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Notebooks with a 13" diagonal. The testing of 11 models 
Published 2008/4/22
Article Rated: 5.50

First portable PCs with diagonal 13" appeared approximately two years ago, but the wide spread they, unfortunately, still have not got - in spite of all their advantages, the mass consumer so far gives a preference to the classical 14- and 12-inch models. It's hard to say what's the exact reason for that. Sooner the main role here play the established stereotypes and the fact that there's difficulties with accessibility of 13-inch laptops - among all the producers of alike notebooks the only one in its model row has more than two different models with matrix of such a type. Moreover, the companies whose production is possible to meet without problems on the shop shelves, in general may be counted with the fingers of one hand.

While the process of preparation to testing it was found out that only seven producers on our market propose alike decisions, from which in general we managed to collect only eleven available in retail models. On the one hand, the numeral is rather small. On the other - a group of ten devices is quite enough to do the choice if you want to buy 13-inch laptop. But there are quite enough reasons to give a preference exactly to such a type of screens. As we already mentioned repeatedly, the 13" notebooks present itself a certain golden mean between 12- and 14-inch portable PCs. From the first ones they have inherited the worthy mass-size characteristics and from the rest ones -the rich equipment and size of the screen, which will provide the possibility of the full-fledged work. The only negative side is a price. As all the niche devices, they are enough expensive - the cost practically doesn't lower below $1500 mark for the variant with good equipment. The situation is wholly natural - in the price range of $1500-2000 the buyer can already choose what to buy, and there're quite enough offers of classical type-size so it's possible to get exactly specialized notebooks for concrete tasks. But 13-inch laptops are basically oriented on those, who has to work much with mobile PC and herewith often move. Combining in itself the advantages of the products, inherent to the classes the joint which they are found on, these devices in total brilliantly manage with the role of multifunctional and at the same time really mobile computer. We are only to define, what exactly of submitted for our market devices of such a class are worth the most intent attention.

Models description

Apple MacBook

Apple MacBook

The first time we once we include in our consolidated testing the notebook from Apple - for today it's highly possible to install Windows XP on these laptops, so now we have a possibility not only to be limited by overview part, but also to value the results of the test. MacBook noticeably differs from the rest participants of the test - a body of milk-white colour with varnished covering, round forms, typical logotype of the company, big touchpad with one key and minimum possible interface connectors set. The last disheartens a bit - enough expensive modern mobile PC is equipped with only two USB 2.0 connectors, wall-plug, FireWire port and outputs on earphones and mike. There is also branded slot for D-sub, DVI and S-Video adapter connection. But there's no such in a set which is wholly in traditions of Apple - all possible extensions are for a fee. Strictly speaking, what concerns functionality - any modern budgetary model can boast much better functionality, to say nothing of rivals within the framework of class. In this case we won't concern the nuances of the work of branded Mac OS X, for this is interesting only to admirers of the mark, who will buy exactly Mac and nothing else without our advice. Let's note the only fact that though the installation of Win XP is wholly possible on the device (the system passed all the tests without problems) MacBook is not calculated to the work with it absolutely. But this is not surprising - Apple is not going to refuse Mac OS, which is successfully sold on the main sales market of its products. Amongst the inconveniences the impossibility to use the input device of full value - one touchpad key and its primitive driver after working in Mac OS X is simply irritating, the same to an extreme minimalism in plan of functionality (the absence of cardreader, output for external monitor connection, etc.). So the user of given device will have to carry not small set of additional accessories with himself, which obviously can't be referred to a positive moment. But if you are going to work exactly in Mac OS, and to use Windows only for games and software, which there isn't for Mac, then MacBook is a single choice. Blessing, it has many positive sides - an excellent display, in spite of small inexactnesses in color transmitting, splendid realized power supply unit, not having equal on ergonomics, and stylish appearance. In general, it can be recommended with confidence to those, who confess the principle Think Different. But if you are the PC user with good probation, weight all pro and contra: MacBook is quite another world with its own laws and traditions, and there's no fact that they will come on your taste.

