Portables With Panache

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Oct - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Oct - 2005
Portables With Panache
Only a few years ago, when laptops were a novelty, they were considered expensive toys. Anyone carrying a laptop was assumed to be either a rich geek or a corporate biggie flaunting his status or making a style statement.

Today, of course, the case is vastly different. And while laptops have become common, another genre has spawned: the lifestyle laptop. These combine top-of-the-line hardware with the most gorgeous-looking exteriors you could hope for. These are geared specially for those who enjoy showing off, like gamers and businessmen!

The deadly combination of looks and performance make these laptops objects of desire. They are something to be owned, and are not meant for those who just want a laptop for work

The deadly combination of looks and performance make these laptops objects of desire. They are something to be owned, and are not meant for those who just want a laptop for work.

Well, what constitutes a lifestyle laptop? This is hugely influenced by the brand of the laptop and also on its looks, design and build quality. And a designer name thrown in is the icing on the cake!

Nineteen laptops arrived for our comparison test. The Apple PowerBook G4 was one of them, but we didn't compare it head-on with the other laptops because the platform is different.

Fujitsu sent in four laptops, one of which was a tablet PC-which, again, had to be excluded from the comparison and reviewed separately. It would not have been fair to pit a tablet PC against regular laptops.

Samsung, too, sent in four laptops, of which one had a 17-inch monitor, which was way bigger than the rest, and so even its form factor was the largest. It, too, was reviewed separately.

The remaining sixteen laptops were divided into two categories based on form factor, and were unleashed against each other. It was a fight to the finish, with the best-looking and the most powerful facing off.

Lifestyle Ultra-Portables
Ultra-portable laptops are designed to minimise size and weight, while at the same time trying to keep the features and computing power of their larger siblings. These laptops are easier to carry around and are largely aimed towards frequent travellers. It is these laptops that make a style statement.

We categorised the laptops as ultra-portables and workhorses based on their screen size and weight. The ultra-portable category comprised laptops that had a diagonal screen size below 14 inches and weighed less than two kg-in other words, small form factor laptops.

Of the 19 laptops we received, eight of them, from six manufacturers, made it to this category. These included the Acer TravelMate, Dell Latitude X1, Fujitsu LifeBook LBP7010 and LBS6240, MSI MegaBook S260 and S270, Samsung Note PC Q30, and the Sony VAIO VGN-S46GP/S.

The Processor
Most laptops in this category were based on Intel Centrino technology, which means they sported Intel Pentium M processors, included Intel 855 boards, and had Intel 802.11b g Wi-Fi, all of which are certified as low-energy consuming parts by Intel-hence the Centrino certification.
One exception was the MSI MegaBook S270, which had an AMD Sempron 3000 , and was based on the ATI Radeon Xpress 200P chipset.

While most of the laptops had 512 MB, the MSIs had just 256 MB. The Acer TravelMate, Dell Latitude X1, Fujitsu LBS6240 and the Sony VAIO all came equipped with DDR2 memory, while the rest came with DDR memory; this made a difference in the memory bandwidth benchmarks and in applications affected by RAM.

The Display
Almost all these laptops featured a 12.1-inch display. The Sony VAIO and the Fujitsu LBS6240 each featured a 13.3-inch screen, and the Fujitsu LBP7010 featured the tiniest of displays at 10.6 inches. The widescreen aspect ratio was common, with the exception of Fujitsu LBS6240 whose display had a regular 4:3 aspect ratio.

In native display resolutions too, the LBS6240 lagged behind at 1024 x 768, where the others supported either 1280 x 768 or 1280 x 800. It is worth noting that the Sony VAIO had the best display with very wide viewing angles.

Ports And Connectivity
Four of the laptops here had three USB ports each, while the remaining four had two each. Every laptop had a FireWire port for high-speed video capture from supported devices. The serial and parallel ports are now obsolete. The Acer laptop and Fujitsu's LBS6240 had the port replicator option to add more ports.

Infrared connectivity was available only in two of the eight laptops-the Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi and Fujitsu LBS6240-whereas Bluetooth was available on the Acer TravelMate, Dell Latitude X1, MSI MegaBook S260 and S270 and the Sony VAIO.

