So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Medion Akoya P6624 (MD98390) notebook
A sub-$1000 Medion notebook with USB 3.0 and NVIDIA's Optimus graphics technology
- Excellent value for money, USB 3.0 port, HDMI, 640GB hard drive, good graphics performance, good battery life
- Has 32-bit Windows 7 installed by default, number pad is squished
The Medion Akoya P6624 is a marvellous desktop replacement notebook for anyone who has a sub-$1000 budget. It features plenty of mod cons considering its price, and its good graphics performance makes it a legitimate notebook for a budget gamer. It even comes with a digital TV tuner. Indeed, it's hard to fault a notebook that has so many features in addition to a competitive price; it will be available to purchase from Aldi supermarkets from 28 October.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
Read our review of the most up-to-date 17.3in Medion laptop, the Akoya E7216 (MD98550), which goes on sale at Aldi supermarkets on 27 January 2011.
It's a little hard to believe a notebook as well-featured as the Medion Akoya P6624 (MD98390) can be purchased for $899. It has excellent graphics performance for an inexpensive notebook and there's no doubt that it's one of the cheapest gaming notebooks on the market. Not only that, it ships with USB 3.0, which is the first time we've seen a sub-$1000 laptop feature this modern interface. It also includes a roomy 640GB hard drive. If these features tickle your fancy, then head to an Aldi supermarket early on 28 October to pick one up.
Design and features
The style of the Akoya P6624 (MD98390) is typical of other Medion notebooks we've seen recently, and we like it. It has a glossy grey lid, a matte LCD screen with a glossy bezel, a roomy palm rest and a decent touchpad. Its keyboard feels reasonably solid and it also includes a number pad; the number pad has only three columns of keys instead of four, which takes some getting used to. With a screen size of 15.6in and a weight of 2.7kg, it's not ideal if you are looking for a laptop to take with you between home and work or school; think of it more as a desktop PC replacement, and a cheap one at that.
Around the edges of the Akoya P6624, you'll find a DVD burner, an SD card slot, microphone and headphone ports, HDMI, VGA and four USB 2.0 ports. A blue USB port on the left features the USB 3.0 specification, which offers much faster file transfers than USB 2.0 when used with a compatible device. When transferring large video files, we saw improvements of 2.8x compared to USB 2.0 (51.65 megabytes per second compared to 18.09MBps) when writing to a Western Digital My Book 3.0 external hard drive, and an improvement of 2.6x over USB 2.0 (70.93MBps compared to 27MBps) when reading from an external USB 3.0 drive.
You'll need a USB 3.0 external hard drive in order to take advantage of the faster speed, and the performance gain will also depend on the types of files you are transferring. If you are transferring many small files that require the hard drive to make many read and write movements, then you might not see a huge improvement in speed.
Medion ships the Akoya P6624 (MD98390) with 802.11n Wi-Fi (Realtek RTL8191SE) and Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8131) as well as a webcam, but there is no integrated Bluetooth. You also get an external digital TV tuner and a USB transceiver for the included remote control, so you can use the notebook as a personal video recorder (PVR).
Specifications, performance, battery life
On the inside, the Akoya is driven by a 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M CPU, which has two cores and Hyper-Threading. It provides plenty of grunt for running office applications, and even tougher tasks such as video encoding. There is 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM installed, a 640GB, 5400rpm hard drive (Samsung HM641JI) and the notebook features NVIDIA's Optimus graphics switching technology.
Optimus switches between two graphics cards — the integrated Intel HD graphics and the installed 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M adapter — and it worked well during our tests. When you run games, or anything that requires 3D graphics processing, Optimus will switch to the NVIDIA GeForce card, giving you optimal performance. If all you're doing is watching a video, the notebook will use the Intel adapter.
All of this technology comes in useful when the notebook is running on its 61.92 Watt-hour battery. In our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the Akoya lasted 2hr 53min. This is a great time that compares favourably against smaller Optimus laptops such as Samsung's Q330-JS03AU, which recorded 2hr 51min in the same test. It's also much better than the 15.6in MSI FX600, which lasted 2hr 22min.
There is a substantial performance gap between the integrated Intel adapter and the discrete NVIDIA adapter, making the inclusion of Optimus technology worthwhile. In 3DMark06, the NVIDIA adapter propelled the Akoya to a score of 7091, while the Intel adapter recorded a score of 1729. This four-fold boost in performance means you can use the Akoya to play many recent games and experience reasonable performance. It will run World of Warcraft and StarCraft 2 without any qualms; similarly, you'll be able to play car racing and sports games smoothly at the native 1366x768-resolution of the screen. You could even run first-person shooters, but you might have to sacrifice some eye candy in order to do so.
The overall performance of the Medion Akoya P6624 is solid. It finished our Blender 3D rendering test in 1min 3sec, our iTunes MP3 encoding test in 1min 13sec and our Xvid video encoding test in 1hr 14min. All of these times indicate that the Medion will give you good speed when it comes to media processing, so you'll be able to use it for almost any type of task, whether it's editing photos or video, or putting together a music mix. Its hard drive also recorded a good speed of 29.85MBps in our tests. Compared to the previous 15.6in Medion we reviewed — the Akoya MD98330 — the Akoya P6624 (MD98390) offers speed improvements in almost all areas.
The Akoya P6624 (MD98390) has an extensive features list and when you factor in the great graphics performance, large hard drive and low price, it makes for unbeatable value. Our only quibble is that the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium is installed instead of the 64-bit version (the 64-bit version is on the recovery CD though), and the number pad feels a little squished. Apart from that, it's hard to complain about anything this notebook offers. If you're after a desktop replacement notebook with plenty of features and good speed for under $1000, then this Medion laptop is a must-buy.
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