ASUS

The ASUS company one of the first has presented notebook with display 13" on our market, and for today in its model row there are seven different devices with such a screen. Highly impressive numeral - nobody of rivals can boast like this, so it's even not surprising that in given testing there are three laptops exactly of this producer. With two of them our readers have already got acquianted - W7S was presented with updated platform from Intel, but R1F have been denoted another material so we'll remind only the main moments.

ASUS W7S

ASUS W7S is a universal mobile PC, differing by pleasing design and worthy equipment. The body is made in the dark tones - only thin silvery edging on the device sidebar and Web-camera's body are standing out. Ergonomics is also good - a full-fledged keyboard and ingenious interface connectors set, to the location of which there're no claims: everything is on hand. Noting the particularities it's possible to remark a suitable "semi-analogue" volume loudness control, combined with the key of enabling the sound muting mode. The matrix is highly worthy - aside from the good range of the brightness regulation and highlight equability, it is characterized also by good color transmitting of the flesh-colored tones. There're not many deficiencies - a small paleness of colours and average speed of reaction. However, the last will be actual for those, who love dinamic 3D-games. The most essential moment - equipped with NVIDIA GeForce 8400M G video accelerator, W7S is wholly able to manage with many modern games if we won't pay much attention to the quality of graphics.

ASUS R1F

R1F is the first and for now the only notebook-transformer in the model row of the company, but, however, it presents itself a good example of literately thought-out tablet. The most-favored way of its use is realized - R1F although is not ideal as a Tablet PC, but it can noticeably relieve the life to its owner during the trips and while working in tight conditions. The design is made in branded ASUS stiletto: the body of the black colour with a silvery edging, matted surfaces, aluminum insertions - everything corresponds to the high class of device. The interface connectors, aside from ExpressCard slot and a cardreader are taken out on the backboard - in the mode of the tablet they will not be blocked by the hand of the user and the most claimed keys and fingerprint scanner are located on the display frame that provides the free access to them. The main disadvantage - alike ports location brings to the row of inconveniences while desk using so at least one USB-port should have been taken out on the lateral panel. To the ingenious decisions it's possible to refer the optical drive with slot boot and double-sided fixative of the lid. The most important part of any Tablet PC is a display, and here ASUS has taken the optimum decision - has installed the classical matted matrix. There are few disadvantages - peculiar to many sensory displays light image nebulosity, low saturation of colours and small corners of the review by vertical. Sensory covering reacts only on stylus (inductive sensor) therefore the casual workouts at hand touching are expelled. Generally, as we've already noted, R1F is a very ingenious transformer and, on essences, the only available on our market with display of such a type-size that it just doesn't have rivals. The only that puts on the guard a bit is a great mass of notebook. Far not everybody will be able to work about 2,5 h (approximately such a autonomy R1F has under the average intensity of the work) with 2,3 kg device in hands.

The set is traditionally on the top - both laptops are supplied with neat branded bag for carrying (there's also the original slip cover with R1F), wireless optical mouse and rich set set of software.

ASUS U3S

With the third representative of ASUS, the model U3S, our readers still didn't get familiar with that's wholly understandable: the given notebooks are even not on the retail sales yet. This is the next representative of the mobile PC row with leather decorating - to all appearances, ASUS decided that such a laptop must be in each segment. Naturally, the popularity of alike decisions is rather high, and it's not at all strangely that under such attention of the producer exactly to 13-inch devices the image product appeared. The appearance is impressing - well familiar by the rest models of the company design is a bit freshed by such trivia as display lid with piano finish decorating, leather insertion on panels in front of the keyboard, metallic loops of display, stylish buttons of the power-up and the choice of energy saving mode. All these noticeably distinguish the novelty on the background of the rest ASUS products - although it is made in general stiletto with afore-cited W7S and R1F, but device is of quite other class. One of the particularities of U3S is an absence of the built-in optical drive (they have donated it for the sake of stiletto), due to this the notebook is a bit lighter, than the main mass of testing participants. The given defect is partly compensated by the presence of neat external DVD-RW-drive, which is connected to USB. The set of interface connectors is the richest in testing, aside from standard set, also includes HDMI-output and port eSATA. Moreover, in spite of HDMI presence, not forgetten the usual D-sub - the office projector owners should not search for its change.

