Averatec AV4265-EH1 Notebook (1.6GHz Pentium M 730, 512MB DDR, 80GB, DVD?RW, Windows XP, 13.3
Not too big and not too small, the 13.3-inch wide screen on the AV4265-EH1, a member of the Averatec 4200 series of notebooks, will likely be just the right size for a lot of people. It offers more elbowroom than a 12.1-inch WXGA screen, and the aspect ratio is 16:9 instead of the standard 16:10, so you get a smidge more width compared to height than with other wide screens. Yet laptops equipped with these rare-size screens (Sony is the only other vendor who sells them) are still light enough to carry easily. Sold at a handful of retail sites for around $1200, the Averatec 4200 weighs 4.7 pounds, not counting its power adapter. That's quite a bit lighter than most 14.1-inch wide screens I've seen, which can top 6 pounds.
The AV4265-EH1's unusual screen size and tricolor case make for a handsome unit. Lifting the dark blue lid reveals an AveraBrite screen, which Averatec says is based on the same extra-vivid technology as Sony's Xbrite screens. The interior of the notebook, including keyboard, touchpad, and mouse buttons, is a soothing vanilla hue. I found navigation easy except for the borderless touchpad--its texture is so similar to the case's that my finger kept wandering off onto the equally smooth wrist-rest area. Also, I couldn't get the horizontal scroll zone to work reliably. The more important vertical scroll worked fine, and I expect, with more practice, I could have mastered the stylish touchpad without constantly having to check the location of my hand.
The AV4265-EH1 offers all the expected connections in its silver lower casing, including a FireWire port, an S-Video-out port, and a four-in-one memory card slot. Everything is conveniently located, though geared toward southpaws, with the fixed DVD burner and two of the three USB 2.0 ports provided on the left side of the case. An on/off Wi-Fi communications switch and color-coded microphone and headphone ports grace the front. A VGA port is the only connection on the back, which is taken up by the notebook's six-cell battery.
The AV4265-EH1 lasted a slightly below-average 3 hours and 2 minutes on one battery charge in our tests. Though we didn't test this option, you can sacrifice performance for extra battery life by pressing the "S" hot button, which lowers the 1.6-GHz Pentium M 730 processor's speed to 800 MHz. (Contrary to what the user manual says, you don't have to enable this button yourself in the BIOS.) A green LED at the bottom of the keyboard lights up to indicate that the notebook is operating at the lower speed. Running at full speed, the AV4265-EH1 scored a good WorldBench 5 score of 70. (Another Windows XP Home notebook we tested with the same configuration, the Medion Akoya LS, scored a slightly higher 72.)
Reaching its parts takes some doing, but the AV4265-EH1 is user upgradable. The 80GB hard drive and one of the 256MB memory slots sit under a large bottom panel held in place by seven small screws. Removing two additional screws frees the hard drive. To reach the second RAM slot, you have to loosen one additional screw (labeled "D" in the manual but not on the notebook) inside the bottom compartment, pop out keyboard's four top latches, and lift it off. The RAM slot, the only exposed component beneath the keyboard, is easy to find.
The AV4265-EH1's multimedia features are in a state of flux. The first units were stand-alone media players but Averatec yanked its AveraPlay Instant applications after deciding that a 15-minute difference in battery life was not enough. The Setup poster I received described stand-alone play, but the AveraPlay button on my notebook merely launched the Windows Media Player. By Christmas, the AveraPlay button should be fully functional again and able to launch music and movies without your having to boot Windows, according to a company spokesperson. Any entertainment improvements would be welcome. DVD movies looked good on the rectangular screen, but the volume was so low that I could barely hear the dialog.
Except for the outdated information regarding its two hot buttons, the AV4265-EH1's documentation (in the form of a preinstalled Acrobat manual) seems solid; it does a good job of walking users through upgrades, always a plus. But the contents page is not hyperlinked, and there's no index, so you must laboriously page up and down to find information. Microsoft Works 8 comes preloaded.
This 13.3-inch wide screen offers striking looks and an appealing weight. I would wait until Averatec makes the AveraPlay media button fully functional again, though, before buying.
Averatec 4200 AV4265-EH1AV4265
WorldBench 5 score of 70, 1.6-GHz Pentium M 730 processor, 512MB of DDR333 SDRAM, Windows XP Home, 13.3-inch wide screen, 80GB hard drive, DVD-RW drive, V.92 modem, 10/100 ethernet, 802.11g, touchpad pointing device, 5.5-pound weight (including AC adapter). One-year parts and labor warranty, 24-hour daily toll-free support.