All the laptops were WiFi-conformant with the b g high-speed standard. As far as LAN is concerned, only the Acer, Dell and Fujitsu LBS6240 had Gigabit Ethernet, while the rest had the slower 10/100. A 56 Kbps modem was standard on all laptops. A PCMCIA Type II slot was available on all the machines except the Dell Latitude X1 and Samsung Q30 Plus.
Needless to mention, a microphone-in and headphone-out were available on all the laptops. A D-Sub connector was also available on all except the Fujitsu LBS6240, probablydue to its larger 13.3-inch display which, along with that of the Sony VIAO, was the largest in this category. The Fujitsu LBP7010 was the only laptop with an S-Video Out and a TV-out.

Multimedia and memory card reading capability was available at least in some capacity on most of laptops.

The Dell supported only two formats: SD and CF. Acer supported SD, MS, MS Pro and MMC, whereas the Fujitsu LBP7010 supported the SD, MS, MS Pro and CF formats. Sony VAIO was the only laptop that supported the Memory Stick Duo standard.

Other features
The Fujitsu laptops boasted the highest-capacity hard drives-80 GB. MSI's laptops had the lowest-capacity hard drives of 40 GB.

All laptops had 4200 rpm hard drives, except for the Sony VAIO, which had a faster, 5400 rpm, 60 GB hard drive.

Most of the laptops had integrated graphics solutions based on either the Intel Extreme Graphics 2 or the Intel GMA 900. Though these are OK for office work, they are just plain bad as far as even moderate gaming is concerned.

The MSI MegaBook S270 had ATi Xpress 200P integrated graphics but this was throttled down due to the lesser amount of RAM; it therefore did not do well in the gaming tests. The Sony VAIO shone here with the nVidia GeForce Go 6200 32MB PCI-Express graphics. It blazed ahead of the competition in the gaming tests.

An integrated optical drive, too, was featured in most of the laptops. The only laptops with an external drive were the Acer, Dell and Samsung's Note PC Q30 Plus.

Although the Fujitsu LBP7010 was the smallest laptop, the optical drive was integrated into the unit. While most came with a combo drive, the Samsung Q30 Plus had a DVD RW drive, and the Sony VAIO even provided a dual-layer DVD-Writer.

Some laptops like the Fujitsu even featured fingerprint recognition. An external button to turn Wi-Fi off and on was also available in many of the laptops.

The Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi, Dell Latitude X1, Fujitsu LifeBook LBP7010 and Samsung Note PC Q30 Plus sported the sleekest form factors. The Fujitsu LBP7010 is still the winner in this aspect due to the fact that it has an integrated optical drive where the others have external drives.

The Dell Latitude and the Samsung Q30 Plus weighed the lowest at 1.14 kg each without the external drive. But when the carry weight was noted, the Fujitsu LBP7010 again weighed the lowest at 1.85 kg.

The 'accessibility of ports' rating for all the laptops was almost the same because all the vendors have taken care to place the ports in an uncluttered manner.

In the keyboard feel and touchpad sensitivity ratings, both Fujitsu laptops along with the Sony VAIO surged ahead of the rest, but the others were not far behind either. In overall ergonomics, the bigger laptops-namely the Fujitsu LBS6240 and the Sony VAIO-scored the highest. The smaller laptops could not score high because of the crammed keyboard and touchpad.

In the speaker quality test, too, the Fujitsu LBS6240 and Sony VAIO scored quite high.

How We Tested 
Here's a description of the tests and benchmarks we used to compare the laptops.

Features such as the size of the LCD, the number of I/O ports, hard disk size, type of optical disk drive, etc. were noted and rated. Extra features, if present, were also noted. Weightages were assigned to the noted features according to their importance.

The usability of a laptop is evaluated on the basis of how easy it is to handle in day-to-day life. Importance was given to weight and dimensions, as well as the ergonomics of the keyboard, touchpad, etc. We played music files to rate the speakers on a scale of five.

Package contents
Did the vendor provide an operating system, recovery CD and driver CDs with the laptop? We also looked at the extra software provided, as well as bundled accessories-power adapter, carry case, etc.

