capsule review

Chem USA ChemBook 2070

At a Glance
  • Chem USA ChemBook 2070

    PCWorld Rating

Chem USA ChemBook 2070
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Thanks to a very nicely designed set of front button controls, Chem USA's $1769 ChemBook 2070 may be one of the best combination laptop/standalone media players I've seen. Press the power/mode button once, and the system conveniently defaults to CDs; pop in a disc with the lid closed, and you can listen to pretty good stereo sound through the front-mounted speakers. (There is no subwoofer, unfortunately.) Press the button again, and the unit launches an MP3 player; press it a third time to access the Instant On Media Player software. (Press it one too many times, though, and you'll accidentally boot Windows.) Another blue-hued knockoff of Microsoft's Media Center Edition application, the ChemBook's Media Player software serves as your one-stop multimedia center for CD music, DVD movies, and photo slideshows. The fun didn't stop when I had to get some work done, either: The front buttons work with Windows media applications, too, a rare convenience. Without resorting to a mouse, I changed CD tracks and fast-forwarded to my favorite parts of Master and Commander while writing this review. When I saw this midsize laptop, its $70 home theater option was not yet available; but overall I was impressed by its media chops even without trying the TV tuner and remote control.

For a 15.4-inch wide screen, the ChemBook 2070 weighs a shoulder-friendly 6.7 pounds (not counting the power adapter). At first the red lid on this otherwise black-and-silver laptop seemed jarring, but it grew on me. For regular work, the screen's WSXGA+ resolution of 1680 by 1050 pixels will strain your eyeballs a bit, but I appreciated it when editing photos. The keyboard is comfortably laid out. The borderless touchpad--nothing but a shallow indentation in the wrist rest--is actually very easy to find and use. All the expected ports are present on the 2070, and you also get a three-in-one card reader. A DVD burner is fixed on the left side, and a plastic cover on the back of my unit indicated where the optional TV tuner and an S-Video-in port would be located.

The memory slots and the hard drive are within easy reach in their respective bottom compartments, so upgrading this laptop should be a snap. The only real inconvenience you'll encounter is having to stick a disc into the tray every time you want to check something in the manual: It's available only on CD, not in paper form.

The ChemBook 2070's well-designed panel of media buttons makes playing DVDs and CDs effortless whether the notebook is turned on or off.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Has high resolution (1680 by 1050) and makes a fine stand-alone CD and DVD player. TV tuner is optional.

    Pros

    • Has a high resolution screen

    Cons

    • System manual is CD-based
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