Trigem doesn't come out with laptops all that often, and when it does, they're usually inexpensive and stylish, but just miss the mark in one aspect or another. The company's latest effort, the Averatec N1200, continues this pattern. While this $349 netbook sports a gorgeous aluminum lid and is considerably lighter than the competition, its wimpy two-cell battery just doesn't cut the mustard. Don't even think about buying the N1200 without the six-cell battery (bringing the cost to $379). Yet even with that necessity there are other weaknesses that will cause many netbook shoppers to pass.
Reminiscent of the HP Mini 5102, the Averatec N1200 has a brushed magnesium alloy lid that not only repels fingerprints, but also makes the system more rugged than the typical all-plastic netbook. It adds a touch of class, too, and we like the subtle Averatec logo. In fact, the N1200 looks cooler and sleeker than most systems in its class. The bottom of the system is a matte black plastic, as is the keyboard.
Netbooks are known for their small size and weight, but at 10.7 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches and 2.2 pounds the N1200 is thinner and lighter than most. Of course, this is partially due to the fact that the configuration we tested has a two-cell battery--smaller than on most netbooks these days.
The bezel and keyboard deck on the N1200--including the touchpad--are a glossy black, which shows fingerprints fairly easily. Oddly, the N1200 has a webcam that sits on the left side of the bezel instead of above the display, resulting in extremely awkward video chats. And we have no idea why there needs to be a strip to the right of the keyboard that houses the power button and two LEDs of Num Lock and Caps Lock. That's a serious waste of space, and it negatively impacts the typing experience.
The thermal readings of the N1200 were a study in extremes. After playing a Hulu video for 15 minutes at full screen, both the space between the G and H keys and the middle of the underside were a relatively cool 91 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the touchpad registered a hot 105 degrees, and the front left underside--which rests on your thigh--was an uncomfortable 120 degrees. We consider anything over 100 degrees to be a cause for concern.
Keyboard and Touchpad
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The matte keys on the N1200 are generally of proper size, but touch typists will hate the layout on this netbook. That half-inch strip on the right side of the deck forced Trigem to shrink the rest of the layout. The right Shift key is fine, but the three buttons directly to its left are smaller than usual. As a result, we kept pressing the slash key instead of the period key--or both at the same time--which was frustrating. You shouldn't have to train yourself to use a keyboard.
Click to enlargeThe touchpad measures 3 x 1.5 inches, which is good for a netbook, but its glossy surface picked up fingerprints easily. On the plus side, the touchpad didn't cause too much friction, and the cursor was fairly easy to move around. Below, the single button was snappy and responsive, but it's too narrow. We prefer two distinct buttons.
Display and Audio
Like most netbooks, the N1200 features a 10.1-inch glossy display, which cast a fair amount of reflections. Colors were crisp and bright, there was excellent contrast, and there was no splotchiness in darker areas.
Stereo speakers, located on either side of the screen, offered adequately loud and accurate sound. During a video clip of an air race, we could hear the rumble of the airplanes' engines, as well as the higher-pitched music track. When we streamed "No One Knows" from Queens of the Stone Age on Slacker, the audio was fairly loud and not too tinny.
Ports and Webcam
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While netbooks aren't known for their abundance of ports, the N1200 comes up skimpy in this regard; it only has two USB ports (as opposed to a more typical three), both on the left side. On the right are VGA and Ethernet ports. On the left front lip are headphone and mic inputs, as well as a 4-in-1 memory card slot.
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The 1.3-megapixel webcam produced clear and accurate video--skin tones were true, and the image was well-lit--but as we mentioned above Averatec mounted the webcam to the left of the display, rather than centering it along the top. During video chats our head was only in the left third of the image frame; the rest was essentially wasted space. Since no face-tracking software is included, there's no way to compensate for the webcam's placement, either.
The N1200 comes with Intel's Pine Trail 1.66-GHz Atom N450 processor and 1GB of RAM; this combination produced a PCMark05 score of 1,431, just 20 points below the netbook average, and about 50 points above the Editor's Choice-winning Toshiba mini NB305 (1,383). Likewise, the N1200 scored 922 on Geekbench, 60 points above average, and practically equal to the mini NB305. On typical netbook tasks--browsing the web, listening to music, and writing documents--the N1200 acquitted itself well.
While slightly undersized for a netbook these days, the 5,400-rom, 160GB hard drive was fairly speedy, booting into Windows 7 Starter in 67 seconds, and copying a 4.97GB folder of multimedia at a rate of 22.9 MBps, 6 MBps faster than the average, and one of the better we've seen; the next closest among recent netbooks we've reviewed was the Acer Aspire One 532h, which notched a rate of 22.4 MBps. On our transcoding test, in which we convert a 114MB folder from MPEG-4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder, the N1200 took 6 minutes and 13 seconds, about 18 seconds longer than the netbook average.
Outfitted with integrated Intel GMA 3150 graphics, the N1200 kept pace with the netbook average, scoring 156. It also did well in everyday tasks: during a Hulu video of a Red Bull air race, the notebook was able to keep up with the action of airplanes zooming across the screen (though not at full screen).
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
The Ralink 802.11n Wireless LAN Card in the N1200 returned some of the best wireless scores we've seen in a netbook. At 15 feet from our access point, we saw throughput of 47.8 Mbps; at 50 feet, throughput was 31.1 Mbps.
Predictably, the endurance of the two-cell, 3,200-mAh battery was short at just 2 hours and 32 minutes, which is about 20 minutes below the three-cell netbook average, and nearly 4 hours less than the six-cell average. Our advice? Wait until the six-cell option is available in April.
Click to enlargeGreen Testing
The N1200's two-cell battery took 49 minutes to reach an 80 percent charge, and 39 minutes more to recharge fully. During that time, it drew an average of 21.2 watts; its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating (total watts divided by battery life) is 12.3, which is 5 points better than the netbook average (17.4). The N1200 is not rated by EPEAT.
Averatec will offer three other models of the N1200. For $329, consumers get the same processor, RAM, hard drive, two-cell battery, and Windows XP Home, and have their choice of a silver or bronze lid. The $379 model, also offered in silver or bronze, comes with a six-cell battery and a 250GB hard drive, which may represent the best configuration of the lot.
Software and Warranty
The only piece of trialware on the N1200 is a 30-day trial of Norton Antivirus; beyond that, it's your standard Windows 7 Starter build.
Click to enlargeThe N1200 is backed by a one-year limited warranty and one-year of technical support, which is available Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST).
When it comes to outward appearance, the Averatec N1200 beats most of its big-name competitors. We especially like the aluminum lid and 2.2-pound weight. However, with a system this portable (and with such good Wi-Fi range), battery life is paramount, and the two-cell battery's endurance is simply atrocious. If you really like the look of the Averatec N1200, we suggest waiting for the $379 version, which will offer a larger hard drive and a six-cell battery. But these enhancements won't make the awkward keyboard or webcam any easier to use.