A stylish notebook that won't leave the piggy bank too empty.
For a budget notebook, the Versa scores high on looks, and is not dissimilar to Packard Bell's stylish EasyNote devices which typically cost twice the price. To the astute observer though, this won't be a surprise as NEC is Packard Bell's parent company.
The Versa has borrowed the looks of some of the finest notebooks around but it hasn't done the same with performance and features. A notebook PC at this price is almost certain to have some limitations.
Although it looks like a sleek piece of work, the Versa is actually quite a bulky notebook. You can accomplish office tasks with ease though, courtesy of an 800MHz Intel Celeron processor and 128Mb of memory.
The bundled Microsoft Word and Money software packages will get you tapping at the pleasant-to-use keyboard, while the 14.1in TFT screen is a generous size for the price. Picture quality is very good but the big screen adds weight, meaning it's not an ideal machine to ferry around.
Even the smartest notebooks struggle to produce any sort of 3D graphics performance and the budget NEC is no different in this respect. It is not suitable for anything other than the very simplest games or after work distractions.
Similarly, the 10Gb hard disk isn't vast but this is not a computer designed to push the boundaries of multimedia. For simple office work, internet surfing and such like, it's perfectly adequate.
A more serious limitation is the lack of DVDRom and CD-RW drives. You'll have to be content with a CDRom drive. The only removable storage comes in the form of the venerable floppy disk, which is no good for anything other than the smallest files you may wish to transfer. This is not a big criticism of NEC, simply an indication of why you shouldn't expect too much at this end of the price range.
Getting down to fundamentals, the battery life of around one hour is not great. Surely people will be reluctant to use it for any important or potentially time consuming tasks away from a mains socket. On a happier note, the Versa scores well in terms of connectivity. The usual assortment of serial and parallel ports are ready to use if you desire, as is a single PS/2 port for hooking up a desktop mouse or keyboard.
It has two Type II PC card slots or one Type III slot if you prefer, as well as an infrared port. This is great if you want to use infrared devices such as a mobile phones and digital cameras with the notebook.
Two USB ports - which are ideal for connecting peripherals as wide ranging as printers, scanners and joysticks - continue this theme. Rounding off the admirable connectivity, there is a built-in modem so hooking up to the internet is a simple operation.
Whether you like it or not, the Versa Premium has a deeply unexciting specification. That said, it's not a bad buy at this price. It does everything that you would expect from a basic desktop PC but offers portability and good looks to boot.
If the lack of frills doesn't bother you in the slightest, it represents a decent budget buy. If, on the other hand, such spartan computing doesn't appeal, save up an extra few pennies and treat yourself to something a little more special.
Contact: NEC 0870 010 6322 www.nec-online.co.uk
Also consider: Gateway Solo 1150 SE
A budget notebook whose distinctive looks won't be to everyone's taste. £1,099.
A sturdy but sleek notebook which is adequate for the price. It's limited to office-type tasks, and is Windows 98 compatible only, but it's still a very capable machine.
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