Latest WinBook's a good deal

If you're looking for an executive notebook PC without an executive price tag, check out the WinBook W.

Perhaps the most noticeable trend in notebook design today is a move from squarish to rectangular LCDs. My test unit, a WinBook W160, had a 15.1-inch-diagonal rectangular screen with an aspect ratio of 15:10 and native 1,280- by 854-pixel resolution.

The good-sized screen was fine for Web browsing and viewing two documents simultaneously. It's usually a workout to lug around a notebook with that large an LCD. Surprisingly, the W weighed only 5.9 pounds and measured 13.6 by 10.2 by 1.2 inches.

Compared to the Dell Latitude D800 with its 15.4-inch rectangular screen, the W was a pound lighter and an inch smaller.

The test unit came with a 1.6GHz Pentium M CPU, Intel Centrino wireless connectivity, Microsoft Windows XP Pro, a 60G hard drive, and a standard nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 video card with 64M of video RAM to supplement 512M of double-data-rate RAM.

With the DVD- and CD-rewritable combo drive, I could burn 4G onto a single DVD-recordable disk.
The stylish chassis efficiently circulates cooling air with little sound. Unlike some notebooks cluttered with superfluous buttons and lights, the W design is simple and practical.

The keyboard did tend to sag in the middle while I typed, however, and the seven front buttons for operating the optical drive while the PC was off were poorly marked.

There were three Universal Serial Bus 2.0 ports, two of them too close to the power connection port. The three ports also were too close together to fit in a standard-sized USB key chain hard drive. All the USB ports were in back. I would prefer them spread out around the chassis for better accessibility.

I've been using the W as my main work machine for processing high-resolution images and large files. The only part not up to snuff for daily use is the built-in, nine-cell lithium-ion battery, which dies rather quickly for a Pentium M system. It lasts for a little more than three hours of continuous use.

Nevertheless, this much power combined with a low price of $1,999 would make the WinBook W a good buy for users who want real price-performance.

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