To gauge performance, we ran a battery of tests that evaluated each individual sub-system. We used all the following benchmarking suites:
PCMark 2004 v1.30 is a system-wide benchmark that tests the complete system as well as individual components such as the processor, memory, hard drive and graphics subsystem. It returns an aggregated score as well as individual scores by running applications used in daily work such as file encryption applications, virus scanning applications and so on.
SiSoft Sandra 2005 Professional SR2 is another system-wide benchmark suite. We used it to evaluate the performance of the CPU, memory and hard disk. The scores for the individual sub-systems were noted.
Ziff Davis Business Winstone 2004 tests the system by performing a scripted run of applications that are used on a daily basis, such as MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc., as well as applications such as Norton AntiVirus and WinZip. The overall system performance is evaluated, and a unified score is returned
at the end of the run. The higher this score, the better is the system's performance.

Some of the other tests we did were:
Video encoding: A 100 MB VOB file was encoded using Dr. DivX 1.0.6 to convert it to AVI, and the encoding time was noted.
Gaming benchmarks: We wanted to test both OpenGL as well as Direct3D graphics capabilities. Call of Duty tests the OpenGL sub-system. The game was run at 800 x 600 and at 1024 x 768, and the average fps was noted. FarCry was the new game we included. It is a highly scalable game and uses Direct3D API. The game was run at 640 x 480 and at 1024 x 768, and the average fps was noted.
LCD screen display tests: DisplayMate Video Edition was used to gauge the sharpness and level shift of the LCD screens. We also used the LCD Pixel Persistence test from the PassMark Monitor Test suite; here, white moving blocks were observed for the tearing effect, and the screens rated accordingly.
Digit Battery Meter: In order to stress the battery to the utmost, we ran a VOB file-a DVD rip-after recharging the battery to capacity until the battery ran out. The battery time reveals whether the notebook will last a full movie-pretty real world. During this test, the screensaver as well as the power management features were disabled. Also, the volume level was maximised, the brightness was left at half, and the Wi-Fi was turned off.
Wi-Fi Test: To evaluate the data throughput over Wi-Fi, we used NetCPS-a utility that pumps data to check the TCP/IP connection and returns a score that reflects the throughput. We also copied 100 MB of assorted data and noted the time taken for the transfer.
Flaunt Value: Since this was a comparison test of 'lifestyle' laptops, we decided to include a new parameter-'Flaunt Value'. Since this is a completely subjective rating, we decided that a plebiscite was in order. We asked each voter to rate the laptops on a scale of 10 for design and looks, form factor, build quality, features and specs, package contents and brand value. An average of the ratings for each parameter was calculated and the average of all parameters for a particular laptop was recorded as its Flaunt Value.
Package Contents
Windows XP Professional SP2 came preinstalled on all the laptops except the MSI S270, which had Windows XP Home Edition with SP2. Similarly, a driver and recovery CD or DVD of some sort accompanied each laptop.

The Fujitsu laptops came with Norman Virus Control CDs, while the Sony VAIO, Acer and Samsung came with Norton AntiVirus 2005. DVD players such as PowerDVD and WinDVD came with almost all laptops, while Sony, MSI and Fujitsu gave additional multimedia software like PowerProducer and Adobe Premiere.

The Fujitsu and the MSI were the only laptops that came with a carry case. A couple of other accessories, such as a screen wiping cloth, were provided by Fujitsu.

The Acer, Dell and Samsung laptops also came with an extra battery pack.

ZD-Bench Business Winstone 2004
In the ZD-Bench Business Winstone 2004 test, the Sony VAIO topped the charts with a score of 20.5, which is a healthy score for any laptop.
Close behind was the Fujitsu LBS6240 with 19.1 and the Acer TravelMate with 19. The MSI MegaBook S260 scored the lowest at 13.3.
In the video encoding test too, the scores were not too different. Sony VAIO logged the lowest time of 183 seconds, followed by Acer at 184 seconds. The Samsung Q30 Plus was last, taking a whopping 454 seconds to encode our video!

SiSoft Sandra 2005
In the SiSoft Sandra 2005 CPU and memory benchmarks, once again, Sony VAIO and Acer were neck-and-neck, while the MSI S270 scored the lowest.
In the filesystem benchmark, Dell's Latitude and Samsung's Q30 Plus scored the lowest. The other laptops were all on par with each other.

Game test
In the game test, as was expected, the Sony VAIO, with the PCI-Express GeForce 6200 Go, rocketed ahead. In Call of Duty at 1024 x 768, the VAIO scored 101.7 fps, where none of the other laptops could breach the 30 fps limit.
Similarly, in FarCry, the VAIO scored 57.15 fps at 1024 x 768, while the others could not even score 15 fps!

