So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
NEC Versa P7300 (2100DR)
- Good range of connections, attractive and simple design, solid battery life
- Integrated graphics chip, reflectivity issues, undersized keyboard
The Versa P7300 (2100DR) is a solid entry into the all-purpose notebook market, especially if you're not into gaming. While slightly let down by its graphics performance, it offers plenty of functionality for the price.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
The P7300 (2100DR) is the plus-sized baby in NEC's Versa 'P' notebook family. As such, it resembles a stripped down version of its Versa P8310-2402DR sibling but still offers a solid array of components for the asking price. Chief among these are a Core 2 Duo T8100 2GHz processor running on Centrino's Santa Rosa platform, 2GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM (upgradeable to 4GB) and a 200GB, 5400rpm SATA hard drive.
Standout features include four USB ports, 802.11b/g wireless and Bluetooth capabilities, a four-in-one media card reader, a 1.3-megapixel webcam and a 15.4in widescreen LCD display. Unfortunately, these impressive specifications are slightly let down by the Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics chip. This severely limits the P7300's usability as a games machine, and may also slow down other processor-intensive tasks, such as video rendering. Nevertheless, it will satisfy most people who need a basic multimedia entertainment notebook.
Measuring 358x259x35mm and weighing over 2.5kg, the P7300 isn't the most portable all-purpose notebook we've looked at. While it will fit in most large briefcases, it isn't exactly something you would want to continually lug around—it's better suited to your desktop. The upside of this is its widescreen display, which proved proficient at displaying movies and computer games. Images appeared sharp and well saturated at the native resolution of 1280x800 and the screen offers a decent range of viewing angles. However, the screen's reflectivity marred our viewing experience in sunny outdoor environments.
In terms of looks, the P7300 is understated yet attractive. The model is encased in traditional black plastic with the NEC brand name across the front lid. While it's not exactly a head-turner, it has a decent minimalist design. Things are kept equally simple beneath the reinforced hood—none of the stylised LEDs or look-at-me logos that have become industry hallmarks. The basic black keyboard and enlarged silver touchpad have no superfluous design trimmings. It lends the notebook an unashamedly old-school look that we sheepishly confess to liking.
NEC has managed to cram a full-sized keyboard onto the Versa P7300, though some keys have been shrunk, including some frequently used ones such as Enter and the cursor-keys. This may hamper speed typists, but it also gives gaming enthusiasts access to a numeric keypad, which is essential for most mouse-and-keyboard games. Unfortunately, the limited graphics capabilities render this trade-off somewhat questionable.
With its humble 965 chipset, we were never expecting big things from the P7300, but its average of 552 in 3DMark06 is still disappointing. These results rule out the majority of modern games, including older DX9 titles like F.E.A.R. It's not all doom-and-gloom on the gaming front though: in 3D Mark 2001, the P7300 returned a result of 6214, which should allow for plenty of vintage gaming.
Unfortunately, the underpowered graphics card also affected other benchmark tests. In WorkBench 6, which assesses a notebook's processing speed and overall performance, the P7300 received a combined score of 72. This result isn't terrible, but it compares unfavourably to some notebooks with specifications similar to the P7300's. The notebook will be able to handle most business applications, as well as multitasking and playing DVDs.
In our battery run-down test, the P7300 performed reasonably well for an all-purpose notebook. To test its battery life, we played a looped DVD. This test simulates a worst-case scenario because the optical drive and the speakers put maximum drain on the battery, as well as the core components like the CPU and RAM. The system held out for 104 minutes, which should just get you through the majority of feature length movies.
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