is a single 1024MB DDR-II SODIMM installed, leaving room for an upgrade to 2GB (for an extra £72). This does mean the memory is running in single instead of dual channel configuration, but this can almost be forgiven as we’d prefer to be able to upgrade to 2GB later without having to first throw away two 512MB modules.
The hard drive is an 80GB SATA Hitachi Travelstar spinning at a 5,400rpm. 80GB is enough for storing a decent selection of games and MP3’s but you’d struggle if you like to store films or TV rips. If you find you need a little bit more, then the dual layer DVD burner will come in handy. This particular drive is slot loading, as preferred by car stereos and Apple Macs around the world. I also have a bit of a soft spot for them too and I don’t see them often enough. The only real downside to them is that they can be a pain when it comes to non-standard sized discs – but you encounter discs like that fairly rarely these days.
The screen is a widescreen 14.1in at a native 1,280 x 768 resolution. I find this is a good size for desktop work and it is the perfect resolution to accompany the integrated GeForce GO 7600 graphics chipset. Since the Go 7600 is a mid-range card, 1,280 x 768 should be a comfortable resolution for it to handle. Possibly more important is that 1,024 x 768 fits perfectly on the screen, rendered as a 4:3 square in the centre of the display. This means a lower resolution is available for when newer games come along while staying at a pixel native resolution. This means you have black bars on either side, but it also means picture quality stays optimal as there is no scaling.
The graphics chip is almost identical to the desktop 7600 GS I previously reviewed but with a slightly faster 450MHz core (compared to the 400MHz of the 7600 GS) and slightly slower 700MHz memory when compared to the 800MHz of the 7600 GS. A certain amount of marketing leverage has been put on the fact that there is a 512MB frame buffer, but all this is really going to do is consume more power. The 7600 GS is a capable mid-range desktop card, so I’m expecting good gaming performance from this notebook.
Naturally, audio plays a big part in gaming and this is taken care of by a Realtek High Definition audio chipset. This supports 7.1 when using the optical output, but for analogue users there is only a headphone jack. There is an integrated microphone should you need it, as well as a jack for plugging in your own.
As well as the standard Intel 11/54Mbit wireless adapter, there is a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet connection, running on the PCI Express bus for optimal performance. Bluetooth is also included, running the popular IVT BlueSoleil chipset.
When I first saw the chassis, its matt finish and lack of distinctive features did little to spark my imagination. But the more I’ve used this machine, the more it has grown on me with its unassuming yet sleek style. There is no denying though, it’s nothing particularly special to look at – but on the whole it’s well designed.
On the left hand side is the modem jack, wireless switch, a single USB 2.0 port, a four-pin FireWire port, 3-in-1 card reader and an Express Card slot. On the right hand side is another USB port, audio connections and the slot loading DVD drive. On the back we have D-SUB, S-Video, Ethernet and another two USB 2.0 ports. This means that there is a USB port on every side of the notebook. This is a real time saver, as 95 per cent of the time when you are looking for a USB port, the first side you reach for is the side that doesn’t have one. Good thinking Zepto.
The keyboard has a lot of travel in the keys, so you need to press them down quite far. At first I found I kept missing keystrokes out, so I had to learn to type a bit harder in order to get a decent speed going. But there is ample room to rest my wrist. I didn’t get on very well with the touch pad, but I rarely find a touch-pad that I can get on with. However, in this case Riyad also agreed that it wasn’t the best as the surface had a bit too much friction – plus the touchpad didn’t mirrow the widescreen aspect ratio of the screen.
Just looking around the Zepto website, little things like the inclusion of graphics clock speeds in the specification tables and the multiple machine configurations for different users and the benchmark results to give an idea of relative performance just give you a clue as to how switched on Zepto really is.
Obviously the machine is fully configurable, and I would probably change some of the default options – such as the extra £35 for the 1.83GHz processor and the extra £72 for 2GB of memory. It is worth noting that Windows is not included as standard and a copy of Windows XP Home is an extra £50.
At 2.35kg including the battery, this is a pretty light device. It’s hard to tell exactly where this notebook lies. Is it a budget gamers notebook, or just a good value work machine? The big question is, how does it perform?
For the non-gaming tasks, we compared it to the previously reviewed Dell Latitude D620 which uses a dual core 2GHz processor, but is a few hundred pounds more expensive.
Battery life is probably the most disappointing area of this notebook but not enough to be considered poor. It managed two hours 24 minutes in general usage and one hour 50 minutes in DVD playback. This is certainly good enough for use on the train, but we’ve come to expect a little bit more from Intel Centrino branded notebooks.
PC Mark gave a very misleading overall PC Mark score, having a higher score than the Dell. However, this was artificially boosted because of a considerably larger graphics score. In reality, this graphics score doesn’t affect 2D performance much at all. The only other area that this machine won was in memory tests – probably because the graphics processor is not sharing the system memory.
Because of the resolutions tested, we didn’t have anything to compare to as we don’t test any lower than 1,280 x 1,024 in our desktop tests. Using our proprietary automated benchmarking suite, aptly dubbed “SpodeMark 3D”, I ran Call of Duty 2, Counter Strike: Source, Quake 4, Battlefield 2 and 3DMark 06. Bar 3DMark06, these all run using our in-house pre-recorded timedemos in the most intense sections of each game I could find. Each setting is run three times and the average is taken, for reproducible and accurate results. I ran each game test at 1,024 x 768 and 1,280 x 768 each at 0x FSAA with trilinear filtering, 2x FSAA with 4x AF and 4x FSAA with 8x AF.
Results were good, with playable frame rates in all but Call of Duty 2. To play this, I expect some of the settings will have to be changed rather than running with everything on high as I did during testing. What is noticeable is how much difference turning on FSAA and AF makes, noticeably dropping frame rates. At such low resolutions, FSAA really makes a difference so it’s worth sacrificing some image quality in order to get this switched on.
I’m not a big fan of gaming notebooks as they are usually really expensive and go out of date far too quickly to be worth while, but this is quite possibly one of the most balanced notebooks I’ve ever used. The 7600 Go offers enough performance to power today’s games at its native resolution and with 1024 x 768 to fall back on there is future protection too. The Core Duo processor offers excellent desktop performance and putting another 1GB module in would enhance this even further.
With an estimated two to two and a half hours battery life, this is more than enough for the average commuter and it is a nice machine to work on. At 2.35Kg it’s not too heavy either.
But with a price of only £842.48, this is not only incredibly good value for money, but very affordable by even the most cash strapped notebook buyer. It’s a perfect all rounder for the casual gamer, commuter and general PC user. The components are well chosen, especially the slot loading DVD writer.
My only real gripe with the machine, is its touch pad which could be better. However, it’s usable and I get the feeling it will improve with time as the surface wears down some more.
This machine is deserving of its high score and its Recommended award. It’s no surprise that Zepto has done well in Denmark and I think it will do just as well in the UK.
Score in detail
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