capsule review

Micro Express P50CA

At a Glance
  • Micro Express P50CA

    PCWorld Rating

Micro Express P50CA
Photograph: Chris Manners

Packed with 2GB of RAM and a top-of-the-line AMD processor, the XP Home-based Micro Express P50CA is one of the fastest mainstream notebooks on the market.

With a WorldBench 5 score of 105, our 2-GHz Turion 64 MT-40-equipped P50CA felll just one point short of the mark posted by our current record holder, an Alienware Aurora m7700 notebook equipped with an AMD 64 X2 4800+ dual-core desktop chip.

On the downside, the P50CA's battery life was abysmal. The six-cell rear-mounted power pack lasted just 1.7 hours in our tests. That means you won't be spending any plug-free afternoons lounging at the Internet cafe with this notebook.

Still, the $1399 (as of April 18, 2006) P50CA is reasonably priced and nice looking, including a silver lid and a black-grooved accent panel. The 7.1-pound unit has an attractive 15.4-inch WXGA screen, supported by a reasonably good graphics subsystem that features an ATI Mobility X700 video card with 128MB of dedicated RAM. The sound is fair, although the onboard subwoofer yielded somewhat weak bass.

The unit's keyboard features some extras: four application-launch buttons and a touchpad lock that disables the cursor for hassle-free typing. (With the touchpad not locked, I accidentally repositioned the cursor more often than on most other notebooks.)

The fixed multiformat DVD drive is joined by a volume wheel and a combination headphones-S/PDIF-out port on the left. Micro Express provides USB ports on both sides, with a FireWire port, a TV-out port and a four-in-one media-card reader on the right side of the case. A front on/off switch makes controlling Wi-Fi wireless communications a breeze. (Built-in Bluetooth is not an option.)

The P50CA offers an ExpressCard slot to accommodate those next-generation add-in cards. It also replaces the legacy VGA port with a DVI-I port, which supports older analog monitors (if you add an adapter) and newer digital flat-panel monitors.

Upgrading this machine is possible, though not especially convenient. Reaching either the hard drive (80GB in our unit) or the RAM slots entails removing six small, easy-to-fumble bottom screws. For desktop cable management, you must rely on third-party USB port replicators.

The least attractive aspect of the P50CA, other than its battery life, is its user manual, which is scattered over eight PDF files. The documents are numbered instead of being named with a descriptive term such as "battery" or "troubleshooting," so you can't tell what they contain until you open them. Micro Express says that a new manual is in the works and will consist of a single indexed Acrobat document.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    One of the fastest value notebooks we've tested, this attractive machine suffers from poor battery life.

    Pros

    • Scorching speed
    • Touchpad lock

    Cons

    • Awful battery life
    • Disjointed user manual
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