CTL IL1PC Review

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$449

Pros: Bright display; Good battery life; 60GB hard drive

Cons: Poor performance; 7-inch screen is smaller than competitors'; Cramped keyboard; Support not toll-free

Verdict: This mini-notebook has pretty good battery life and a decent size hard drive, but is that enough?

For mini-notebook shoppers who want XP and a decent amount of storage capacity, the 60GB CTL IL1PC ($449) is an attractive alternative to ASUS' Eee PC 4G series, whose solid state drives store about as much as a thumb drive. Although this feature is certainly a boon, we were turned off by this system's subpar performance and small screen, especially given that you can get get a mini-notebook with a much larger display for just a little more money.

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Sophisticated Design

Unlike the2go PC, the first mini-notebook we saw from CTL, the IL1PC is clearly for grown-ups. The glossy black lid has CTL's logo stamped discreetly, but the lid also picks up fingerprints quickly. Inside, everything from the keyboard to the bezel is matte black, although the lid and sides are trimmed in an attractive matte silver. The 1.6 x 1.2-inch touchpad is tiny (as are the buttons), but we like the pad's up and down arrows, which you can tap to scroll through Web pages quickly.

The IL1PC's keyboard is cramped but less rigid than the Eee PC's. It's fine for pecking out short messages, but for longer missives we recommend plugging an external keyboard into one of this system's two USB ports.

At 2.4 pounds, the IL1PC is 0.2 pounds heavier than the 8.9-inchASUS Eee PC 900, but it still feels light in the hand. At 9.6 x 6.8 x 1.7 inches, it's slightly chunkier than the 900, too. We also don't like how the four-cell battery juts out slightly in the back, lending the system a boxier shape.

In addition to the USB and VGA ports, the IL1PC has Ethernet and modem jacks, headphone and mic ports, and a 2-in-1 memory card reader.

Pint-Size Display

The IL1PC has a small 7-inch display at a time when most mini-notebook makers are moving to larger screens. And it's $50 more expensive than the $399 7-inch ASUS Eee PC 4G XP. The Eee PC 900 ($549) features a 9-inch screen and the MSI Wind NB ($499) sports a 10-inch LCD. Worse, the IL1PC bezel is unnecessarily wide. CTL should take a cue from ASUS and narrow the bezel to maximize screen size while keeping the footprint narrow. At least you can use the VGA port to plug in an external monitor.

Owing to its 800 x 480-pixel resolution, content looked stretched, and we had to scroll horizontally to view some Web pages, but at least they didn't extend below the screen. Even with the notebook sitting directly in front of us, we found ourselves squinting. The display is plenty bright, but not bright enough to enjoy wide viewing angles. The IL1PC has a 0.3-megapixel webcam embedded above the display, which showed smooth movement but pallid colors. The speakers sounded tinny, but the volume was sufficiently loud.

Weak Performance, Strong Wi-Fi

The IL1PC comes with Windows XP Home. Its 1-GHz VIA C-7M processor and 1GB of RAM scored 575 on PCMark05, the lowest score we've ever seen on this test (the 2go, which was designed for children but has an Intel Celeron processor, notched 780). Its VIA S3 graphics card also fared poorly, scoring 319 on 3DMark03, which is among the lowest we've seen for any mini-notebook and, more specifically, is 27 points below the 7-inch ASUS Eee PC 4G with Windows XP.

We were able to spend an afternoon surfing the Web with ease, which is good considering the IL1PC's intended purpose as a secondary PC. Just don't expect to multitask. While watching a YouTube clip, we navigated to another tab in Firefox and double-clicked on a name in our Google Talk buddy list to initiate a conversation. For several seconds, the audio from the YouTube clip paused. Throughout our testing, the sound coming from our clips cut out whenever we tried to do something else.

On a positive note, the IL1PC took only 53 seconds to boot, which is right in line with other XP notebooks. And its 802.11a/g wireless radio performed well: 14.4 Mbps at 15 feet and 11.7 Mbps at 50 feet (The MSI Wind NB delivered an almost identical 14.5 Mbps at 15 feet, but only 7.7 Mbps at 50 feet). Moreover, the 60GB hard drive allows more storage than any SSD-based Eee PC (though for $50 more, theMSI Wind NBoffers an 80GB drive).

Battery Life and Warranty

Because MobileMark 2007 wouldn't run on this computer, we tested the battery life anecdotally. With the screen brightness set to 50 percent, we used the IL1PC to write e-mails, chat with friends, surf the Web, and watch YouTube clips. It lasted 3 hours and 41 minutes with Wi-Fi on, which beats the Eee PC series (the4G Surflasted 3:30 and the 900 lasted 2:18). The Wind, however, lasted just over 4 hours with Wi-Fi on when performing this same type of test.

Like many full-size notebooks, the IL1PC comes with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, including e-mail and phone support (not toll-free), the latter of which is available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Verdict

The CTL IL1PC has some features that make it worth recommending: It has Windows XP, 1GB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, an integrated webcam, and decent battery life and wireless performance. But its subpar performance, small screen, and cramped keyboard make it a less-than-ideal choice for mini-notebook shoppers. The MSI Wind NB, which costs only $50 more, outpaces the IL1PC in every category, save wireless. Had this system arrived six months ago, we might have a better opinion of it.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1-GHz VIA C-7M
Operating System MS Windows XP Home
RAM 1GB
RAM Upgradable to 2GB
Hard Drive Size 60GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 7
Native Resolution 800x480
Graphics Card VIA S3
Video Memory 64MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/g
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
USB Ports 2
Warranty/Support e-mail
Warranty/Support One-year parts and labor/phone Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Size 9.6 x 6.8 x 1.7 inches
Weight 2.4 pounds
Company Website www.ctlnotebooks.com