capsule review

Chem USA ChemBook 2056

At a Glance
  • Chem USA Chembook 2056

Chem USA ChemBook 2056
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Shopping for a good all-around notebook for less than $2000? You could do a lot worse than the ChemBook 2056, a 6.4-pound portable with upgradable memory and storage. On the plus side, this handsome dark-blue unit with dual-band Wi-Fi lasted a little over 4 hours in our battery tests. Helped by its 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M "Dothan" CPU, the ChemBook 2056 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 83, 6 percent higher than the average 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M notebook we've tested with WorldBench 5.

Although the $1999 price excludes application software, the ChemBook 2056 offers most of the best notebook features you would expect for that amount, including a trio of USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, and a TV-out port. The optical drive is a top-of-the-line dual-format DVD writer built into the front of the case instead of the typical spot on the side. Those who dislike groping for eject buttons will appreciate it; on the other hand, you'll be more prone to accidentally eject discs if you're not careful. Unlike some notebooks in this price range, the only card reader the 2056 offers is an SD Card slot--no three-, four-, or six-in-one reader that also takes CompactFlash and other types of media cards.

Our other beefs are minor but worth noting. For one, the PC Card release is difficult to store, sure to exasperate if you use this slot often. We found the keyboard easy to use except for one small flaw: The PgUp and PgDn keys are placed side by side--and in the wrong order. (The touchpad pointing device worked well, though.) If the quality of a notebook's built-in speakers matter to you, the 2056's will disappoint; the sound was a bit harsh, heavier on tinny tones than bass. Finally, people who find printed user manuals easier to read than on-screen ones won't be happy with the ChemBook's lack of paper material. On the bright side, the on-board manual is excellent, including good search tools and lots of details.

Plenty of lightweight notebooks come with the $1999 ChemBook's features, and some have slightly better keyboards. The deciding factor for you may be the love-it-or-hate-it front location of this unit's dual-format DVD writer.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Chem USA Chembook 2056

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