Latest Sceptre notebook makes move to replace desktop PCs

Latest Sceptre notebook makes move to replace desktop PCs

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff




At 8 pounds, the Sceptre Soundx 6500 is more likely to stay on the desk than it
is to become a traveling companion.


A few months ago, the Sceptre Soundx 7500 notebook computer traveled as my constant companion, and I was generally impressed by its performance [GCN, April 12, Page 24].

It did have a few deficiencies, though, and Sceptre promised improvements in the Soundx 6500'yes, the model numbers are in descending order.

The most obvious improvement is that the new unit, billed as a desktop replacement instead of a portable notebook, has both an internal DVD-ROM drive and a floppy drive.

That adds weight, but nobody is going to travel without at least one CD, so building a computer with a detachable CD drive is no advantage. The user ends up packing it anyway. I much prefer having everything I need right in front of me on the airplane tray table.

Is that all?

The DVD drive did not seem to add much to the weight or cost of the computer. I had no real need to play a DVD, but one thing the DVD drive did accomplish was to fix problems I found with the 7500.





Box Score ''''''''

Sceptre Soundx 6500

Desktop replacement notebook PC



Sceptre Technologies Inc.;

City of Industry, Calif.;

tel. 626-369-3698



Price: $2,611 GSA



+ Fast performance, large screen and
'''internal DVD and floppy drives

' Rather heavy






Usability

Features and configuration

Benchmark performance

B'
A'
B+


ZD's Business Winstone 99 14.1

About 41% better than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX



The overall grade comprises scores for three things: usability (60 percent), features and configuration (20 percent), and performance (20 percent). The lab used ZD's Winstone 99 Version 1.1. The baseline for 10.0 Winstone units is a 233-MHz Pentium MMX. For benchmark information, go to www.gcn.com/gcnlab/benchmark.



When I put in a CD with a long read time, the 7500's drive tended to cut out for a few seconds and then resume. It was most evident with audio CDs. But the 6500 had no such problems, as shown by the GCN Lab's battery torture tests.



Those tests run ScanDisk to keep the drives spinning and play an audio CD at the same time. The 6500's battery lasted an average of one hour, 10 minutes over three tests. The 7500's fail-safe programs were also present in the 6500, warning about a low battery and automatically saving programs at shutoff.

My test unit had a 300-MHz Pentium II processor and 64M of RAM. The screen, an impressive 14.1-inch LCD, went right up to the edge of the frame. It had a 160-degree viewing angle, which is perfect for travelers because those on the road can't always set up the notebook in an optimal position.

The 6500 quietly booted without fanfare. This got me into a little hot water at the Los Angeles airport, where a security guard asked me to turn my computer on, presumably to see if it was a bomb. For several tense seconds, I told him the system was booting even though nothing moved and there was no sound. Eventually, however, the Microsoft Windows 98 logo flashed up and the guard told me to move along.

Sceptre has improved the opening latch on the front. The 7500 had a latch that had to be pulled upward. Although that met disabled-user access requirements, it was hard to do one-handed and blocked removal of the swappable drives. On the 6500, the notebook latch slides to the side and the screen pops open slightly for one-handed access.

At 8 pounds, the Soundx 6500 is hardly lightweight. It does have a nice carrying case, but the computer becomes a bit of a drag on long walks through terminals. Desktop PC replacements are still far from being light enough.

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