NEC Versa P600

February 17th, 2004 Mobile Computing, Tech, The West Australian

Whereas the race in desktop PCs is to the top (fitting better and better chips with breakneck clock speeds), the race in notebooks is to the bottom. Clock speeds that go through the roof only mean you’ll get shorter times out of your battery, and your machine will be hot enough to fry an egg on.

The mother lode of mobile chip technology is a long battery life, a casing that keeps its cool, a realistic weight and enough processing grunt for most modern applications.

Intel’s Centrino chip technology is currently set to lead the pack. Actually three chips in one, it’s in fact based on older and slower technology. But Intel has developed a new way for the chip to behave, so the power it generates is used smarter rather than harder.

While 1.4GHz doesn’t sound too impressive, and it’s hard to test over the course of just a few days, but it’s supposed to get the equivalent of clock speeds .5-1GHz faster than the cited speed at the time.

So in coupling a Pentium M with the 855 Chipset Family and a Wireless 2100 network connection chip, the Centrino (in prior reports) actually performs better under tests than some faster chips simply through smarter allocation of resources.

On top of that, regular use on one battery went on uninterrupted for a full four and a half hours, eyebrow-raisingly close to the published claim of 5 hours. It even took a hammering continually playing DVDs and while it did break a sweat (you won’t have to turn your electric blanket on to watch movies in bed), it lasted almost three hours.

Specially built for wireless connectivity, the WLAN capability isn’t as big a deal here in Australia where hotspots aren’t popping up as fast as in the US and Europe, but the 802.11b standard means that when it all takes off, you won’t need any wires, adapters or cards.

The 855 Chipset allows you plenty of room to move as well — it supports up to 2Gb of RAM, USB 2.0 and graphics expandability.

Built into the NEC Versa-Series P600, the Centrino has found a pretty comfortable home. The magnesium casing stays cool despite grueling punishment from the innards.

At 2.3 kg and with a 14&rquot; screen, it’s a comfortable machine. The heft has been taken out of the thickness instead of the length so it’s easy to type on and move around with a decent sized finger pad — although the buttons could be a bit more distinct from their surroundings.

The combo drive, where you can read and write CD-ROMS or play DVDs, is a skinny sliver of a thing you hardly notice — it’s both thin and silent.

The USB floppy drive included in the price is a bit of a curio, but it’s the cherry on the cake of a packed offering. XP Pro comes preinstalled, Norton Antivirus ready to install — making the P600 ready to go for an executive or professional.

You won’t be left wanting when it comes to connecting peripherals. Even thought there’s an inbuilt 56k modem you have a 10/100 Ethernet port for a network or broadband connection, 1 firewire port, 3 USB ports, a monitor connection, mike and speakers/headphone jacks.

NEC manufacture in Japan, so it isn’t a cheap generic clone. They make their own screens as well, so all the components are the best quality you can expect.

With 256Mb of RAM standard (and expandable) and a 40Gb HD, the NEC is a value for money machine, but it isn’t cheap. But if you can afford the outlay, you’ll be treated to fast, light, long-life, high performance computing.

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