capsule review

Micro Express IFL9025 Desktop Replacement Laptop

At a Glance
  • Micro Express IFL9025

    PCWorld Rating

The Micro Express IFL9025 is the first laptop we've tested with Intel's new Penryn notebook processor. Its speed results set a new record, its battery life was quite good, and the machine is a deal at only $1199 (as of 12/13/07).

The catch? Aside from Micro Express's perennially less-than-polished user documentation, there doesn't seem to be one. With this laptop, small offices and home offices can enjoy cutting-edge performance without bleeding green for once.

The IFL9025 seemed to deliver on the promise of Penryn, which Intel says is faster and uses less power thanks to a new 45-nanometer manufacturing process and a new advanced power-management state. Equipped with 2GB of RAM and the third-fastest chip in the new processor family, the 2.5-GHz Core 2 Duo T9300, our Windows Vista Business review unit pulled down a very impressive WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 97. That's the best score we've seen yet, and it's 18 percent faster than the average mark of 82 earned by 21 currently tested desktop replacement notebooks.

Only a handful of other laptops have scored in the nineties, and those were big portables equipped with desktop-class quad-core processors. Carrying an nVidia GeForce 8600M GT video card with 512MB of dedicated memory, the IFL9025 should be a good gaming notebook, and it did manage a well-above-average 120 frames per second in our Far Cry test. We could not, however, complete our other gaming test, which uses Doom 3, because a driver was not yet available; we'll update this review once we obtain a suitable driver and perform the test.

Battery life was 3.8 hours, about 12 minutes longer than the average of 3.6 hours the same group of laptops achieved.

The IFL9025 is an appealing-looking and reasonably well-designed 6.6-pound laptop with a glossy piano-black lid.  The dark case is slim and compact except for the 7200-mAh battery, which extends from the back of the unit a little. The system's 1280-by-800-pixel 15.4-inch screen could be a little brighter, but in general the components (such as the 200GB hard drive and ExpressCard/54 slot) are good for the price. The keyboard features a version of the increasingly popular touch-sensitive media membrane, including a terrific mute control that I didn't even have to touch to make work--just waving my hand over the control did the job.

You're good to go for all types of networking, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; only mobile broadband is missing. As of this writing, Micro Express was offering Bluetooth as a standard feature, but this promotion is discontinued as of mid-January (our unit did not have Bluetooth). Ordinarily, Bluetooth costs $29, according to Micro Express.

The company offers a fair number of configuration options for this unit, including other editions of the Vista and XP operating systems, a TV tuner ($100), and Microsoft Works ($99). The 2.6-GHz T9500 Penryn processor is also an option ($150).

Overall, the Micro Express IFL9025 sets new standards, and after trying it, we can't find anything too wrong with this first Penryn-equipped notebook out of the chute. Would-be early adopters who can't afford an expensive notebook: You're free to enjoy.

--Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Equipped with a new Intel Penryn processor, this laptop offers top mobile speed and better-than-decent features a low price.

    Pros

    • Fast next-gen Intel processor
    • Affordable

    Cons

    • Screen could be brighter
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