capsule review

WinBook X512

At a Glance
  • WinBook X512

    PCWorld Rating

    Inexpensive unit has an elegant Media Center Edition knockoff app and makes a dandy stand-alone DVD player.

WinBook X512
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The $1098 WinBook X512 is a "decontented" version of the $1599 WinBook X540 (which we reviewed in March), with half the RAM, half the storage, a slightly slower processor, and a CD burner instead of a DVD burner. It has all of the X540's other features, however, and costs considerably less (as low as $749--without business applications--in some stores such as Micro Center).

A thin-and-light black unit with a silver lid, the X512 weighs 4.6 pounds, not including a power adapter. It comes with an attractive 12.1-inch WXGA wide screen, a good keyboard and one of the nicest knockoffs of the Windows Media Center Edition interface I've seen. Pressing the keyboard's sole quick-launch button, the "P" (for Power Cinema), launches a blue-hued revolving menu that offers many of the same choices as Media Center. You can watch DVDs, listen to CDs, or view a slide show of your digital photographs without turning on the notebook. The X512's stereo speakers tend to distort at high volume, and there are no media buttons, not even for volume. Everything is controlled by the keyboard.

The X512 boasts a four-in-one card reader, a FireWire port, and a TV-out port. There is a USB 2.0 port for temporary plug-ins on either side of the case, and a bonus third USB 2.0 port for connecting a mouse or keyboard sits on the back behind a removable cover. Both memory slots and the 40GB hard drive are user-upgradable; you have to remove nine small screws from the bottom of the notebook to reach their shared compartment.

The 1.5-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M715-equipped X512 acquitted itself well on our performance test suite, earning a WorldBench 5 score of 67. The rear-mounted battery lasted a slightly above-average 3 hours and 24 minutes on one charge. For more oomph, you can add 512MB of RAM to the laptop's standard 256MB for an extra $200.

A shell of its former self, WinBook's once excellent printed user manual now serves mostly as a thin reference to details available only in the Windows Help and Support Center. All of the features are well covered there, however, and information is easy to find.

Looking for a nice back-to-school laptop or an inexpensive entertainment unit to go with a set of speakers? The WinBook X512 fills the bill.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Inexpensive unit has an elegant Media Center Edition knockoff app and makes a dandy stand-alone DVD player.

    Pros

    • Inexpensive and lightweight

    Cons

    • Unremarkable design
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