NEC Versa SXi – Hardware Review – Evaluation
Bonny L. Georgia
* Configuration: Win 98 SE, 650MHz Pentium III with SpeedStep, 64MB of SDRAM, 6GB hard disk, 14.1-inch active-matrix display, 24x CD-ROM, 56Kbps modem * List Price: $2,999 * Manufacturer: NEC Computers Inc., 888-632-8701, www.nec-computers.com
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WEIGHING IN AT JUST OVER 6 POUNDS, NEC’s Versa SXi notebook is a solid mix of power and portability. The system sports one of Intel’s new SpeedStep-enhanced Pentium III processors, which runs at 650MHz on AC power and 550MHz when using the battery to save a crucial few minutes of juice. You don’t get any preinstalled software except Windows, but the SXi dutifully navigated every Web-browsing, e-mail, Microsoft Office 2000, and QuickBooks 2000 task we threw at it without breaking stride.
New to this model is the VersaBay III drive bay, which holds the 24x CD-ROM and is hot-swappable with an included floppy drive (in other words, you can’t use both at once). The system’s flexibility is further enhanced by other VersaBay options, including an Imation LS-120 drive, DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives, and a second hard disk.
Another highlight is the 14.1-inch screen, backed by an 8MB ATI Rage graphics accelerator. At 1,024 by 768 resolution with 32-bit color, the picture is stunningly crisp. Such a terrific screen begs to be used for flashy multimedia presentations, but a configuration glitch in our beta test unit caused the speakers to remain silent.
NEC’s decision to offer either an internal modem or internal Ethernet card–in but not both–seems cheap. Road warriors and teleworkers often need both types of connectivity, and would prefer not to have to sacrifice a PC Card slot for one.
We were also frustrated with the NEC’s keyboard; though the keys are comfortably full-size, the layout is questionable (the Delete key, for example, is tucked beneath the right Shift key). Worse, our unit’s touch pad was jerky and its buttons unresponsive.
Beta bugs aside, the Versa SXi is a svelte, above-average performer that can handle anything you dish out, at or away from your home office, with style.
[pros] Big, beautiful screen; smart hot-swap bay
[cons] Jittery touch pad; odd keyboard layout; lacks connectivity
HOME OFFICE COMPUTING rates products on a scale of 1 to 10–with few 9’s or 10’s–based on value, performance, innovation (medals go to rare standouts in these areas), ease of use, and suitability for home offices. The [pros] and [cons] symbols indicate pros and cons.
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