capsule review

Micro Express JHL9050 All-Purpose Laptop

At a Glance
  • Micro Express JHL9050

    PCWorld Rating

    Micro Express proves that looks aren't everything, delivering a solid notebook that burns past attractive competitors.

Micro Express has done it again. Following speed demons such as the JFL9226 and the IFL9025, the JHL9050 provides power and performance in spades. If only the company could iron out the lingering design faux pas, there'd be little to stop this unassuming $1199 all-purpose laptop from climbing to the top of the budget-notebook hill.

The JHL9050 comes equipped with Windows Vista Business; it's built for productivity, too, with 3GB of RAM and Intel's Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz T9550 processor. Impressive hardware begets impressive WorldBench 6 scores: It earned a mark of 110 during our litany of tests. In battery-life tests, it lasted 3 hours, 23 minutes--about the average for all-purpose laptops we've played with in the labs.

Powered by a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650, this portable will help you achieve some of your gaming aspirations. Unreal Tournament 3, for instance, posted a respectable 65 frames per second when running at a resolution of 1024 by 768 in our tests. Compare that with the marks of the MSI GT627, another 15-inch, game-ready laptop. That $1150 portable scored within the same range (it nailed 62 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 and snagged a respectable 101 in WorldBench 6).

Micro Express's laptop pulls ahead of the MSI, however, thanks to a slightly higher screen resolution. The JHL9050's 15-inch screen runs at a movie-buff-friendly 1366 by 768 resolution. (MSI, did you really think a gaming rig with a 1280-by-800-pixel resolution was a good idea?) The screen of the JHL9050 remains bright and crisp whether you're in a low-light environment or in a typical fluorescent-lit office; it's even usable outdoors, though direct sunlight can produce a bit of glare.

If you're looking to get some work done, the keyboard won't disappoint--much. The keys are quiet, and while some of them might feel a bit small, typing is easy. The trackpad isn't quite the same story. It's large and responsive, which is good, but it's also flush with the keyboard, making accidental text-selection or cursor activation an annoyingly frequent occurrence.

The speakers work, so long as you aren't expecting aural bliss. They're loud enough, and while the sound isn't generous in the bass department, it isn't tinny, either--it's fine for casual listening, but keep a pair of headphones handy.

As is par for the course for Micro Express, everything is accessible, but the JHL9050 won't be taking home any design awards. It smacks of "generic box," but at least the company tries to load it with features to make you feel like you're getting your money's worth.

As far as hardware and expansion slots are concerned, all of the important bits are present. You get a Webcam, four USB ports, VGA and HDMI ports, an SD Card reader, and an ExpressCard slot. The headphone and microphone jacks are planted in the front, but for the most part things seem tacked on wherever they could fit.

Other notable items include a a Blu-ray drive, a biometric fingerprint reader, and a handy function that lets you charge your USB gadgets even if the laptop is off. If you're the type who likes to tinker, a few readily accessible screws are all that stands between you and the laptop's innards.

Beyond the CyberLink DVD application that seems to accompany any electronic device with a screen, the only software bundled with the JHL9050 is the Program DJ suite, which is mapped to the laptop's three shortcut keys. You're better off avoiding those buttons altogether, though. The first shortcut button offers instant access to a number of video profiles, in case you need to reach color saturation presets on the fly. The second button provides generic audio-equalizer settings, while the third fires up an applet that gives you quick access to the first two shortcut buttons, a wireless switch that needs to work in conjunction with the hardware switch, and the Green Charger. That last application allows you to choose whether to charge your battery to full, 75 percent, or 50 percent, with the spurious aim of extending your battery life. (All of the bundled apps are also in dire need of a grammar checker, and in some cases a spelling checker, but that's just nitpicking.)

Micro Express's JHL9050 is a solid all-purpose laptop. It has a few flaws, but if you're big on portability and power, and you aren't fazed by a lackluster design philosophy, you could do worse.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Micro Express proves that looks aren't everything, delivering a solid notebook that burns past attractive competitors.

    Pros

    • Beefy hardware in a quiet package
    • Plenty of Ports

    Cons

    • Shortcut keys aren't very useful
    • Frustrating touchpad
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