NEC E2000

Chips continue to evolve along with Moore’s law (most of us know it as being something to do with the increasing processing power of computers; strictly speaking, Moore observed the exponential growth in the number of transistors per integrated circuit as far back as 1965), but in the notebook world the challenge is twofold.

In a big, clunky desktop tower or CPU, processor power can be driven to ever greater heights — the limitations of heat output and power input become negligible because of the innumerable fans they can jam into a desktop tower (such as the current record holder, the Mac G5, with nine) and the ready source of power from your wall socket.

But put any old chip into a notebook and you’re playing a different game. Manufacturers and resellers who put Intel’s Pentium 4 into a notebook computer and then give you a glossy brochure showing incredible clock speeds aren’t really cheating as much as informing selectively.

You will get a faster clock speed, but it’ll be in a chip that’s not designed for the wiring in a mobile computer; it’ll suck much more battery power, produce too much heat and (because of the chip architecture), not necessarily give you a better performance despite the higher numbers.

Banias (Intel’s previous codename for the notebook-specific chips that took advantage of better architecture) has now been superseded by the Dothan, the new standard for the Mobile Pentium M chip or Centrino chipset.

What does it mean to you, apart from another computer part that sounds like the evil emperor of an invading space army?

The bells and whistles are in there somewhere, more of interest to computer engineers using microscopes than the average user. But they effectively double the cache size in the chip, which gives you a 20% improvement in clock speed and (so the manufacturers say) has no effect to battery life.

The model we tested lasted just shot of five hours comfortably, and that was after fairly solid work in a graphics studio-style environment, dealing with large files, copying to and from servers, adjusting page layout and image documents etc (lasting closer to three and a half hours after playing a DVD).

But you can certainly tell the difference in speed — the tiny Dothan worked its magic and simple tasks like opening large applications, saving large files etc moved like greased lightning — as good or better than a comparable desktop-bound PC.

Using the E2000 is a comfortable and pleasurable experience. The design is plain and no nonsense — it’s not going to win any beauty pageants but the design seems in keeping with the simple approach offered by the whole machine in terms of performance and specifications.

With a 15′ screen, it’s wide enough to be roomy — your fingers won’t cramp up with pins and needles trying to type a letter because of the tiny key size or positioning.

The one bugbear with it is that they could have placed the ‘home’ key in a much better spot. It’s at the right end of the top row where your finger automatically goes to look for ‘delete’. Admittedly you’d probably be used to it in a few weeks, but attempting to delete a word and finding you’re deleting from the beginning of the line because you’ve hit ‘home’ is irritating.

It’s got everything else you need for high end office use — Windows XP Pro and Norton Antivirus, wireless, USB slots, 512Mb RAM, internal modem etc.

The 60GB hard disk is a plus — at 5400rpm instead of the usual 4200, it’ll help you take advantage of the increased processor performance; the fastest or best-constructed processor in the world won’t help you if your disk can’t be read fast enough to handle it.

There’s also a full CD and DVD player and burner, which can be considered a little overkill — the E2000 isn’t an industrial strength graphics or film editing machine but if you move large amounts of data you’ll find use for the DVD burner.

What makes the E2000 a very special deal however is that for any notebook with 5 hours battery life you’d rarely get away for less than $3,500 or $4,000, much less one with a processor workflow this streamlined.

To promote the new chipset, NEC have released the E2000 to the reseller’s specifications, and while they’re cheap everywhere else, they’re cheapest in WA at $2,800.

The Centrino has slowly filtered throughout the laptop market, and it’s rare to see a mobile computer that doesn’t have one. The Pentium M Dothan looks set to take processor chip beyond what you’ve come to expect — this time, even Moore himself might be surprised’

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