Micro Express NP500A
The Micro Express NP500A strikes gold in price and performance, but uneven features tarnish the overall package a bit. First, the good news: The charcoal and bluish-silver portable ran an above-average 4 hours on one charge in our battery tests. And, equipped with a 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M processor, it zipped past similarly equipped competitors in our speed tests, pulling down a PC WorldBench 4 score of 127, a record by a small margin. (The average score is 122.)
The NP500A weighs a reasonable 6.3 pounds without the power adapter and measures 1.4 inches tall. The DVD/CD-RW combination drive is removable and located handily on the front. Your choice of add-ins is limited, though: the only other device Micro Express sells for the modular bay is a CD-ROM drive. The NP500A's connections cover all the bases, including the older parallel port and three USB ports. A FireWire port and S-Video-out port are ready for downloads or showing movies on a big screen. The NP500A comes with an 802.11b card and a switch on the left side for turning wireless scanning on and off (useful for saving battery life).
The hard drive and RAM are both user-accessible, ensuring easy future upgrades. And Micro Express sells a minisize USB port replicator ($85), which makes it easy to quickly attach and remove peripherals like keyboards, printers, and monitors.
The SXGA+ 15-inch screen, with its high-powered native resolution of 1400 by 1050 pixels, is good news for graphic artists, not to mention users of standard office applications. DVD movies also looked fine on the NP5001A, although the middling stereo speakers were a disappointment.
Considering the notebook's performance and features, $1499 is a good price. We have just a few quibbles. The "S" key popped off the keyboard a couple of times. It was easy to snap back on both times, and the keyboard was fine otherwise, but we wondered about long-term durability.
The PC Card slot ejector button/lever refused to stay recessed, which can become annoying over the long haul. On a fashion note, the white-plastic lid latch stands out like a sore thumb on this dark notebook.
If you need an office productivity suite, it will cost extra: $99 for Microsoft Works Suite 2003 or $369 for the full-fledged Microsoft Office XP Pro.
Our NP500A came with a user manual on CD that described another notebook model. However, it seemed to accurately describe the NP500A, so we found it useful. There is no printed documentation.
If you're willing to overlook a few flaws, the Micro Express NP500A is a good deal for home and small business users.
Micro Express NP500A