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Asus A53S Battery

If you need more battery life you can put an extra one in the media bay, but this will mean losing your DVD/CD drive and will also add extra weight. You can of course purchase extra batteries, but when carrying these around you’re not as mobile.It might seem like I’ve griped a bit about the 600m, but overall I think it’s an okay notebook, certainly considering the price I got it for ($1,028) it’s an incredible deal. I’m a fan of the form factor, thin and light with good performance is the way to go when buying notebooks, I think more and more people will look towards buying this type of notebook as the months and years roll on. The look of the 600m is decent too, you won’t be the ugly duckling in the room with this notebook. I would recommend the Inspiron 600m to students that want a light notebook good for campus and at a reasonable price to performance ratio. Mobile professionals might like this too, although I’d urge you to look at notebooks such as the ThinkPad T42, Toshiba Tecra M2 or Fujitsu S6000 before taking the plunge with the 600m.

After browsing around for a couple of weeks looking for a replacement all-rounder laptop that’s capable of handling development applications and database management systems (such as WSAD, SQL Server and DB2) simultaneously — and also for playing the odd game (such as Half Life 2 or Winning Eleven 8) I stumbled upon the Gateway 7426GX at J&R (an electronics retail store in New York and with an online presence at specs for the Gateway 7426 immediately caught my attention, and upon seeing the price of this notebook I was immediately sold (how many sub $1,700 notebooks include 1GB RAM, a dedicated video card and a 64 bit processor?).

In terms of looks, this Gateway laptop does not fare that well against competing beauties such as the Toshiba Qosmio E15-AV101 or the Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (the latter has a beautiful screen, probably built by God himself). I might have actually picked up the Fujitsu N3510 if it had a better video card or the Toshiba Qosmio if it had a higher resolution screen than what it offers. But after vigorously reminding myself that looks aren’t everything, I went off to a Best Buy store (where they had the 7426 for about $150 cheaper than J&R) and picked up this laptop up for $1399.

+ On initial boot up of this Gateway, I was highly impressed with the screen quality. Though not as awe-inspiring as the Fujitsu N3510, the display certainly looks better than most common CRT displays I have worked with in the past. The reflectivity characteristic of the screen (it’s of the glossy style) is not an issue unless you plan on working outside in the sunlight, or with a bright light directly to your back – in either case, a regular LCD screen would be almost as useless, so there’s no point in complaining about too much about that. The 1280 x 800 resolution is perfect for the screen size (a higher resolution would have made text difficult to read on regular settings). The screen was also devoid of any dead pixels which is certainly a nice thing. I’ve never had dead pixels on any of my laptops, but from the number of people who complain about them, I was rather worried I’d become a statistic!

+ The build quality for the Gateway 7426 is solid. The keyboard has good tactile response and the reflective material used on the side panels look good (though they tend to smudge with fingerprints easily). The blue lights are also a nifty touch (with the one at the front being more of a shade of purple). I had heard of hinge problems with laptops with similar shells, however the hinges here feel nicely stable and solid. The touchpad has a classy and solid feel to it and is adequately responsive.

+ The sound quality is above average after some equalizer tweaking (the initial settings border on tinny, and is not helped by the speaker positioning). The included AC97 configuration software should be able to configure sound to the satisfaction of many. Audiophiles should get an external speaker system or use a decent pair of headphones.

- Packaging BLANK CD’s and asking you to back up your pre-installed programs yourself is idiotic and lazy on the part of Gateway. How much more would it have cost them to simply provide a single recovery DVD, rather than giving you 5 blank CDR’s? At the very least, a CD/DVD with hardware drivers should have been provided. I am definitely not a fan of recovery-hard drive partitions (when a company places recovery files and programs on your hard drive instead of on included disks). When I buy a laptop with a hard drive specified as being 100GB, I expect all of that to be usable and not taken up by “recovery files” (I’ll accept lost space due to necessary file system overhead and other such things of course). Here’s the worst part with this “recovery” implementation Gateway provided, the first of the provided CDR’s I attempted to backup on failed! I was initially worried that my drive was bad, but all other attempts using my own CDR’s worked fine. So in addition to not providing recovery CD’s, the CDR’s Gateway does provide are apparently substandard and didn’t work for writing to with the actual laptop you bought.

