So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Pioneer Dreambook Tough V10
Pricey, solid and hard to use
- Quite robust, effective hardware, good battery life
- Quite expensive, lacks ExpressCard slot, keyboard can be difficult to use
If you need a device that can take abuse and you're not afraid to pay for it, the Pioneer Dreambook Tough V10 combines adequate processing capabilities and connectivity options with a rugged design. The unit is let down, however, by usability issues such as an inadequate keyboard and the lack of ExpressCard slots.
Price$ 5,533.00 (AUD)
It's fairly ugly and it's often difficult to use, but if you need your data to survive a drop from a table then the Pioneer Dreambook Tough V10 is a unit worth considering.
The notebook has a rugged magnesium alloy casing that meets IP54 (Ingress Protection) standards, which means that the unit is protected against dust and splashing water. Due to all this protection, the Dreambook weighs 2.2kg without the power supply, and 2.75kg when it's included.
The review model we received came with a 320GB hard drive that spins up at 5400rpm, and this will provide ample storage. The laptop also has a free-fall sensor that protects data from being lost by parking the hard drive's read/write heads. Unfortunately we found that the hard disk froze so completely that the only way to shut down the device was to cut the power and remove the battery. This means that while your hard drive may be physically protected, you'll still need to regularly save your data.
With a 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo U2500 CPU and 2GB of DDR2 RAM running under the hood, we weren't expecting the V10's performance to be amazing. We were mildly surprised by the relatively snappy performance of the device, with our Blender 3D benchmark returning a time of 3min 2sec. In our iTunes testing, where we convert 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, the Pioneer completed the task in 2min 41sec.
While these results mean that hardware-intensive tasks such as video encoding and 3-D rendering will be slow and tedious, basic office tasks such as spreadsheet manipulation and multitasking will be easily executed.
Gamers hoping for a notebook that can handle a 1m drop (playing Counterstrike as they snowboard down the slopes?) will need to look elsewhere, as the V10 only achieved a 3DMark06 score of 107.
But what the unit loses in processing speed, it makes up for with battery longevity and low heat emissions. After several hours of data-crunching, the unit never got uncomfortably hot and it lasted 3h 56min in our battery rundown tests — a fairly impressive time.
The V10 has a 10.4in, 180-degree rotatable display with a native resolution of 1024x768. The touch-sensitive screen means you can use fingers, bananas or anything else with a point to move the cursor around the screen (although the Window XP operating system isn't as intuitive as Vista for this).
Unfortunately, the keyboard is not as user-friendly as the screen. Important keys such as control, alt and backspace have been shrunk, which makes accessing them a time-consuming process that will take getting used to for touch typists. The left- and right-click buttons below the touchpad have been rubberised. Although that increases their durability, it also increases the amount of effort needed to press them.
In terms of connectivity, the V10 acquits itself well. Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11 b/g wireless provide network connectivity; a 56Kbps modem is also present. For users wanting to use wireless peripherals such as headsets, Bluetooth connectivity is available.
The left side of the unit is where most of the ports live. Protected by plastic covers are two Type II PC card slots, a 56Kbps modem, Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports and the AC port. On the back of the device is a male RS-232 port, a VGA port and a mic-in port. Firmly secured with latches on the right-hand side of the laptop is the 320GB hard drive and the battery. At this price point, we'd like to see an ExpressCard slot and draft-n wireless, but sadly Pioneer has left these out.
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