So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
NEC Computers Australia PowerMate M8110
- Quiet operation, price
- limited upgrade options
While this system doesn't exude power, it does get the job done and won't break the bank. We were disappointed by the limited upgrade options.
Price$ 1,500.00 (AUD)
If you're not the do-it-yourself type and building a computer from individual parts is not on the cards, then a PC like NEC's Powermate M8110 is as good a choice as any. For its price, the Powermate performed as we would expect while also including some nice hardware. However, even for a pre-built, ready-to-go machine, it lacks some upgradeability.
This system has little to chomp at the bit over, but that's not to say the hardware isn't good quality. The Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 1.80GHz CPU is one of the lower-end Core 2 Duo CPUs available, but still offers the impressive performance we've come to expect from this line of processors. It also comes with 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 RAM, a Radeon X1300LE graphics card and a 15-in-1 media card reader.
These core components give the NEC Powermate M8110 enough juice to run Windows Vista Home Premium fairly smoothly. The Radeon X1300LE graphics card runs the Aero interface without any problems, but don't expect it to play any games which require heavy 3-D rendering.
To test the Powermate, we ran WorldBench 6 in which it scored a 70. This software is designed as an application-based benchmarking platform for Vista-based systems. During this test we noticed the Powermate performed well in areas such as office applications (which we expected) but also did well in the video encoding test. However, this machine is not intended for any serious photo or video editing and won't handle any other heavy duty tasks or gaming as it is aimed squarely at the casual home-user.
As well as the aforementioned hardware, the NEC Powermate M8110 comes with a 250GB SATA (7200rpm) hard drive and a DVD re-writer drive for any storage needs. This hard drive occupies the one and only drive bay, so upgrading will require a replacement, or an external storage solution. The drive sits vertically against the front of the case and is easily accessible.
This lack of upgrade room is probably the NEC's only major flaw. Systems like this are often made as is, with no intention for them to be upgraded, at least not seriously, but even a pre-built machine should have some upgrade potential. The two 512MB sticks of RAM occupy the only two slots, so RAM upgrade options are limited. The motherboard supports one PCIe 16x slot, which is occupied by the graphics card, another PCIe 1x slot and two PCI slots. However, replacing the graphics card with a more powerful model will require more power, and adding any new optical drives or expansion cards to the PCI slots will start to stretch the 250watt power supply, if not exceed its threshold.
Upgrading aside, this system does what it's intended to do and does so without excessive noise. The CPU is cooled by a heatsink and fan, and a shroud feeds it cool air from outside the case via a grill in the side panel. A 120mm fan is attached to the power supply and extracts air from the case. This should be enough cooling considering the sparse hardware, none of which produce problematic levels of heat.
The case has two USB ports on the front panel as well as audio ports, and the media card reader. A sliding panel covers or uncovers these ports. At the rear the case there is another four USB ports as well as PS/2 ports for a mouse and keyboard (though the supplied keyboard and mouse are USB). There's also a parallel and a serial port for older devices and some more audio ports. A 10/100 Ethernet port is also on the rear port cluster for networking the PC.
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