Form over function
The DeskNote A901 looks like high-style camping gear, with its angular shell (available in yellow or blue) and gray highlights. The notebook's size (12.5 by 10.5 by 1.6 inches) and weight (5.8 pounds; 6.8 pounds with power supply) are typical for a mainstream laptop, but oddly enough, these specs don't include the external battery (more on that later).
If the DeskNote A901 looks sophisticated on the outside, it's anything but on the inside. PC Wave cut costs by equipping the system with older components, including a desktop Celeron processor running at 1.1GHz, a 10GB hard drive, and an integrated SiS 630 graphics controller that shares system memory. The system has one fixed optical drive--you can choose either an 8X DVD or a 24X CD-ROM drive--but it has no floppy. Nor does the DeskNote A901 have a PC Card slot, so you can forget about adding an external drive or any other peripherals unless they have a USB interface.
Available direct from PC Wave, the DeskNote A901 costs $1,139 with 128MB of RAM, a 14.1-inch LCD (1,024x768 resolution), the DVD drive, and Microsoft Windows XP Home. PC Wave snuck an extra 128MB of RAM into the system CNET Labs tested--presumably to give it a boost in our benchmark tests--even though the company currently doesn't list this configuration on its site. If you were to install it separately, a 128MB upgrade would add perhaps $40 to the total system price.
Battery outside the box
Instead of an internal battery, the DeskNote comes with an external "power subsystem," a 1.4-pound battery (8.3 by 3 by 1.3 inches) that plugs in between the notebook and the AC power supply. PC Wave describes this combination as an "uninterruptible power supply" and claims the battery will keep your unplugged A901 running for about an hour. In CNET's tests, however, this interruptible power supply dried up after an unacceptable 41 minutes.
Unfortunately, performance wasn't any better. In fact, the DeskNote A901 came in dead last when compared to similarly configured mainstream notebooks with mobile (not desktop) Celerons. For example, the Gateway Solo 1450SE, with a 1.2GHz processor, was 15.5 percent faster overall, and the Dell SmartStep 100N, with a 1.06GHz processor, was 17.5 percent faster.