Priced hundreds of dollars less than the average ultraportable, the Averatec 1579 is an attractive little notebook that could almost pass for an 11.1-inch portable DVD player. And this system doesn't look like a cheap alternative to the big brands, with its chocolate-brown finish and sleek lines and curves. It looks pretty good on the inside, too, with a Core Duo processor, 120GB of storage space, a DVD Burner, Vista Home Premium, and a 4-in-1 media card reader. The battery life could be better--and the Wi-Fi range much better--but this system has the performance and portability to satisfy road warriors and students on a budget.
The 1579's design is attractive, if a bit bulky. The angular chassis measures 1.2 inches at its thinnest point but 1.4 inches at its thickest. At 3.4 pounds, the 1579 actually feels heavier than it looks--especially compared with the sub-three-pound systems offered by Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba--but slipping this ultraportable into a bag is a cinch. (See our photo gallery.)
Its bright 11.1-inch screen (1366 x 678 pixels) displayed crisp text and delivered vibrant DVD playback, although the Xbrite display suffered from some glare in bright settings. The stereo speakers embedded above the keyboard were powerful but sometimes sounded muffled, depending on how we oriented the screen; opening the lid to a 90-degree angle blocks the speakers.
Though tiny, the 17mm keyboard was surprisingly comfortable. We appreciated the full-sized Enter key; the Shift keys are shrunken but tolerable compared with what we've encountered on other ultraportables. Above the keyboard you'll find a one-touch Windows Media Player shortcut button, but some dedicated media controls would have been nice. The touchpad is decently sized, complete with horizontal and vertical scrolling areas, and the mouse buttons (while loud) were easy to use. We felt like the touchpad dragged a little bit until we increased the pointer speed in the Control Panel.
Around the edges we found a healthy array of connectivity options, including Ethernet, modem, FireWire, and ExpressCard on the left; and VGA, two USB ports, and a 4-in-1 flash card reader on the right. The front of the system houses a Wi-Fi on/off switch. Unlike higher-priced ultraportables, this system lacks a webcam and fingerprint reader.
The 1579's performance is pretty good for an ultraportable. Its PCMark05 score of 2,142 trumps what the VAIO TZ151 and Toshiba Portege R500 turned in by over 350 points. Multitasking with this machine proved adequate; we played a DVD in CyberLink, with a couple of Explorer, Internet browser windows, and Windows Mail open with little to no stutter. The 1579 notched a relatively low 3DMark03 score of 823; you won't be doing any graphics intensive work or playing very many games, but the 1579 handled Vista's Transparency mode and Flip 3D effects just fine, even with eight to ten windows open.
Our DVD rundown test wore out the 1579's battery in 2 hours and 34 minutes, which isn't terrible but is far behind the runtime offered by Averatec's higher-priced competition in this class. The Fujitsu P7230, Sony VAIO TZ151, and Toshiba Portg R500 all lasted longer than 3:15. Averatec does offer an additional standard six-cell battery for $99 if you want to swap batteries while you're on the go.
If you're looking for the best Wi-Fi range in the home or on campus, you should look elsewhere. The 1579's wireless scores were disappointing. The 802.11b/g radio turned in an acceptable 11.2 Mbps at 15 feet, but even after many rounds of testing, we couldn't get higher than 3.7 Mbps at 50 feet. These scores make the 1579 less than ideal for students who want to be able to connect from anywhere on campus, which is a shame since this system is priced to attract that audience.
Averatec includes a modest amount of software in addition to Windows Vista Home Premium. You get Cyberlink DVD Solution, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and a 90-day trial of Norton AntiVirus.
The Averatec 1579 is a stylish notebook that offers good performance and portability for the price. As long as you don't mind working and playing on a relatively small 11-inch display, no system under four pounds offers better bang for your buck.
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