Download Lifestyle Ultra-Portable Laptops PDF File

PCMark 04
In the PCMark 04 test, too, the Sony VAIO and Acer TravelMate scored 3,188 and 3,090 respectively, and stayed way ahead of the others.

DisplayMate tests the quality of the LCD display. After all the testing, we concluded that the Sony VAIO had a very good display. Not only did it pass the DisplayMate Test in style, the viewing angle was wide as well: movies were viewable even at 160 degrees without discolouration.

Battery Life
The Fujitsu LBP7010 had a battery life of three hours and 45 minutes-more than enough for any movie out there. The Acer TravelMate clocked three hours and 22 minutes. The MSI Megabook S270 came in last, with the battery lasting just an hour and 15 minutes!

Wi-Fi Test
The NetCPS score of the MSI S270 was the highest at 2.16, while the Fujitsu LBS6240 scored 2.1 to come in second. The MSI Megabook S260 was the last in this test with a score of 1.89. To copy the 100 MB of assorted files over a wireless network, Samsung's Q30 Plus took 44.5 seconds, which was the fastest. The Sony VAIO was the slowest, taking 54 seconds to copy the files.

Flaunt Value
'Flaunt value' is a parameter we included in the laptop comparison test this time, because the laptops we included are specifically meant for the lifestyle segment of the market.

The Sony VAIO was in a class of its own in this segment, be it for the excellent design and looks or the form factor or the great specs. It was the only laptop to feature the powerful nVidia GeForce 6200 card, which helped it ace the gaming tests with the others miles behind.

It also had the best and the largest LCD display in this segment. And unlike most laptops, it's comfortable to use for extended periods of time. But the real surprise was some of the peripherals. There was a dual-layer DVD burner incorporated into a unit as small as this! With its superior design, looks, built quality, features and specifications as well as brand value, the Sony VAIO scored the highest flaunt value rating of 7.95.

Close behind was the Fujitsu LBS6240, with a rating of 7.14. Good looks and solid build quality contributed towards the rating. Moreover, it was the most complete package, and included such features as fingerprint recognition.

The fingerprint sensor can be programmed as a scroll button for vertical scrolling using the provided software. Ergonomically, too, this laptop was good.

The fact that it also featured a 13.3-inch LCD display which, along with that of the Sony VAIO, was the largest in this category, helped it no end!

The Fujitsu LBP7010 sported the smallest form factor and also some nifty features. With features like fingerprint recognition and an integrated optical drive, coupled with its build quality and design, this was one excellent laptop.

To top it all, it had an 80 GB hard drive. The LBP7010 also featured an SD, MS, MS Pro and CF card reader, which even its larger sibling did not. The Fujitsu brand also helped when it came to the flaunt value of this laptop.

We gave the Dell Latitude X1 the same flaunt value rating as the Fujitsu LBP7010. The X1 had better build quality and seemed more rugged. It came with an extra battery pack as well.
The Fujitsu laptops were the most expensive of the lot. The LBP7010 costs Rs 1,10,000 whereas the LBS6240 costs Rs 1,25,000. The Acer costs Rs 84,999, has better features, and performs better than the Fujitsu LBS6240, whereas the latter scored higher in usability, package contents and flaunt value. It was a close call, and the margin was too slim to declare either of these a winner. A tie was called for, and the Digit 'Best Buy Silver' was awarded jointly to the Acer TravelMate 3002WTCi and the Fujitsu Lifebook LBS6240.

The Sony VAIO VGN-S46GP/S costs Rs 99,990, which is moderate for a lifestyle laptop with the kind of features it includes. It scored well in almost every segment, and even has the highest flaunt value rating. It wins the Digit 'Best Buy Gold' by a big margin.

Fujitsu LifeBook LBT4010 
The Fujitsu LifeBook LBT4010 was not included alongside the other laptops in the main comparison test because it is not just a standard laptop: it's much more. It's a convertible notebook that transforms into a tablet PC when you rotate its swivel-hinged 12.1-inch LCD display.
It is Intel Centrino Mobile certified, and sports an Intel Pentium M 1600 MHz processor with 512 MB of DDR RAM running at 333 MHz. There's a 60 GB hard drive and a combo drive.
The WiFi is based on high-speed 802.11 b g. There's Gigabit LAN, a 56 Kbps modem, Bluetooth and infrared. However, there are only two USB ports. Still, there's a port replicator bundled, should you feel the need for more ports. There is a FireWire IEEE 1394 port to capture high bandwidth video from sources supporting this interface, such as DVCams. Memory cards such as SD, MS and MS Pro are also supported.
In the tests we performed, the LBT4010 scored a healthy 20.1 in the ZD-Bench Business Winstone 2004 test. In the battery test, it played the movie for a good 185 minutes, which is good enough for almost any movie. Couple this with the D-Sub connector to connect a large-screen monitor, and you have here a good movie machine - though a TV-out would have been better.