Gateway’s “Recovery CDs” are blank CD-Rs coupled with instructions on how to back up your laptop, or rather “Here’s the horse, Sam. Go plough them fields yerself” (view larger image)- A distressing number of applications all decided they wanted to be active on boot up of the 7426. Ever-present and ever-useless AOL is here as usual, as is the virus-like MSN messenger which is adept at enabling itself for startup even after it is specifically disabled. Strangely enough, MSN Messenger was not available for removal under the control panel. Undaunted, I simply wiped out a couple of file directories and edited the system registry directly to kill MSN messenger from ever deciding it wanted to come back (by the way, you should not attempt to do this yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing, things could get ugly).

- The space bar is too short for my full approval and the function key is poorly placed. In addition, why are there plastic placeholders for the card reader slots instead of spring loaded door covers (like the one over the PC card slot) ?! Normally I format new laptops immediately – without even booting into the current operating system – and install my own OS and software. However, as my software along with most of my worldly possessions are still miles away in another state, I have to make do with the pre-installed OS for now. This was a blessing in disguise, as I would have been stuck without any recovery media thanks to Gateway’s “backup” scheme. So if you plan on doing this remember to backup immediately after first boot (it actually prompts you to do so).

The Eee PC with Windows solves two of the key complaints about the original Eee PC 4G. Adding Windows XP and an extra 4GB SDHC card make this notebook much more attractive to most consumers who need a low-priced notebook that can go everywhere with them.Although I understand the realities dictating retail price, the Eee PC is already dangerously close to being too expensive for what you get. The original $399 price point is great, but some retailers are selling the new Eee PC with Windows XP for $469. Once we get to $500 most consumers would be better off buying a budget 15-inch notebook and living with the inconvenience of the larger size. The Eee PC is still a great choice for people who want a low-cost travel companion, but the key element to the Eee PC’s success has been the low price. The Eee PC concept likely won’t succeed if Asus or retailers keep increasing the price.

Overall, the Eee PC 4G with Windows is a great deal for anyone who was considering the purchase of the original Eee PC and buying Windows separately. If you’re the type of person who wants a low-cost ultraportable notebook the Eee PC is still the king of the hill.! The inclusion of Windows XP Home instead of Pro with this was an uninspired decision by Gateway, I think most people (including myself) wouldn’t have been opposed to paying some extra bucks for a higher end OS. Although I admit this laptop is supposed to be targeted more towards gamers who would not really benefit from Pro over Home (which makes inclusion of a 9600 as opposed to a higher end card a bit puzzling, albeit partially justified by the low final cost).

+ From a business usage standpoint, the performance of this machine has been excellent so far. It runs the memory-grabbing WSAD 5.1 as well as DB2 8.2 and MySQL simultaneously without skipping a beat. So far, I haven’t suffered from any periods of unresponsiveness or stalls as I frequently did with my ThinkPad R31 notebook, not to mention my pathetic Sony VAIO SR33. The hard drive speed of the laptop (4200RPM) has not been an issue for me on any occasion so far, although I plan to upgrade (just as soon as I find a decently priced 100GB 7200RPM drive!). I haven’t had a chance to fully gauge this machine’s battery life, but average usage for 1 1/2 hours cut my battery to about 50%. Not stellar, but suits my needs well enough.

However, not everything is perfect. One thing I noticed was that the keyboard was not level. The left part of the spacebar and the right arrow key are raised a millimeter or two above the rest of the keys. It isn’t nearly as bad as the warped keyboard on my N3530, and is probably a problem that is isolated to this unit. Another minor cosmetic flaw is that the back of the notebook doesn’t look very nice due to the missing ports. In place of the ports, there are black rubber covers that aren’t that appealing. But again, it isn’t a huge deal.

As for the build quality, the UX feels very solid. From what I have been told, the only two areas that lack the magnesium alloy are the palm rests and the plastic frame around the LCD (note: the back of the LCD does have magnesium alloy, and the difference in material is visibly noticeable). The main reason for not including magnesium alloy in the palm rests was to avoid the shock problem that has been documented with the Sony SZ series. Anyway, there seems to be very little flex. If I put a decent amount of pressure on the palm rest, there is minimal amount of flex of maybe a millimeter or two. There is noticeable flex on the LCD, but not to the point where I would feel it would be problematic. If you press hard enough, you can produce a small ripple one the upper portion of the screen. The hinges on this notebook feel sturdy. When I shake the notebook, the screen does not wobble.

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