Other than a few tweaks here and there, the Everex StepNote NC1501 is virtually identical to its predecessor, the NC1500. It still boasts a remarkably low price tag, the processor hasn't changed, and it's still one of the worst performers out there. However, if your budget is your number-one (and we mean really number-one) priority, it will fill the bill.
The 0.9-inch-thick NC1501 is housed in the same black and silver chassis as its predecessor and weighs just 5.3 pounds. Beneath the lid is a glossy 15.4-inch widescreen display, which is nice and bright and has a decent viewing angle. The keyboard arrangement is slightly better than that of the NC1500, thanks to the addition of a normal-sized Enter key, but the keys on the extreme right side are still a bit cramped. The design offers plenty of wrist room on the keyboard deck, and the two-button touchpad pointing device is conveniently located and responsive.
While movies looked good on the 1200 x 800-pixel screen with the multiformat DVD player, they didn't sound great. A single speaker, embedded in the left corner above the keyboard, is suitable for system sounds and beeps but not much else; music sounded hollow and lacked punch. You don't get a lot of connectivity options at this price, but the system does have three USB ports, a VGA port, Ethernet and modem connections, and headphone and microphone jacks. Unfortunately, the NC1501 lacks PC Card slots and a media card reader.
Powered by the same 1.5-GHz VIA C7-M processor and 512MB of RAM as last year's model, the NC1501 turned in a PCMark05 score of 718, one of the lowest we've seen in some time. Likewise, its 3DMark03 score of 213 was abysmal, so 3D gaming and multitasking are out of the question with this notebook. A battery runtime of 2 hours and 2 minutes was 14 minutes below average. On the upside, the 60GB hard drive runs at 5,400 rpm, an improvement over the previous 4,200-rpm drive configuration.
For basic chores, this system runs fine, but don't expect blazing performance. Some programs were a tad poky when opening, but in general they were tolerable. Loading Web pages was downright slow, however, taking between four and eight seconds, depending on the page. You won't find Vista's Aero interface on this Home Basic machine, but when we had several windows open at once, it was able to handle our simple multitasking.
Bundled software includes Windows Vista Basic Home Edition and CyberLink's DVD Suite of DVD/CD burning and authoring apps. You also get a trial version of Norton Internet Security 2007. Everex covers the system with a standard one-year warranty (parts and labor), which includes toll-free technical support.
Power users will definitely want to take a pass on this system, but if you're in the market for a cheap notebook for basic e-mail, Web surfing, and light word-processing duties, the NC1501 will do the trick for less than $500.
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