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And Then We Have the LCDs…

We can count the number of inexpensive netbooks/ultraportables with high quality displays that we’ve tested on one hand: ASUS 1001P, ASUS 1005HA, and if you want to stretch things a bit, the MacBook Pro 13. Everything else ranges from average to poor, and the MSI and Sony laptops we’re looking at today definitely come closer to “poor” than “average”. If you’ve never felt hampered by laptop display quality, it won’t matter, but if you’re hoping for something better just move along.

Laptop LCD Quality - Contrast

Laptop LCD Quality - White

Laptop LCD Quality - Black

Laptop LCD Quality - Color Accuracy

Laptop LCD Quality - Color Gamut


MSI X370 Gamut


Sony VAIO YB Gamut

Sony actually does slightly better than the other two E-350 laptops in contrast ratio, but that’s about as good as it gets. HP wins for raw maximum brightness, still falling short of 300 nits (cd/m2); MSI is the second brightest and Sony is third, so despite the higher contrast it comes at the cost of outdoor usability. Given the portable nature of these laptops, we’d really like to see backlight intensity closer to the 400 nits posted by the MacBook Pro 13—yes, it will reduce battery life, but if you’re at a park (i.e. outdoors) that’s a fair tradeoff. Color gamut and accuracy are all poor across the three Brazos laptops: 40-43% gamut and 2.6 to 2.9 Delta E (after calibration!) will not win any fans around here. When you have companies like ASUS saying they’ll put IPS panels in $400 tablets, we’re not sure how much more it would cost to go from junk panels to something decent, but it can’t be more than $50. Please, make it happen.

Battery Life and Temperatures Two More Brazos Laptops, but Only One Winner
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  • Gigantopithecus - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    It will be interesting to see if MSI offers the X370 in the North American market; though at $700+, I can't imagine why you'd want to buy it. MSI isn't exactly known for the build quality of its netbooks, and their logo on something this thin makes me very leery.

    I've not handled a YB so I appreciate your comments regarding its keyboard. You don't paint a particularly compelling picture, especially since the Lenovo X120E and HP DM1Z both offer very solid keyboards. Again, it has a Sony logo on it...but is that logo worth hundreds of dollars?

    I'm not sure whether these even have WWAN slots, but if they do, would you mind checking to see if they support mSATA drives? That feature on a Brazos netbook would be very groovy...
    Reply
  • Arnulf - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Thank you for testing those older game titles ! Reply
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Good to know i can do some mining while on the go for cheap, My habit is usually to find a mountain and make myself a nice cave with an extensive mine system. This type of laptop will be perfect for me because I don't go outside much anyway. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Mining is very important!

    .)

    I like to go straight down in a cylindrical path until I hit bedrock and then move out from there. All the good stuff is deep in the ground.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    two cubical pervs, yuck Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    These two offer some overclocking features, USB 3.0 and a not-so-big-not-so-small form factor (12.1''). Can't wait for their shipment. Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Will user experience be significantly improved? Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    That article is still in work, but the page 1 text says that any current SSD will help. Reply
  • ninjackn - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Maybe I was expecting too much but I shoved an ocz agility into my acer 1410 (with a su2300) and didn't really notice much. It booted faster but I generally sleep/resume so it was hard for me to notice any significant differences. Reply
  • Quizzical - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I've got an Acer Aspire 5253-BZ602 (upgraded with a 64 GB SSD and 4 GB of memory), which isn't one of the models reviewed here, but it should be roughly equivalent for gaming performance, as it is based on the same Zacate E-350 APU.

    I think the processor is likely to be the dominant factor in whether games can run smoothly. Usually, if the video card isn't terribly powerful, you can turn down video settings and be fine. (Well, within reason; people who buy a GeForce 6150 SE from Wal-Mart today are likely to be disappointed.) But if it's a processor bottleneck, you're stuck.

    I tried running Guild Wars, and it ran nearly the same as it does on my desktop (capped by vsync), and at nearly the same settings (shadows off because they're annoying, everything else in game maxed, including anti-aliasing, but 1366x768 resolution instead of 1280x1024). Of course, Guild Wars is so light on processor usage that my desktop processor declares itself idle and downclocks while the game is running, and without affecting performance. The bigger impediment to gameplay was that a monitor resolution a meager 768 pixels high is awkward with the default UI, though that's adjustable.

    I also tried Champions Online, which is known to be a lot more processor intensive. Even at extremely low graphical settings (safe mode in the launcher, /renderscale 0.1 for an effective resolution of 137x77), it was stuck at about 20 frames per second. I could turn up video settings quite a bit from there without the frame rate budging much.

    I don't like the idea of Civilization 4 on a netbook, though. Even my desktop Core i7 doesn't run the game that well--and not nearly as well as my old Pentium II ran Civ 2. It's a processor issue, not a graphics issue; the game can render smoothly at high settings on a Radeon X1300 Pro. Civ 4 only proves that no matter how fast your hardware is, a sufficiently badly coded game can still run poorly.

    So I'd expect that one proxy for whether the Zacate E-350 APU can run a game smoothly is whether a high end desktop can hit 200 frames per second or so at low settings, without running into a processor bottleneck first.
    Reply

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