by January 3, 2005 0 comments



About a year ago (February 2004), we did a two-tier comparative review of notebooks. In that, we considered two types of notebooks-one for the high-end user and the other for the lower-end market. This time round, we have chosen the middle path-to evaluate the ideal notebooks for a mobile executive. He is a person who might be in the middle tier of an organization and needs a to be productive when on the move. For instance, a product manager of an FMCG, or a regional sales manager in an electronics company.

The minimum hardware requirements for such a notebook according to us is that it must have a mobile processor (Pentium M, Celeron M or Athlon M), wireless LAN capabilities, have at least 256 MB RAM and a combo drive (DVD-ROM and CD-ReWriter). This was also our criterion for selecting the notebooks for the shootout, and as a result, a whopping 22 notebooks. More so, out of these, there were 15 different brands of notebooks. How’s that for variety! 

Before we proceed with explaining how we evaluated the notebooks, it’s better to understand why we chose this configuration. A mobile processor adds better power management to a notebook, thereby improving battery life and reducing heating. Wireless is becoming quite common these days, so it’s important that you have it built into the notebook and available whenever you need it. It’s advisable to go for at least 256 MB RAM to meet your current as well as future requirements.

Combo drive is important since DVDs are gaining in popularity, and you could need to burn a CD anytime to back up data or pass a presentation to a client. Lastly, we asked vendors to include Win XP with the notebooks to avoid any confusion in the pricing. Many vendors tend to provide a notebook price without the OS.

We used our regular triple-axis model of price, performance and features to evaluate the notebooks. Finally, we used the Brown-Gibson model to arrive at the weightages for all the parameters. Having said that, here’s what we did with the notebooks. 

Feature perfect
The mobile executive desires an easily transportable unit that delivers maximum features and connectivity options. So, we considered the following features. 

  • Types of connectivity, especially FireWire, IrDA and USB 
  • Physical size of each notebook, along with its total carry weight (complete with power adapter). We weighed all
    notebooks with their power adapters 
  • Special and programmable buttons as well as built-in Web cams
  • Usability of the keyboard layout
  • Software shipped with the notebook (on accompanying CDs) 
  • Hard-drive size, screen size, presence of a Flash card reader and a microphone were taken into account

SCORE

OVERALL

Features + Performance+ 
0.75 Price

FEATURES PERFORMANCE PRICE
Out of 100 Out of 100 Out of 100

Though all notebooks come with a carry bag, some vendors didn’t send it with their units. Thus, we kept carry -bag quality out of features, but we do recommend that you check it out when buying a notebook. Ensure that it has plenty of room for the adapter, and even for extra wires, notebook accessories, etc. It should be sturdy enough to the notebook from shocks and vibrations while traveling. 

We considered ports such as the external VGA, LAN and modem as hygiene for our range and decided to ignore their presence in our rankings.

Perform to win
Office productivity, multimedia content handling, battery life and gaming support were tested using automated software benchmark tools. The benchmarks used were BW 2003 (Business Winstone 2003) to test office productivity, MCCW 2002 (Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2002) to check out multimedia-processing prowess, BWBM 2002 (Business Winstone Battery Mark 2002) for testing battery life. To test DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL gaming, we used 3DMark 2003 and Quake III Arena respectively.

The cost factor
Pricing and warranty always go hand in hand when making a purchasing decision. The raw price of a notebook in the market (figures as supplied by the vendor) and the warranty options (all India or international travel) were taken into account. 
The notebooks sent to us cost right from about Rs 45,000 up to a lakh and a half rupees. Good, as in our last such review, we had predicted that the prices for notebooks will fall and more features will become common across the board. This seems to be true as far as this test indicates. So price is no longer a limiting factor when buying a notebook today. 

By Geetaj Channana, Sujay V. Sarma

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