NEC Versa P578

February 1st, 2008 Desktop, Mobile Computing, Tech

The NEC Versa is a Windows notebook that stretches itself in a lot of directions as far as performance and usability. The first is turbo memory, a term you might not have heard but which is creating a lot of buzz in the mobile PC field. It’s basically a cache between the hard disk and the motherboard that remembers where you’re at when your system goes into hibernation either from running idle for a few minutes or running out of battery power.

What that means is that every time you come back to life under Windows Vista, there’s no reboot or ‘coming back to life’ process — turbo memory is an ‘instant on’ technology. So theoretically, outside restarting after a new application, patch or update, you never need reboot.

The Versa P578 also breaks new ground in being one of the first laptop computers where you can upgrade the graphics card. Flip it over and undo a few screws and you have the means to remove the nVidia GeForce 8400 (no slouch to begin with) and replace it.

Although the wireless standard 802.11n hasn’t been fully ratified by the relevant committee at the time of writing this review, it hasn’t stopped NEC building it into the Versa P570 series, a sign that at least one large manufacturer thinks it’s just a matter of a little more red tape. But while you’ll have the latest and greatest wireless technology ready to fly, there’s also the bizarre inclusion of infra-red, an all-but dead laptop connectivity technology as wireless and Bluetooth have swept all the competition aside.

The other niggle is that while most laptops have jumped wholeheartedly into the Express Card format, NEC have opted for an old-style PCMCIA slot, so before you buy make sure you’ll be able to use the relevant add-ons to fit it.

Most exciting however if you’re usually a desktop PC user is the presence of a numeric keypad. Few laptops have them, and the Versa sports a wide keyboard to incorporate it, going right to the edges of the chassis to allow for it instead of the wide open spaces of wasted chassis space many notebooks have. All the keys you’re used to on an extended PC keyboard fit comfortably on the 15.4′ unit and give the Versa a huge boost to he usability.

It’s a little over 2.5kg with a 200Gb hard drive and the now-standard webcam built into the chassis above the screen, and the P578 also comes with Windows Vista Ultimate – not Vista Business as many corporate-market notebooks do — which lets you take advantage of some of the lesser known features Microsoft offer that have been lost in all the confusion over Vista versioning. Among them is the ability to encrypt not just a directory but an entire hard drive. The decryption key can then be stored on Microsoft’s servers in the event of the loss of theft of your machine.

The Versa P578 is a lot of new and expanded technology for a very reasonable price.

RRP: $2,799

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