ASUS U3S the only laptop in testing, equipped with HDMI and eSATA U3S embedded drive absense is partially compensated by external drive presence

The display wholly corresponds to the laptop class - transreflexive matrix, big range of the brightness regulation, color transmitting naturalness, good speed. To the defects we can refer only small lights on the black field, average saturation of colour and light clipping in light area of the scene. The main U3S appeal is a scheme with two video adapters - aside from usual built-in Intel GMA X3100, NVIDIA GeForce 8400M G also in presence. For the first time alike scheme was presented in devices from Sony and has proved itself well - if there's no need in quick graphics, it's possible to switch to integrated video and increase the time of work with the batteries. For the rest the equipment is typical for top office notebook - Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2,2 GHz) processor, RAM 1,5 GB, hard disk 160 GB, full set of network interfaces and other necessary miscellaneous like scanner fingerprint, built-in Web-camera, rich kit of software, etc. In total the novelty has all chances to occupy the place of one of the leader amongst devices of such type-size - there are not any equals to it on our market.

MSI

MSI MegaBook S310

Our reader is already familiar with 13-inch model from MSI , andsince that time they practically remained former. MegaBook PR300 is the further development of S300 models, configuration has only changed - the latest platform and at most possible equipment in our case. But here MegaBook S310 stays completely without change - AMD did not do any renovations of the platforms enough long so this is wholly normally. As we already mentioned earlier, the main advantage of 300 series is that by size and mass they do not differ from notebooks of the same producer with 12" diagonal. Design of the body is made in characteristic for MSI laptops style - a black matted plastic, big company logotype on the lid and typical form of battery, a bit raising the back part of device. Not forgotten the image version of MegaBook S300, the distinctive features of which is a glossy decorating of the lid "piano finish" and logotype decorated with Svarovski strasses.

MSI MegaBook PR300

The display are traditionally good - ingenious colours, big range of the brightness regulation, not bad speed. The main disadvantages are: small corner of the vertical review, colour transmitting theatricality and small defect of the gradient reflection of MegaBook S310. Kitting-up is former - device itself, bag for carrying, optical mouse and software set. The Version MegaBook S300 Crystal Collection is also delivered with Skype-tube and compact remote control. Strictly speaking, the main interest presents exactly MegaBook PR300 - it's the most modern model from 300 series. To the notebooks on the base CPU from AMD, here everything is a bit more difficult. They are considerably cheaper than PR300, but at the same time noticeably yield to it on speed and time of the autonomous work.

Samsung Q70

Samsung Q70

Q70 is the first 13-inch laptop of the company, made in spirit of the rest portable PC from Samsung - not bad forms and neat design without some bells and whistles. The only that dilutes the strict style is a varnished upper lid. The main which you pay attention to, is enough perceptible thickness and highly scanty kit of interface connectors. The wall-plug, FireWire, PCMCIA slot, only two USB 2.0 (one of which together with D-sub and modem wall-plug is hidden behind decorative lid, but the second is quite taken out on the back panel) - far from optimum set. Audio outputs and multiformat cardreader are located on the front panel - a disputable decision, but currently often meeting. Such an asceticism would be appropriate in budgetary model, but at all does not approach the device with such a cost. However, that must be enough for usual office work. Ergonomics is not ideal - unchancy ports location plus small keyboard with quite small softkeys and cursor controller block, so notebook will require some time for habituation, particularly if you had never worked with such ultra portable models. The display suits for work with office packages and Web - it does not please with its deep colours and color transmitting naturalness, but all the rest is in order. The equipment is sensibly sufficient - ligaments of CPU Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 (1,8 GHz), 1 GB RAM and NVIDIA GeForce 8400M G will be wholly enough not only for office using. Q70 can successfully manage with many modern games and for majority it is wholly enough. The battery is usual but, nevertheless, the place for it was not found - it sticks out in the back on 2 cm and this is under considerable thickness of the body. However, if not to pay attention to it, then en masse Samsung Q70 will be not bad replenishment in given sector of market, which specifically does not differ the variety of the models.

