capsule review

Micro Express HEL8021

At a Glance
  • Micro Express HEL8021

    PCWorld Rating

The HEL8021 is a large, industrial-looking laptop finished in an oddly compelling combination of black, silver, and copper hues. It might not look like a red-hot speed demon, but that's exactly what it is: This 7-pound unit from Micro Express is our new notebook performance champ (as of 9/8/06).

Equipped with a 2.16-GHz Core Duo T2600 processor and 2GB of DDR2-667 SDRAM, the HEL8021 notched a WorldBench 5 score of 120, a new record. Its closest competitor is another Windows XP Home notebook with the same configuration, the HP Pavilion dv2000t, which scored 110. (You can buy the HEL8021 with a 2.33-GHz dual-core processor for an extra $299.) Its battery lasted a decent 2.9 hours on one charge, though other similarly equipped models have chugged along for longer.

Our $1399 (as of 9/8/06) review unit came well equipped for the price. The HEL8021 comes standard with a 15.4-inch WXGA screen, an nVidia GeForce Go 7600 video card, 256MB of dedicated DDR-SDRAM, a dual-format DVD drive, a two-in-one media slot, and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity with a front switch. Our unit also featured a fast, 7200-rpm, 80GB hard drive (up to 120GB and 5400 rpm is available). However, our configuration lacked integrated Bluetooth and bundled applications--Microsoft Works 2006, for example, costs an extra $99.

The keyboard could use improvement. It's overly bouncy, and its small barrel-shaped shortcut buttons are recessed too far to press easily. The integrated fingerprint reader is a nice extra, but its placement results in too much space between the mouse buttons.

My other beef is with the lack of hyperlinks and indexing in the on-screen user manual; every time I needed to find information, it was off to the search box. Expansion options are also not overly generous: The HEL8021's memory chips and hard drive are upgradable, but the company sells no docking accessories.

Despite the lack of extras, the HEL8021 offers plenty of power for almost any job.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This powerful, industrial-looking laptop has an uncomfortable keyboard.

    Pros

    • Blazing speed, distinctive look

    Cons

    • Bouncy keyboard is frustrating
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