THE DIARY OF A GEEK IN OXFORDSHIRE


Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Shiny Toy - Early Impressions

I've been intending to do it for a while, but yesterday I finally bought myself a new laptop.

I marched into PC World in Oxford, credit card in hand, fully intending to purchase a Samsung Q35 - and ended up walking out with an Advent 8212.

Some may ask - why buy a much lesser-known brand laptop? Well, the spec was pretty irresistible - a considerably higher spec than the Samsung - yet the price was the same. Additionally, when I did a side-by-side comparison of the two machines, the display quality was actually higher than the Samsung, and I even get the same warranty.

So - I have the laptop, it's fully charged and I've had a day to play with it so far. These are my initial opinions on the box, and I'll post more once I've lived with it for a while.

Specification
One of the first things that attracted me to the Advent was the spec, which is as follows:

- Intel Core Duo T7100 @ 1.8GHz;
- 2048MB DDRII 667 RAM;
- 120GB HDD;
- Shared graphics (it says up to 128MB, but is actually taking 448MB for VRAM!)
- Integrated 1.3MP webcam;
- 12.1" Widescreen TFT @1280 x 800 pixels
- Vista Home Premium.

Compare that to the spec of the Samsung - T5200 @1.6GHz, 1GB RAM, 100GB HDD, 128MB graphics, no webcam - and consider that this was the same price - £599. So you can see there that with the Samsung, there's an immediate cost based upon the brand.

First Impressions
Once I got the laptop home, and left it to charge up for a while (probably the hardest part of the whole thing was resisting the temptation to play with it), I settled in for my first experience of Windows Vista.

The first thing I noticed was the keyboard. I'm a touch-typist, and often find that laptop keyboards are a little small for doing that comfortably. However, despite its diminutive size, the keyboard works well, with a positive reaction from the keys and a 'desktop' feel. If I'm being really picky, I'd complain that the shift keys are a little small - but I'm already adapting to that.

Vista itself is certainly pretty - it defaulted into a dark taskbar and desktop, which was great for me as I would have set it to that anyway. The default sidebar is useful and easy to configure - more on that later.

As for the eye-candy - well, I have to say that I love it. I could spend hours playing with te window animation when I press 'Win+Alt'. I know it's similar to the Expose feature in Mac OSX, but it's done well. The additional Aero feature of showing a teensy window - with animation - on the taskbar when you hover over it is also impressive!

One of the features I was delighted to find in Vista Home Premium was the Terminal Server Client. I use RDP a lot, connecting to other machines on the home network, and was expecting it to be absent as it was in XP Home. To have the client as standard on Home Premium has saved me a lot of hassle.

Firefox and AVG Free both installed with no problems or incidents, and Windows didn't baulk at having Firefox set as the default browser.

VMWare Player also installed with no issues, giving me a virtual Ubuntu Linux desktop if I need it. I may dual-boot in the future - as yet I'm undecided.

Sidebar
The Sidebar has already turned out to be a useful tool.

Once I'd removed the useless gadgets I didn't need - like a weather report, RSS reader and (for some reason) a picture slideshow, I was left with just a clock. I prefer analogue, so this is nicer for me than the standard digital clock on the taskbar. I then downloaded and installed a couple of other gadgets from the Microsoft Gallery, including an RDP shortcut and a CPU/RAM meter. Both were quick and easy to install, and just work.

The Sidebar does take up some screen estate, but I've intentionally got mine set up to always be available. Obviously that's my choice, if you change the properties you can use the full widescreen and just see the Sidebar on the Desktop.

Performance & Battery Life
After such a short time with the laptop, I can't give definitive answers yet - but my initial impressions are good.

I went into this with some concerns, as I've read all the stories about how resource-hungry Vista is and wasn't expecting miracles. And it's true that Vista takes a LOT of memory. Running with just RDP and Firefox open (5 tabs), memory usage is at 43% - that's 880MB! I think we can safely say that 2GB is necessary.

The fan isn't hugely quiet, but it only runs for a couple of seconds at a time unless under heavy load, and even if running constantly it's not overly intrusive.

As an experiment last night, I decided to do a lot more and run the machine down from fully-charged to zero as quickly as possible.

So....I opened Firefox and IE7, opened some pages including some Flash animations and Windows Update, connected to my server via RDP, started copying files from there to the laptop, and dug out my 'guilty pleasure' - the 'Hackers' DVD, popping that into the DVD-RW drive on the right side of the laptop.

Then I took out the power cable, and sat down to watch the movie!

With all of that running, CPU usage climbed to between 60% and 80%, as did RAM usage. Battery charge dropped fast - yet I was still able to see the plucky, innocent hackers beat the big, bad villians and Dade Murphy get the girl.

There were no hangs or stutters from Media Player either.

First Impressions
Overall, my first impressions of this laptop have been overwhelmingly positive. I've tried it doing more than I would normally do with a lappy, and so far it's met every one of my challenges without breaking a sweat.

I'm delighted with my purchase, and would recommend this Advent model to anyone looking for a decent-spec subnotebook under £700.

8 comments:

Gerry said...

you're a nerd and you love it!!

Neil said...

Yep - and you love your nerd!

(I should buy you an 'I love my geek' t-shirt for Christmas)

xx

Anonymous said...

hi there. am seriously considering the Advent 8212 & came across your posting here. Wanted to know:

(i) for office apps, browsing net etc, how often does fan come on?

(ii) does the laptop get very hot?

(iii) does it seem robust, and any more things you'd add in the last 2 weeks' use?

Many thanks!
Anish

Anonymous said...

also, with the older Advents, the screen brightness would decrease if not plugged into mains, no matter what the battery life was - does the 8212 do that?

Anonymous said...

hHI - GOOD TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR BATTERY FEARS.... i was just in PC world and am anxious about buying a laptop (big step for Luddite me from spotty schoolboys. Done some research and need lightweight laptop as commut to uni... was unhappy with battery life so it seems may be worth a chance and Dixons (Currys) have same one so may buy local.
I have to do essays so how is it for reading print ?
Thanks ms.mature student x

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of also buying a Samsung and walked into PC world and even though I said I think a 12 inch screen would be too small I've fallen in love with the advent 8212 because of the specs, price and because it looks great as well.

Should be getting it soon for uni.. hoping it will run photoshop alright...

Anonymous said...

the advent 8212 has a very common fault with it's motherboard. The machine is prone to switching itself off at random times with no warning. I recommend staying away from it, despite it's appealing specs it's an unreliable laptop.

jenn said...

hi,

its been 8 months since u bought ur laptop, can i know what do u think of it? does the motherboard really switches off without notice?