Sony VAIO VGN-SZ420QN

Sony VAIO VGN-SZ420QN

Sony rightfully occupies the place of technological leader amongst producers of light and compact notebooks and we've already written about SZ4 series devices (itc.ua/30819 and ko.itc.ua/26395). This is without a doubt the most modern laptop in test - coal plastic body, aluminum insertion of keyboard, typical for VAIO row design, rich equipment and splendid mass size features. What of that this is one of the most slim models in test, also it weighs much less, than many 12-inch laptops. Strictly speaking, by this parameter it starts to invade the territory of ultra portable mobile PC. We would particularly note the material of the body - rough coal plastic is not only pleasing to the touch, but is also proof to mechanical damages, unlike fashionable in recently varnished surfaces. Ergonomics is on the top - the amount and location of interface ports are optimum, the only shortage - the absence of built-in multiformat cardreader, but it is wholly compensated by the presence of external reader in format ExpressCard in kit of supply. Display is also good - it finely suits for both office problems and for work with photo/videomaterials. The only what's possible to nag to is the small inexactnesses of color transmitting. There is also known by predecessors scheme with two graphic adapters, moreover in Sony they decided not to chase for the novelties and installed the checked NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400, which does not yield in any characteristics, but even exceeds on speed the new GeForce Go 8400M G. Strictly speaking, people interested to gain VAIO VGN-SZ420QN can bemoan only on two things - considerable price and poor kitting-up. Nothing to do with the last - so the branded politics is, but concerning the cost, there is a variant: not so long ago Sony announced the row of devices of Sr-series with 13,3-inch displays, which are bigger and heavier, than representatives of the SZ model row, but herewith double cheaper. Unfortunately, at the time of undertaking the given test we didn't manage to find even though one notebook of CR series "alive", but we will surely get acquainted with them in detail as soon as such a possibility appears.

Toshiba

Toshiba Tecra M

There're two notebooks from Toshiba model row for present day with 13" display - Satellite U300 and Tecra M8. These are practically alike devices, which differ the particularities of appearance, positioning and equipment. Tecra M8 is a classical business-laptop, made with accustomed decorating in style black plus silver and with not bad ergonomics. Pleases the literate interface connectors location and more reasonable approach to their set - three USB 2.0 ports, network and modem wall-plugs, PCMCIA slot, D-sub, output on earphones and mike are located on the side of device. Only multiformat cardreader, FireWire connector and movable breaker of wireless network adapter. Out of pleasing trivialities it's possible to note the suitable analogue of loudness regulator, located close to audio outputs.

Toshiba Satellite U300

Satellite U300 is more oriented on home using or on the role of single universal device. However it does not much differ from Tecra M8. The navy blue upper lid with decorating piano finish, slot ExpressCard instead of PCMCIA, silvery keyboard and the row of additional keys for mediaplayer control - this is the whole list of external differences. There are some internal differences - double greater RAM volume, hard disk 160 GB and a bit smaller battery on capacity. The matrixes in notebooks are installed alike - not bad corners of review, good speed and saturated colours. To defects it's possible to refer observable clipping in the light area of images, unnatural color transmitting and high level of minimum brightness. It's wholly possible to put up with it if you do not use mobile PC in weakly illuminated premises and you are uncritical in correctness of color transmitting. The main defect of both laptops is a built-in graphic adapter. And if in case of Tecra M8 it is acceptable, then discrete video accelerator would be more appropriate for Satellite U300. Kitting-up is peculiar to Toshiba - there's nothing aside from the notebook itself, power supply unit and software. In total it's enough easy to choose from these two devices - you should clarify yourself with preferences and gain exactly that suits you optimally.

