This first 2GHz Pentium 4 notebook offers cutting-edge power and portability.
Looking for an alternative to that PC mountain of beige plastic and tangle of wires on your desktop, but concerned you'll lose the speed and flexibility of a regular PC system? Hi-Grade thinks it has the answer in its Ultinote M6400-2000-1, the UK's fastest notebook with all the power of a Pentium 4 processor.
The 2GHz chip inside this machine isn't Intel's new mobile Pentium 4: that is due for release later this year. In fact, it is a special low-powered version of the desktop Northwood chip we looked at in the last issue.
It is produced using the same 0.13micron process, and has the same 512Kb of Level 2 cache. It only consumes 44w of power, however, compared to 60w of the proper desktop version.
Intel says the chip is supposed to be used inside small form factor PCs, but its lower power consumption also means that it is suitable for use in a notebook.
Despite its lower power consumption, the chip is nowhere near the 22w of the fastest mobile Pentium III, which partly explains the massive metal slab, copper heatsink, two copper heat pipes and fan needed to cool the chip.
The fan is quiet, however, and, although the notebook got warm after a while, it can't be described as a lap-burner. It also explains why, despite being the size of a desktop replacement, Hi-Grade has only managed to fit a DVD/CD-RW combination drive, and no floppy. To make up for this, there's an external USB floppy in the box.
Memory & screen
The supporting chipset is the i845. The Ultinote comes with a hefty 512Mb of PC133 SD-Ram fitted as standard, but can be expanded up to 1Gb. There's also a 40Gb Hitachi hard drive.
You'll find a 14.1in TFT screen capable of a 1,024 x 768 resolution. Admittedly, it's not the best display we've ever seen, but the quality is more than adequate.
The graphics come from ATI in the shape of a Radeon Mobility M6-D with 16Mb of DDR graphics memory, although our pre-production machine only came with 8Mb. As a result, we opted not to run any 3D benchmarks as they wouldn't reveal the true performance of the final production machine.
Ports & speakers
At the front of the notebook is a mini FireWire port, as well as audio connectors. Sound is provided by an AC97 codec, but an interesting side note is that the line-out doubles as an S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) port, meaning you can get digital sound to go with DVD playback if you want to use the Ultinote as a DVD player.
There are also two built-in stereo speakers that come with external volume control. On the left side you'll find a single PC Card slot that can handle Type II PC Cards, as well as a 10/100Mbit-capable Ethernet port.
The remaining ports, consisting of a single monitor connector, parallel port, two USB ports, phone socket for the built-in 56K modem, and an S-Video connector for TV-out, are at the back. The Ultinote lacks a serial port, but with USB ports and built-in modems they're no longer essential these days.
The keyboard is one of the better ones we've seen from a Hi-Grade notebook, with a manageable layout for most, depending on your taste. The touchpad responsiveness is fine and it comes with an extra jog button to facilitate scrolling.
The Ultinote lasted for one hour 24 minutes in our intensive battery test. You'll get more than this in ordinary use, but it's pretty obvious from the results that this is not a mobile processor.
What you sacrifice in battery life, however, you more than make up for in performance. With a Sysmark score of 168, this is far and away the fastest notebook we've seen. When the mobile Pentium 4 is launched, this may change, although the rumours are that the mobile chip will be slower then 2GHz at launch.
Windows XP Home Edition is pre-loaded, along with copies of Works Suite 2002, McAfee Antivirus and Power DVD, and there is a two-year collect and return warranty.
All things considered, it is certainly a good deal.
Hi-Grade: 0800 074 0403 www.higrade.com
The trade-off you make for a machine of this speed is that it is bulky for a two-spindle notebook, and the battery life could be better. If out-and-out performance is your main concern, however, this well-priced package is worth a look.
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