The LBT4010 sports Dolby Digital Virtual 5.1-channel stereo speakers, which produce pseudo-surround sound with stereo speakers. Ergonomically, the laptop is above average, which means the keyboard and the touchpad can be used for long periods.
The LBT4010, like its predecessors, is elegantly designed, with a rich black finish. The contoured design makes it easy to hold. At 1.95 kg, this sleek gadget - which comes with a leather carry case - is light.
With an integrated optical drive, this laptop/tablet PC provides the comfort and ease of carrying of an ultra-portable with all the features of a workhorse laptop.
Windows XP Tablet Edition comes bundled. And as with all tablet PCs, a light pen is also bundled. Driver CDs, recovery CDs and other OEM software are bundled as well.
The Fujitsu LifeBook LBT4010 is priced at Rs 1,30,000 - just right!
Lifestyle Workhorses
'Workhorse' laptops are designed to be desktop replacements, so weight and size generally aren't considered that important. But we were comparing lifestyle laptops here-the ones we tested even in this category certainly did not resemble briefcases! They were also rich on features and looks, but, of course, were a little less portable than those in the previous category. These laptops are the kind that corporate bigwigs such as CEOs, chairmen, and so on would use, and these will, generally speaking, adorn the living rooms of the rich and famous.

As we said earlier, the laptops were categorised as ultra-portables and workhorses based on screen size and weight. The workhorse category comprised laptops that had a diagonal screen size of more than 14 inches and weighed over two kg, and which therefore had a larger form factor.

Eight laptops from six brands emerged in this category. These included the Acer Ferrari 4002, the Fujitsu LifeBook LBN3510, the IBM ThinkPad T43, the MSI MegaBooks M520 and M630, and the Samsung R50 and X20.

The Processor
Most of the laptops here were based on Intel processors and motherboards, with the exception of the Acer Ferrari 4002, which featured the AMD Turion 64 ML-30 processor-and the MSI MegaBook M630, which had an AMD Sempron 2800 . The MSI Megabook M520 had a Pentium M 1600 MHz processor. The rest featured Intel Pentium M 1733 MHz processors.

The  RAM
The MSI Megabook M630 and the IBM T43 had 256 MB, and the rest were equipped with 512 MB of memory. The Fujitsu LBN3510, IBM T43, LG LW60 Express and both the Samsung laptops had DDR2 memory. The rest featured DDR memory.

The Display
Five of the eight laptops featured a 15.4-inch display. The MSI MegaBook M520 and the Samsung X20 each featured a 15-inch display. The IBM T43 featured the smallest of the displays at 14.1-inches.

The IBM T43, the MSI MegaBook M520 and the Samsung X20 featured an LCD display with a normal aspect ratio and a native screen resolution of 1024 x 768, whereas the other laptops featured wide screens and a native resolution of 1280 x 800. Like the Sony VAIO in the previous category, the Fujitsu LBN3510 had the best display in this category, with very large viewing angles.

Ports And Connectivity
Four of the laptops had four USB ports each. The IBM T43 had only two. All the laptops had a FireWire port for high-speed video capture from supported hardware. Though serial ports were not available on any of these laptops, a parallel port was provided in the IBM T43 and the LG LW60. Only the Acer Ferrari, IBM T43 and LG LW60 had infrared. The Acer Ferrari, IBM T43 and S270 and the Samsung laptops had Bluetooth.

All the laptops were Wi-Fi conformant with the b g high-speed standard, except for the MSI Megabook M630 and the Acer Ferrari 4002, which had the slower WiFi 802.11g. The Acer, IBM and Samsung X20 had Gigabit Ethernet, whereas the rest had 10/100. All the laptops had 56 Kbps modems.

