NEC is one of the latest vendors to weigh into the ultraportable category here with its 12.1 inch, 1.25kg Versa S9100.
The tough chassis, security features, optical drive, good looks and battery life certainly advance its cause among road users, but the price of $3285 excluding GST is on the high side for the feature set.
The vendor says the magnesium alloy chassis of the S9100 means the cover can withstand 300kg per square foot of pressure and this tough exterior will prompt inevitable comparisons with Panasonic’s Toughbook line. The 12.1 inch Toughbook CF-W7 for example, also pitched at business users, is rated to handle 100kg of pressure.
Aside from an ability to take the knocks, the S9100’s target market of businesspeople on the road will also be happy with the fingerprint reader and trusted platform mobile. To compensate for the lack of a less-susceptible solid state drive, NEC has included a motion sensor dubbed ‘Free Fall’ which detects sudden movement and excessive vibration to stop the hard drive’s reader scratching the magnetic media and prevent data loss.
Travelling users may be less pleased that the keyboard isn’t spill proof, however, and the lack of an integrated webcam for videoconferencing is also surprising.
The built-in DVD burner gives this unit an edge in usefulness, with the 160GB SATA hard drive having a generous capacity. Our review unit had 2GB of DDR2 RAM, which can be expanded to 3GB, and there’s 1GB of Intel Turbo memory.
It’s not a powerhouse, but gets good endurance from the 1.2GHz core two duo ULV processor, with a 533MHz front side bus and 2MB cache memory.
Graphics run on Intel’s X3100 platform, which is suitable for the target market’s needs in business use but it will never rate as a gaming machine, especially with 358MB of video RAM.
The glossy black finish gives the S9100 a chic appearance, but is a magnet for fingerprints, and with dimensions of 29x21x30cm it’s thicker than some PCs in its class.
Users will be well connected – the left side of the unit houses the mains power port, VGA monitor port, Gigabit Ethernet LAN port, microphone and headphone jacks, and SD and PC card slots. However, we’d have liked to see a wider range of card readers as found in other notebooks.
There are two USB ports on the right, while Bluetooth and A/G/N wireless are built in. There’s no modem, however.
The keys are a good size and comfortable to type on.
The vendor claims up to six hours’ battery life from the supplied six cell, or up to nine hours when in ECO power-saving mode, and we achieved about five hours when completing everyday tasks under normal power settings.
The 1280x800 pixel screen is clear and bright, with LED backlighting, and has a good viewing angle.
Loaded with Vista Business, NEC has also bundled its own software, programs from Adobe, Cyberlink and Roxio, IE7, Skype and a Microsoft Office trial version.
The positives of this machine make it worth a look, especially for business users needing a notebook for the road. However, the price could be a deterrent for some.