Prestigio Visconte 1300

Prestigio Visconte 1300

Visconte 1300 is the most available laptop in our test, moreover it's not simply available: in contrast to the main mass of test participants its cost almost double lower. The main question is how this is reached and what, strictly speaking, we are in total offered? Outwardly this is neat notebook, made in classical key - a dark body is aptly shaded by silvery display lid, the result of which is that device does not look too strictly. The absence os some excesses in design and very neat execution - the material of the body is selected finely. The plastic is qualitative and highly pleasing to touch - on tactile sensations while working with Visconte 1300 it rightfully occupies the second place after Sony that is more then worthy result. Ergonomics is well thought-out - the main interface connectors are located on the notebook sides, even taken out on the front panel audio outputs are maximally displaced to the left and do not create any problems with audio gadgets connection. There are no remarks to their set - three ports USB 2.0, FireWire, network and modem wall-plugs, S-Video output, PCMCIA slot, D-sub and multi format cardreader. Quite well - not so many rivals can boast major. There are no claims to equipment - for amount a bit exceeding $1000, is offered CPU Intel Core Duo T2050 (1,6 GHz), RAM 1 GB and hard disk 120 GB. The secret of economy is simple - the processor and chipset of previous generation, Bluetooth and discrete video adapter absence. All these, certainly, affect capacity, but not at all commensurate to the cost reduction. The only serious defect is display. It can be recommended only for office using - big level of minimum brightness, small vertical corner of review, observable inexactnesses of color transmitting and mediocre speed. Out of pleasing bonuses it's possible to note the presence in kit of branded bag for carrying and neat optical mouse. Prestigio Visconte 1300 will be an ingenious choice for those who want to buy the compact notebook for work, but 12" models do not approach because of too small sizes, but inexpensive 14-inch are not convenient on mass-size characteristics. Anyway in this price range there's no alternative.

Particularities of the test

This time we decided not to pay intent attention to the system-wide speed and we give results only in the test of archiving and PCMark05. It is connected with that reader has known it long ago about capacity of the last mobile platform from Intel, on which practically all the participants of test are built, since the given question we've taken up in detail. In connection with it the results of two tests - estimation of the system-wide speed and the velocity of CPU and memory ligament - are wholly enough to be defined with the leader within the framework of made tests.

Technical characteristics of notebooks

Much more intent attention we decided to pay to the notebook speed in 3D. It's good many of them are equipped with discrete graphic adapters. Exactly this is the main difference between 13-inch and 12-inch laptops - the last ones are practically always equipped by built-in graphics. Software set for estimation of capacity in 3D has changed a bit - out of syntetic tests 3DMark03 is present, for only it without problems runs on Windows Vista (3DMark06 for given device category would be too hard checkout), and two games - Unreal Tournament as a representative of multiplayer 3D-shooters and Far Cry as one of the heaviest for mobile PC single user games. Not forgotten the time of autonomous work. Battery Eater 05 will help to define, what notebook exactly will be an optimum choice if your priority is maximum autonomy.

