WinBook notebooks have clean lines and keyboards uncluttered with flashy lights or frou-frou trim. The company's first wide-screen portable follows the company's design philosophy with a sleek magnesium-alloy case and large cream-colored keyboard. All you'll find on the left side of the notebook is a fixed 4X DVD-RW rewritable DVD drive; on the right, just one PC Card slot. A set of chrome audio buttons--together with microphone, headphones, and line-out ports--graces the front. Other connections include a parallel port, a FireWire port, and an S-Video-out port; all of these are tucked away on the back. Total package weight is at the lower end of the scale for big-screen notebooks: just 6.3 pounds, or 7.3 pounds traveling weight including the power adapter.
The W160's 15.2-inch 1200 by 854 wide screen is small compared with the 15.4-inch and 17-inch wide-format screens we've seen on other notebooks, but it lets you spread work out a bit more and it accommodated our DVD movie full-screen. The second nicest feature is the keyboard: Its big, semitranslucent keys with black lettering are a pleasure to use. The pointing device is a matching cream-colored touchpad paired with cream-colored mouse buttons that depress farther than the stiff buttons found on most notebooks, giving them a good positive feel.
A good performer, our W160 lasted 3 hours and 36 minutes on one battery charge and earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 125. Its battery life may not match the 4 to 6 hours that some 1.6-GHz Pentium M-equipped notebooks have delivered in our tests, but it should be plenty for mainstream users. In speed, the W160 is at the high end of the scale.
The W160's hard drive and one of its two RAM slots are located in the usual bottom compartments, while the second RAM slot sits under the keyboard. It's not difficult to reach the slot under the keyboard (where all 512MB of our review unit's RAM were located)--you just push in five chrome tabs--though getting the keyboard to snap back in place afterward is a bit tricky. Another minor design beef: The release for the notebook's heavy battery is difficult to slide.
The W160's front-mounted audio buttons let you listen to a music CD without powering up the notebook, but their labels--black icons stamped on shiny chrome--are almost impossible to read. The lack of a music status LCD complicates figuring out which track you're on. The W160 generates loud sound, but its stereo speakers, found above the keyboard, produced rather weak bass tones.
WinBook's user manuals once were the best in the industry, but the company appears to be following the trend of phasing out print guides in favor of electronic versions. The print manual is thin and leaves many details (such as identification of the audio buttons) to the electronic reference, which lies buried in the Windows Help and Support Center. Still, WinBook provides more print instruction than many vendors, and the paper and on-screen resources complement one another nicely.
The uncluttered WinBook W160 is a nice wide-screen portable with a distinctive look and an excellent keyboard; it's ideal for users who want to get their work done without the fancy stuff.
PC WorldBench 4 score of 125, 1.6-GHz Pentium M, 512MB of DDR266 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 15.2-inch screen, 60GB hard drive, DVD-R/-RW/-RAM drive, built-in V.92 modem and 10/100 ethernet, touchpad pointing device, 7.3-pound weight (including AC adapter and phone cord). One-year parts and labor warranty; free, unlimited, 13-hour daily toll-free tech support.