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Micro Express N570
Micro Express machines do one thing right: Deliver power at a relatively reasonable price. Everything goes by the wayside. Generic case, minimal software, bare-bones manual--the works (or the lack thereof). This time around, the company take a couple more steps in the right direction with the N570--a game-worthy desktop replacement laptop.
The N570 is actually light for its class: At a hair under 8.5 pounds, it's among the slimmer monster portables. Toshiba's X305 and the Eurocom Phantom-X, for example, tip the scales at around 12 pounds. (Not that I'd recommend dragging any of these lugtops around town.) Unfortunately, the N570 also has a sizable price tag: $2899, list. Yeah, that sounds like--and is--a lot, but when you start looking at what else is on the market in the same category, you're getting a relative bargain.
Like Toshiba's rig, The N570 packs similar goods under the hood. Not only does it have an Intel Core 2 Quad QX9300, but it also has 4GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTX revving with 1GB of RAM. This machine has more than enough power to run the newest games, and it also sprints through WorldBench 6 tests, scoring 109. But what really matters is how well it runs in games. In both Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III at high settings and 1680 by 1050 resolution, it scored well, notching 60 and 78 frames per second, respectively. Toshiba's X305, by comparison, scored a 52 and 75 in the same tests--but it costs over $1200 more. In more recent games, such as Crysis and Dawn of War II, it performed above 30 frames per second at the screen's native resolution of 1680 by 1050.
Now, while the large 17-inch screen is fantastic for gaming and large enough to view movies on for yourself or one other person, I wish that the resolution could be dialed up a little higher. Like the Toshiba X305, which also has the same resolution limitations, I'm left scratching my head. With a good GPU under the hood, why not support 1920 by 1080 resolution? As it is, that lower native resolution instantly rules out watching 1080p video on this thing. Still, with bright colors and a sharp image, I can deal. A word of warning: The glossy screen can be a little annoying if you're in an area with large amounts of sunlight.
The keyboard is nice and roomy, with plenty of space for even large-fingered people. And though having a 10 key on the board is nice for some functions, I would have much preferred using the space for more function buttons (ones, say, for opening media players, opening e-mail, or watching movies). After all, this feels like a media-centric computer, so such functions would have been much more useful than being able to more quickly do accounting. The pointing device is functional, but its textured surface bothered my fingers and always made me feel much more imprecise than smoother-surfaced touch pads I've used. However, if you're going to be using this machine a lot, especially for gaming, this probably won't matter much, because any gamer worth their salt will immediately plug in a mouse.
Around town, the N570 will turn heads--if only because the case closely resembles the layout, colors, and striping of some Gateway notebooks that have passed through the labs. The orange-and-black case is sleek-looking--so long as you don't touch it. The surface picks up fingerprints so fast that you better keep a rag around to keep CSI teams dusting for prints at bay. Despite its size, it only has three USB ports, but it has some nice bonus ports--one for HDMI, another for eSATA, and a 7-in-1 card-reading slot. The audio ports for headphones and microphones are easily accessible from the front, a feature that's appreciated if you're going to do lots of online gaming. Other notable features are the built-in microphone, Webcam, and fingerprint scanner, helpful for both Web conferencing and avoiding espionage.
Expansion and tinkering with the N570 is easy at times, and annoying at others. The optical drive is a breeze to remove, though might be limited in expansion as the door is not square-shaped. Getting to the guts of the machine entails removing 10 screws, but once you're in, you can easily access the RAM. The hard drive is also accessible at this point, but only if you want to deal with removing some heating pipes that block immediate access to it. And speaking of heat, while the N570 features several vents on the back and bottom of the machine, it still gets furiously hot if it's not on a smooth surface where it can easily ventilate.
Sound is certainly not this rig's strong point. The speakers make everything sound metallic, and thanks to their tiny size and location along the back sides of the machine, they are incredibly quiet. Even at full blast, you'll get really poor volume for watching movies or listening to music in your room, especially if there is any background sound. Here is one area where Toshiba still reigns supreme with its Qosmio X305. If you plan on using this as a desktop replacement, make sure you also invest in a solid set of desktop speakers. Similarly, the installed software is also at a bare minimum, so you're not getting any bang for your buck in that respect.
The N570 backs up its size with power, and it can comfortably replace most any gaming desktop out there, but its price tag is a little daunting. Sure, it is a solid performer and less expensive than some desktop replacements. But a number of others, such as Alienware's m17, are perfectly capable--and manage to cost about $900 less.
Micro Express N570
Micro Express' power-hungry -- but feature-starved -- desktop replacement delivers gaming goods but little else.
- Big, crisp 17-inch screen
- Good gaming-worthy keyboard
- Irritating touchpad
- Bad manual and meager software
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