So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Medion Akoya E6224 (MD 98630) Sandy Bridge laptop
Medion Akoya E6224 (MD 98630) review: A 15.6in laptop with Second Generation Intel Core i3 technology
- Includes HDMI and a digital TV tuner
- Great battery life
- USB 3.0
- Touchpad and keyboard could be better
- Status lights are very bright
The Medion Akoya E6224 (MD 98630) is packed with features and is great value for money at $699. It's a desktop replacement notebook that can be used for simple and even advanced tasks, as well as some basic gaming. It will be available from Aldi on 5 May 2011.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
The Medion Akoya E6224 (MD 98630) is the company's first Second Generation Intel Core i3-based laptop (formerly codenamed Sandy Bridge), and as has been the case with most Medion products that we've seen over the years, it continues to offer good value for money. It's a 2.6kg, 15.6in desktop replacement notebook with good speed, battery life and features, but its design could be a bit better.
Specifications and performance
Running the show for the Akoya E6224 is a 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M Sandy Bridge-based CPU that has two cores and Hyper-Threading. It's surrounded by 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 750GB hard drive. Graphics are taken care of by an Intel HD 3000 chip that's integrated in the CPU itself. It's a decent configuration that provides good speed for office suites, social networking and other everyday applications, but it's also good enough for tougher tasks such as encoding music, editing and converting video files and even some gaming.
It recorded 58sec in our Blender 3D rendering test and 1min 16sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, and these results are pretty much what we expected. In our DVD transcoding test, it recorded 1hr 13min, which is also close to what we were expecting. All of these results are competitive when compared against other Second Generation Intel Core i3 notebooks that we have seen to date, such as the Dell Inspiron 15R N5110. It was a fraction slower in the Blender and iTunes tests than the Dell, but its transcoding time was 2min quicker than the Dell. The Medion's 5400rpm hard drive was sluggish though, recording only 18.43 megabytes per second (MBps) in our file copy tests. We were expecting it to get close to 30MBps.
The integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics allow the Akoya to be used for some gaming, and this was shown in 3DMark06 where it recorded a score of 4238. This is a much better result than what the Dell recorded in the same test. You can run games such as Starcraft 2 and WoW, or car racing games such as Need for Speed fairly smoothly as long as you don't use high image detail settings. But if you want a laptop specifically for gaming, then you should consider one with a more powerful graphics adapter, such as the Dell XPS 15 (L501x) or MSI GE620, which are more expensive models than the Medion.
Most of the results of the Akoya E6224 are similar to the results obtained by the last Medion Akoya we reviewed, the E7216, which used a first generation Core i3-380M CPU and integrated Intel graphics. However, the E6224 blows away the E7216 when it comes to processing graphics and battery life. The E6224's battery life is over an hour longer than the E7216. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the standard 61.92 Watt-hour battery helped the E6224 recorded a time of 4hr 17min, which is excellent for a 15.6in notebook. The first generation Core i3-based E7216 recorded a time of 3hr 1min in the same test, and the Second Generation Core i3-based Dell 15R recorded 3hr 33min.
Design and features
Physically, the Akoya has a squarish shape with angled corners, its finish is glossy and it only has one button on its chassis (for power). It feels reasonably solid for a cheap laptop, although some creaking is noticeable at times when pressure is put on the right palm rest. The touchpad is a little on the small side for a desktop replacement-sized laptop (40x82cm) and it has a texture that can sometimes feel too resistive. We're also not fans of the single molding for the left and right-lick buttons — we wish it had separate buttons, which would be more comfortable to press.
The keyboard has full-sized keys and it includes a number pad, although its keys are smaller and its layout is a little awkward (for example, the right arrow key is located under the 1 key and the 0 key is wholly under the 2 key). The keys feel a little too stiff, but overall it's not a hard keyboard to type on and you get used to it after a while.
One thing we don't like about the design of the Akoya is its overly bright blue status LEDs. They are located on the palmrest itself and are very annoying when the laptop is used in a dark environment. We wish it had either dimmer LEDs or that the existing LEDs were placed at the front of the chassis and didn't direct light upward.
Using the Akoya on your lap can be uncomfortable due to its size, but the good thing is that its base doesn't get too warm. Its speakers are relatively loud, but their quality isn't great, so you should definitely plug in some speakers if you want serious sound. We're fans of the screen, which has a native resolution of 1366x768 and a matte finish that doesn't reflect lights. Like most notebook screens though, it has poor vertical viewing angles that wreak havoc with the contrast, especially when watching videos.
Around the edges of the chassis you will find plenty of old and new stuff: there is a built-in DVD burner, an SD card slot, headphone and microphone ports, VGA, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, three dedicated USB 2.0 ports and one shared USB 2.0/USB 3.0 port. You also get a webcam, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1030).
We used a Western Digital My Book 3.0 to test the USB 3.0 port, which recorded a read rate of 36.68MBps (copying data to the Medion) and a write rate of 65.32MBps (copying from the Medion). Using the same WD drive under USB 2.0 speeds, the same data was read at 19.08MBps and written at 29.06MBps. These rates will vary depending on the type of drive you use and the data you need to copy, but it illustrates that you are better off using a USB 3.0 dive where possible.
You can employ the Akoya as a media centre. It comes with a USB digital TV tuner and a remote control. You need to plug in the supplied USB receiver if you want to use the remote though, which means that two USB ports will be taken up. A little antenna is shipped with the TV tuner, but it's only of limited use and probably won't work in many areas (it found Ten and One HD during our tests), so you're better off using a rooftop antenna. It will pick up standard and high-definition stations.
Medion has introduced a quick-boot feature to this Akoya, which manifests in the form of a pre-Windows Linux-based operating environment called Medion Fast Boot. This environment enables you to browse the Web (Google Chrome), use instant messaging (Pidgin), Skype, browse files on the hard drive (Nautilus) and play media files (VLC). It also has Twitter and Facebook apps. It takes only a few seconds to boot into this environment (by pressing F9 just after you switch on the notebook); meanwhile, it takes 1min 12sec to boot into Windows 7 Home Premium. Using the installed OS Switcher software, you can also make Medion Fast Boot the preferred operating system when you switch on the notebook.
The latest Akoya builds on previous models by offering the latest CPU technology, and in turn better battery life and graphics performance at the $699 price point. It also adds a new feature to the mix in the form of the Medion Fast Boot operating environment, and it includes USB 3.0, a digital TV tuner, HDMI and a 750GB hard dive. It's pretty hard to beat that value. As is expected of a cheap laptop though, there are some drawbacks, and these are mainly to do with its design. But overall, it's well worth considering the latest Akoya if you want a well-featured desktop replacement-style notebook for a low price. It will be on sale at Aldi supermarkets from 5 May 2011.
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