capsule review

Micro Express Z3300

At a Glance
  • Micro Express Z3300

    PCWorld Rating

    This inexpensive notebook is the fastest ultraportable we've tested, but you can't upgrade the optical drive to a DVD burner.

Micro Express Z3300
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

The inexpensive Micro Express Z3300 is the fastest ultraportable we've tested, but it lacks other high-end features that would make it stand out in this category.

In its favor, the $1499 (as of 2/16/06) notebook weighs only 3.4 pounds, including a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination drive. The sturdy, compact case is an attractive charcoal color with black accents and includes a three-in-one media-card reader.

The 1GB of RAM, the maximum possible, is good for the price, and along with the 2.13-GHz Pentium M 770 processor it helped the Z3300 earn a blazing WorldBench 5 score of 99, tying with Micro Express's AMD Turion-powered N3320 as the fastest ultraportable we've tested.

You can get the Z3300 with only half the RAM--512MB comes built in--but if you decide to upgrade later, you'll be stuck hassling with a mini-DIMM that you have to secure in a tiny bottom compartment with screws instead of clips. The hard drive is easier to replace, despite having a long connector ribbon that you must carefully reposition.

The Z3300's screen is a 12.1-inch standard-aspect panel, not the wide-screen type most notebooks now feature. An integrated DVD writer is not an option, so you're limited to creating CDs.

The Z3300 had a disappointingly short battery life of just 2 hours, 12 minutes, the shortest time we've noted among current ultraportables. However, you can upgrade the rear-mounted three-cell battery with a $125 nine-cell replacement.

The semitransparent keyboard with partial-gap mouse buttons is easy to use except for paging up and down, which requires cumbersome combination keystrokes. Typical for an ultraportable, the Z3300's stereo speakers are unremarkable, but at least they don't lose volume when you switch from music CDs to DVD movies, as some other laptop speakers do.

The Micro Express Z3300 is an inexpensive notebook and the fastest ultraportable we've tested, but it suffers from a number of limitations that diminish its value.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This inexpensive notebook is the fastest ultraportable we've tested, but you can't upgrade the optical drive to a DVD burner.

    Pros

    • Attractive charcoal-colored case

    Cons

    • Memory tricky to upgrade
    • Imperfect keyboard
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