WinBook W160 - Page 2

By Eric Grevstad

January 02, 2004

The WinBook comes with 512MB of DDR memory (a 1GB model is $300 more) and a 60GB, 4,200-rpm Fujitsu hard disk; for those who can't shake the 1.44MB habit, an external USB floppy drive is $99.

At 6 pounds (the AC adapter adds just under a pound) and 10.2 by 13.6 by 1.2 inches, the W160 is a comfortable if not feather-light or forget-you're-carrying-it lap or briefcase companion -- though, like other wide-screen notebooks, it's too long for some briefcases' notebook compartments.

In addition to the backlit blue power button above the keyboard, there's a tiny chrome power button on the front edge -- along with tiny, invisibly marked volume, play/pause, and previous/next track buttons -- for using the closed system as an audio CD player. Line-in, line-out, and microphone jacks are also up front; the Matsushita UJ-811 DVD-RW drive -- which couples slow 1X DVD burning with 8X DVD playback and 16/10/24X CD-RW functionality -- is at the left.

The right side offers an infrared port and single PC Card slot, while the rear edge reveals parallel, VGA, S-Video out, modem, Ethernet, IEEE 1394 FireWire, and three USB 2.0 ports. The cooling fan comes on occasionally -- more, we suspect, when the graphics accelerator is working hard than the Pentium M processor is straining -- but is reasonably quiet.

The ivory keyboard looks classy and has an exemplary layout with dedicated cursor-control keys, but has a thin and flimsy feel -- when pressing the keys along the right edge, it felt as if the whole keyboard was flexing, if not liable to pop out. The touchpad and its two good-sized mouse buttons work smoothly, though scrolling is handled by the Synaptics driver instead of a hardware wheel. Nor are there any launch buttons for favorite applications, though pressing Fn-F1 toggles power to the WiFi adapter when you want to save some battery life.

Speaking of which, the W160 is no endurance-record-setter, but a quite respectable runner when away from AC power: The 9-cell lithium-ion battery gave us two hours and 40 minutes' use in our toughest multimedia and disk-thrashing sessions, and three hours and five minutes in one stint that started with WinBook's built-in system/software reformat/recovery and finished with some sedate word processing. A spare pack is $229.

Our test system came with Windows XP Professional and a 90-day trial of Norton AntiVirus 2004 preinstalled, plus CDs for InterVideo's WinDVD 4 and B's Recorder Gold 5. WinBook charges $269 and $349 for the Microsoft Office 2003 Small Business and Professional editions, respectively.

There seem to be three classes of notebook PCs nowadays -- only-nominally-portable desktop replacements with hot-rod (and hot-running) CPUs and graphics; economy models with neither the latest technology nor lightest design, but big screens and bargain prices; and a range of systems, from subnotebooks to middleweights, for actual mobile workers and business travelers. The WinBook W160 fits in the center of the last pack -- it's a good all-around performer and a not-too-heavy way to get wide-screen window arranging or DVD viewing.

Reprinted from HardwareCentral.

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