Every laptop had a microphone-in and headphone-out. D-Sub and S-Video out was also featured on all the laptops. The Samsung laptops, the Fujitsu LBN3510 and the MSI Megabook M520 even had a standalone DVD/Audio CD player-you can activate the player before you boot into the OS!

Multimedia and memory card reading capability was featured on all the laptops except for the IBM T43 and the MSI Megabook M630. The Samsung R50 and the Acer Ferrari supported most types of memory cards-SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro and XD.

Other features
The Fujitsu LBN3510 came with the highest capacity hard drive-100 GB-followed by the Acer Ferrari with an 80 GB. The IBM and the MSI Megabook M630 only had 40 GB hard disks.

The MSI, LG and Fujitsu had slower 4200 rpm hard drives, while the rest were at 5400 rpm.

The Acer Ferrari had the best graphics solution in the form of a PCI-Express ATi Radeon X700. The Samsung X20 had an ATi Mobility Radeon X600, which was the second-best solution. The above two led the pack in the gaming benchmark scores. The other laptops had graphics solutions such as the ATi X300 and Intel integrated graphics.

The Acer Ferrari came with a slot-loading multi-format DVD burner. The Fujitsu and the LG, too, had multi-format DVD-Writers. The MSI laptops were equipped with DVD-RW drives. The IBM and Samsung laptops came with only combo drives. The Acer Ferrari had a port replicator, which can be used to add ports. It also had a DVI connector to connect an external digital display such as an LCD.

The IBM had a night lamp feature, which illuminates the keyboard so you can work at night with the lights off! Scroll scope on the touchpad was another noteworthy feature found on a few of the laptops-the LG, MSI and Samsung.

The IBM T43 had the smallest form factor, which was expected since it was the laptop with the smallest LCD.

But the Samsung X20 weighed less at 3 kg despite having a larger form factor. The Fujitsu LBN3510 was the heaviest at 3.85 kg.
The Acer Ferrari scored the highest in terms of accessibility of ports, followed closely by the IBM: their ports were nicely spread around the periphery and were easily accessible. In the keyboard feel and touchpad sensitivity ratings, none could match the IBM T43, which goes to prove that the reputation IBM has for its excellent keyboards and touchpad is justified.

The Acer Ferrari could only come a close second. Ergonomically too, the IBM was a real pleasure to work with. The Acer and Fujitsu tied for second place in the ergonomics department.

The speakers on the Acer Ferrari and the Fujitsu LBN3510 were the best. Samsung's X20 sounded OK and got the next-best rating.

Package contents
The Fujitsu LBN3510, LG LW60 Express and MSI Megabook M630 came with Windows XP Home Edition SP2 preinstalled, whereas the rest came with Windows XP Professional SP2 preinstalled. A driver and recovery CD or DVD of some sort accompanied each laptop.

All the laptops came with some sort of CD-Writing software, except for the LG LW60. The Fujitsu came with Norman Virus Control CD, whereas the others came with Norton Antivirus 2005, except for the MSI laptops-which came with no AntiVirus software at all. DVD players such as PowerDVD and WinDVD came with almost every laptop, while some such as the MSI laptops even had a bundled game DVD.

The Acer, Fujitsu and MSI were the only ones that came with a leather carry case. A screen wiping cloth was provided with the Acer and Fujitsu.

A Bluetooth mouse was bundled with the Acer Ferrari. A remote was bundled with the Fujitsu and MSI Megabook M630 for standalone DVD/Audio CD functionality.

Samsung Note PC M40 Plus 
The Samsung Note PC M40 Plus was the only laptop we received this time round that had a large 17-inch 16:10 wide-screen LCD display that supported a resolution of 1440 x 900.
This Intel Centrino Mobile technology-based laptop has an 1800 MHz Intel Pentium M processor with 512 MB of DDR RAM at 333 MHz. It has an 80 GB 5400 rpm hard drive. There's a DVD multi-format drive that can read and write all DVD formats, including DVD-RAM.