Test results

It's possible to say about speed the only - all presented devices will manage without problems with any set of office problems. What concerns the leader of the test on system-wide capacity, then here the recipe of the maximum achievement is simple - it's a ligament of powerful CPU, sufficient volume of RAM and discrete graphics. Then go the models with built-in graphics, and finish test Prestigo Visconte 1300 and MSI MegaBook S310. If everything's clear with MSI, then the main problem of Visconte 1300 - not at all a platform (Sony VAIO VGN-SZ420QN with such a chipset in three of leaders) and also extremely unchancy choice of RAM. To all appearances, maximally inexpensive modules are installed that harmfully told on memory subsystem capacity and, as effect, on the general result. As to speed in 3D, that here surprised the leadership of Sony VAIO VGN-SZ420QN. What turned out to be, GeForce Go 7400 is much better, than one of its successors, GeForce Go 8400М G. Moreover, if in synthetics the last still was able to be in leaders then in real games GeForce Go 7400 left it far behind. The results of new Intel GMA X1300 pleased us, which with fresh version of drivers demonstrates the sufficient level of capacity for comfortable playing UT2004. Regrettably, this is not quite enough for more modern games, so for willing to waste time playing Far Cry and alike games only model with discrete video accelerator will suit.

The first place on the time of autonomous work is again Sony VAIO VGN-SZ420QN. Also we shall note that this is the only notebook, which under maximum loading managed to take the first place even in spite of activated discrete video adapter - all the rest leaders on time of autonomous work are equipped only by integrated graphics. Worth to pay attention on MSI MegaBook PR300 - very dignified results, moreover in both subtests.

One more essential moment - an operating system. Wht ever producers would tell about Windows Vista and its normal operation on modern mobile PC, all this is far from the truth that is very noticeably, when in test there is a pair amongst eleven models on usual Windows XP. If to reject aside Aero then for a usual user the difference between two data systems is minimum. But excessive Vista overloading by different, often just not actual services, negatively tells on the time of system response that is too noticeably if to execute the row of alike actions on similar by equipment laptops. Also remained the same the row of problems with software - many popular utilities and programs for XP still don't have any patches, providing their capacity to work under the new ОS. Moreover, for some of them they are not even planned. So if you are the user with length of service, move to Vista still requires the renovations as minimum of a part software that is not always possible and sensible. Certainly, you can turn off all the additional "trivialities" in Aero and take away the row of specifically officious services, but in total we shall simply come to that what we began with - trivial Windows XP. Certainly, move to Vista won't be avoided, but having the possibility of choice presently is still better to gain portable PC with previous version of ОS from Microsoft - that will save much of your time and probably money. Finally, nobody won't interrupt you to move to Vista then, when all the problems with compatibility are solved.

Summary

In spite of the fact that notebooks were selected rather different on features and equipment, issues of awarding our traditional prizes practically did not appear. The sign "Editorial staff choice: the best quality" rightfully gets Sony VAIO VGN-SZ420QN. This is without a doubt, the best in test, and if the facilities allow you to get it, you won't be disappointed by its aquisition. Besides, in SZ model row there are quite many variants of the equipment so it won't be a problem to select the model of your taste. The sign "Editorial staff choice: the best buy" gets MSI MegaBook PR300 - worthy results of autonomy, one of best in test correlation of price/quality and not bad on the yardsticks of the class display. Out of alternative variants it's possible to note Samsung Q70, which under equal cost is equipped with discrete video accelerator. But be ready for that you will have to put up with average on quality screen and minimalism in plan of amount of interface connectors. But if it's critical for you the presence of discrete graphic adapter, but you are not ready to donate the quality of display and functionality, pay attention to ASUS W7S - it's noticeably cheaper than Sony under cognate level of equipment. Worth noting also ASUS R1F - the only 13-inch Tablet PC on the market. Not less interesting Prestigio Visconte 1300 - a possibility of buying laptop 13" for amount a little bigger, than $1000 can only please. Considering the fact that it plays on the field of the budgetary models, it's possible to forgive not the best display and inadvertence with the choice of RAM supplier.

Generally summarizing, we can say that 13-inch notebooks class has already formed and the small quantity of offers is explained only that it is young enough and the consumer still didn't understand what exactly he is offered. He will certainly develop further, what unequivocally witness the appearance of the similar models about, for example Fujitsu Siemens and Sony, which we surely will get acquainted with as soon as we have such a possibility.




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