capsule review

Chem USA ChemBook 2037

At a Glance
  • Chem USA ChemBook 2037

Chem USA ChemBook 2037
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

The 7.7-pound ChemBook 2037 is a laptop of many talents. It has a built-in camera, loads of connections on the front, and a long-lasting battery that pulls double duty as an ergonomic foot. With so much going for it, you may be able to forgive the 2037's blemishes: a very stiff lid and a poorly designed control switch.

The ChemBook 2037's small VGA-resolution PC camera, embedded in the top edge of its 15.4-inch wide-angle screen, can take fairly sharp stills or smooth 30-frames-per-second videos with sound saved in the AVI format. The video capability means no more futzing with an add-on Webcam.

If you prefer to have your connections within plain view and easy reach, you'll love that the FireWire port, four-in-one media card slot, three audio jacks, and three application hotkeys all sit smack dab on the front of the notebook. You can quickly download video from your digital camcorder, copy data off an SD Card or Memory Stick, or plug in headphones without hunting for a connection on the side or back. The three USB 2.0 ports are also conveniently located, just around the corners.

A combination Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/camera switch on the front of the notebook is the most annoying aspect of the 2037's design. The switch toggles all three functions off and on, with no separate control. If you want to turn on Wi-Fi but leave the camera off, for instance, you have to use the appropriate software utility. (Our model did not come with Bluetooth.)

Unlike with most laptops, whose batteries are flush with the case, the 2037's oversized rear power pack adds three-quarters of an inch to the laptop's height. The extra height pays off in a nice typing slant for the touchpad-equipped keyboard. The extra-big battery also lasted 4.2 hours in our tests. The 2037 used a 2-GHz Pentium M 755-equipped unit and 1GB of RAM to earn a WorldBench 5 score of 89, placing it slightly behind other similarly configured notebooks.

It's not difficult to reach the 2037's hard drive or memory slots for upgrades, but you have to remove a larger number than usual. The hard drive shares a large bottom compartment with the laptop's Wi-Fi card, under a big panel held on by seven small screws; you'll have to remove four more screws to release the hard drive itself. The laptop's two RAM slots, both filled in our test unit, sit in a separate compartment under a cover held on by five screws.

The 2037's DVD-RW drive looks fixed, but in fact it's not. It's easy to remove, using a slightly more unusual method--you unscrew a small plastic plug from the bottom of the laptop, poke a finger in the space, and boost the drive out by its bottom edge.

Like most laptops, the 2037 doesn't offer very good built-in sound, despite cool-looking stereo speakers embedded in the screen bezel. However, audio is loud enough that you can enjoy a DVD movie at close range.

The ChemBook 2037's user manuals, provided in both printed and Acrobat form, are a tad difficult to peruse, but they cover the notebook's features adequately.

With its built-in camera and long-lasting battery, the ChemBook 2037 is a desktop replacement that can help you get work done on the go.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Chem USA ChemBook 2037

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