The M40 Plus has three USB ports, a FireWire port and a slot for a PCMCIA II card. Memory card support is limited to Memory Stick. 10/100 LAN as well as a 56 Kbps modem are featured. Sadly, this laptop lacks both infrared and Bluetooth.
The ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 with 64 MB of VRAM provides a decent gaming experience. In the game tests at 1024 x 768, the laptop logged 82.2 and 47.24 in <Call of Duty> and
The speakers are decent as laptop speakers go. There is a D-Sub connector as well as S-Video out - just in case you feel the urge to go beyond 17-inch.
In the Business Winstone 2004 benchmark, the M40 Plus scored 19.3, which means it'll run Office applications well. PowerPoint presentations will run fast, and so will MS Access. The PCMark 04 score of 3504 can also be termed above average.
Build quality is just about average, but the silver-aluminium look brings out the lifestyle value of this laptop. And despite the large display and form factor, the M40 Plus is surprisingly lightweight at 2.99 kg.
Ergonomically, the laptop is comfortable to work with, though the touchpad and keyboard are not the best of the lot. It aced the DisplayMate test, which returns the overall quality of the display.
Samsung has provided an innovative, large four-way button that is used in conjunction with the keys for hotkey access. This feature is fun to work with.
The M40 Plus comes with Windows XP Professional SP2 pre-installed. The other bundled software are PowerDVD, Nero and Ulead.
Rs 1,29,990 is a bit high for the M40 Plus considering the lack of several features which, we think, could have easily been accommodated.
ZD-Bench Business Winstone 2004
The Acer Ferrari stood first in ZD-Bench Business Winstone 2004, with a score of 21.5. The Fujitsu LBN3210 and the Samsung X20 were close behind with 20.9 and 20.2 respectively. The lowest score was 14.2, by the MSI Megabook M630, possibly due to its (weaker) Sempron processor. This laptop was the slowest in the video encoding test as well, where it took 214 seconds to encode the video. There was a tie for first place in the video encoding test, with the Fujitsu, LG and both Samsung notebooks completing the encoding task in 186 seconds.

SiSoft Sandra 2005
In the SiSoft Sandra 2005 CPU benchmarks, the IBM T43 scored the highest. The Fujitsu, LG and the Samsung laptops scored more or less the same. In the memory benchmarks, the Samsung R50 scored the highest, while the MSI Megabook M630 scored the lowest, possibly due to its lower amount of (slower) memory. None came even close to the file system benchmark scores of the IBM T43, which scored a drive index of 33 MB/s. The Acer Ferrari scored the next best drive index of 30 MB/s.

Download Lifestyle Workhours Laptops PDF File

Game Test
In the game test, as was expected, the Acer Ferrari with the PCI-Express ATi Radeon X700 zoomed past the others, scoring 154 fps in Call of Duty and 84.88 in FarCry. The Samsung R50 with the PCI-Express ATi X300 and the Samsung X20 with the ATi Radeon 9600 also scored well in the gaming tests. The MSI Megabook M630, with the SiS 330 Mirage graphics chip, failed the Call of Duty test because it couldn't meet the minimum hardware requirements of the game.

PCMark 04
The Samsung X20 scored 3,551 PCMarks which was the highest, followed by 3,524 by the Fujitsu LBN3510. For an unknown reason, the LG LW60 kept crashing in PCMark 04. We even reinstalled the OS to see if this could be gotten around, but PCMark still crashed.

There was no clear winner in the DisplayMate test. But in the viewing angle test, the Fujitsu was the clear winner: the text viewing angle was 170 degrees, and the movie viewing angle 160 degrees.

Battery life
The Samsung R50's battery lasted the longest-179 minutes. Not far behind were the Acer Ferrari and the LG LW60 Express, with battery lives of 175 minutes each. The MSI Megabook M630 couldn't go beyond 122 minutes.

Wi-Fi test
With a NetCPS score of 2.12, the Fujitsu LBN3510 was the highest scorer in this test. The Acer Ferrari, with 802.11g, scored just 1.26 and was justifiably placed last. In the file copying test, the MSI M630 which featured 802.11g was the slowest, taking 123 seconds to copy our data. The Samsung R50, LG LW60 and the MSI M520 took 45 seconds and stood first.

Flaunt value
The Acer Ferrari stood apart from the rest of the laptops. It was different in many ways-all the necessary features were there, such as Bluetooth and infrared, and it could read every type of memory card. Its ATi X700 PCI-Express card put it ahead in the gaming tests. It has a unique, rich chequered design, and the Ferrari logo on the outside as well as on the inside. It even came bundled with a Bluetooth mouse that also had the Ferrari logo!

For its designer looks, good build quality, specifications and features, and the Ferrari insignia associated with it, we gave the Acer Ferrari 4002 the highest flaunt rating of 8.19.

Next was the IBM ThinkPad T43 which, with its rough-and-tough looks and a slightly boxy design, seemed more like a business laptop. IBM has incorporated innovative features into its laptops, such as motion sensors that park the hard drive head when they detect that the laptop is falling. Then there were some other important features such as fingerprint recognition and the dual pointer option.

Thanks to its rugged build quality, good design and the brand name, the IBM T43 came in second in the flaunt value department with a score of 7.61. The Fujitsu laptop, had a nice finish, and had some useful features such as fingerprint recognition. It was comfortable to work on, and  its 15.4-inch widescreen LCD display was above average. Though it was the heaviest of the lot, we rated it third.

Fourth up was the Samsung Note PC X20, which, too, had the standalone DVD/Audio CD player feature. It had some cool features such as Samsung's DNIe and DNSe for image and sound enhancement. The ATi Radeon 9600 card is good for graphics-intensive applications.

Apple PowerBook G4 
With the PowerBook G4, Apple seems to have put a lot of effort into getting things just right. They have here come up with the successor to the Titanium PowerBook, again implementing a G4 processor, but the 1.5 GHz has been pumped up to 1.67 GHz, and the titanium has been replaced by aluminium-and that's why it's been nicked the AlBook.
The AlBook comes in three flavours-the 12-inch, the 17-inch, and the one we had a look at-the 15-inch.
All new PowerBooks come with a standard 512 MB of memory, fast graphics, integrated Airport 802.11g, Bluetooth 2.0 wireless networking, and two new Apple technologies-the scrolling TrackPad and the Sudden Motion Sensor (SMS).
The SMS senses change in axis position and accelerated movement. In the event of a drop or fall, the SMS instantly parks the hard drive heads so they won't scratch the disks on impact, lessening the risk of damage and improving your chances of retrieving valuable data. When the SMS senses the PowerBook is once again been levelled, it automatically unlocks hard drive heads.
The TrackPad can sense dual-touch and switch to the scroll feature instantly upon dual-touch, and it works with almost all application windows. The other interesting aspect about this Apple is the OS: Tiger, the latest Mac OS, looks very stable, and is laden with such features as the 'DashBoard', and most importantly, the 'Spotlight'-a real-time indexing engine finds anything on your hard disk as-you-type!
Graphics on the AlBook 15-inch is powered by the ATi Radeon 9700 64 MB (AGP) GPU. The LCD screen is 15.2 inches diagonally, and the picture is clear. The hard disk is 80 GB, and the processor is a 1.67 GHz PowerPC G4.
Also notable is the ambient light-sensor device that turns on the backlit keyboard and reduces the intensity of the LCD screen in dim light.
It is also the only laptop out there that has both FireWire 400 and 800. The other ports are Gigabit Ethernet, S-Video out and DVI. This one also flaunts a slot-loadable SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW).
Open or closed, the chassis is commendably rigid for such a thin structure. The AlBook has all its ports on the sides rather than on the back.

There are also no easy-to-break doors hiding the ports!
There's one issue, though: battery life. We tested it by playing a DVD video, and the time recorded was a little less than two hours. Note that this is the worst-case scenario; under normal operation, you can add a 40 to 60 minutes to that.
More than just a pleasant change in a Windows world, this is a unique experience: a world of innovation and perfection at a reasonable price-Rs 1,37,500.

Priced at Rs 1,15,000, the Fujitsu LifeBook LBN3510's pricing almost worked against it. But it still managed to grab the Digit 'Best Buy Silver' award, due to its good performance, features and impressive package contents.

The Digit 'Best Buy Gold' winner here was the Acer Ferrari 4002, with its designer looks, good overall features, performance and specifications, as well as a great flaunt value.

A Final Word
In this comparison test, we've seen some laptops that can be considered niche. The Acer Ferrari looks simply great, and the Ferrari logo creates an aura of sorts around this laptop.

Similarly, the Sony VAIO, too, had looks and features that could blow anyone away. The 'VAIO' name itself has a certain magic to it.

The Apple PowerBook G4 was in a league of its own. It is the ultimate in style, and is a laptop with an attitude. If you are searching for a laptop to brag about without a platform in mind, your search ends here. This is the laptop for you-period!

If you're out to make a point and re-affirm to the world that you're no mere mortal, go get one of these!

Team DigitTeam Digit  teamdigit@digit.in

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