Systemax Pursuit 4155
It used to be that 1,000 bucks would get you a laptop stocked with previous-generation components and a mediocre feature set. But as the $999 Systemax Pursuit 4155 illustrates, a new wave of budget laptops stocked with current components and downright desirable features has hit the market. With an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, the Pursuit 4155 can handle any task from the typical home user, such as watching movies, burning CDs, and surfing the Web. The Systemax Pursuit 4155 is not alone in its capabilities: The Lenovo 3000 N100 offers a similar feature set and nearly identical components for the same price. We still think the Lenovo makes a great choice for small businesses, but the Pursuit 4155's gorgeous wide-screen display and built-in Webcam better suit budget-minded buyers who want a basic laptop for use primarily within their home.
For a budget laptop, the Systemax Pursuit 4155 feels surprisingly sturdy. Better suited for a desk than an airplane tray table--it measures 14.1 inches wide, 10.1 inches deep, and 1.4 inches thick--the Systemax is nevertheless of average size for a laptop with a 15.4-inch display. Both the Lenovo 3000 N100 (configured with the 15.4-inch screen option) and the Gateway NX570X have similar footprints. When it comes to weight, the Systemax is likewise average for a midsize laptop; it weighs 6.3 pounds alone and 7.3 with its compact AC adapter.
We simply love the Systemax Pursuit 4155's 15.4-inch wide-screen display. The 1,280x800 native resolution results in crisp graphics and images, especially for DVD playback. The screen is also remarkably bright (209 cd/m² in our Labs test), and its glossy coating makes colors pop without being annoyingly reflective. Above the display sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam and an accompanying microphone; image and sound quality weren't tops, but we thought them sufficient for video chats and Web conferencing. We particularly like the handy cover that slides over the Webcam when it's not in use.
One aspect of the Systemax Pursuit 4155 that does feel cheap is its keyboard. Its shallow key travel produced finger fatigue after typing for long stretches. And though the keyboard feels more stable than others we've found on superbudget models, it makes the fluttery sound of rattling plastic while you're typing--annoying, and not a problem you'll have with the Lenovo 3000 N100 or the Gateway NX570X. The laptop's touch pad and mouse buttons, however, are of a decent size and comfortable to use. We appreciate the pad's vertical scroll zone, though it wasn't always responsive. Above the keyboard sits a stylish reflective band that forms the backdrop for four programmable application-launch buttons. Because we watched so many DVDs on that beautiful screen, we were disappointed that the Systemax Pursuit 4155 lacks dedicated multimedia controls, forcing us to use Function keys even to control volume. Though the laptop's stereo speakers aren't capable of reaching high volumes, their sound quality was clear even at the loudest setting; we could definitely watch a movie without reaching for our headphones.
The Systemax Pursuit 4155's case includes the standard ports and connections for a budget system, plus a few extras you wouldn't expect. You'll get VGA, S-Video, mini-FireWire, and three USB 2.0 ports (two are side by side), along with headphone and microphone jacks. For networking, there is modem, Ethernet, and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi connectivity. In a nice touch, Systemax includes both a Type II PC Card slot and a slot for the latest ExpressCards. The feature set is rounded out with a four-in-one flash card reader (Secure Digital, Memory Stick/Pro, MultiMediaCard) and a built-in DVD burner. While this assortment lacks the bells and whistles--such as a TV tuner, Bluetooth radio, and a few more USB ports--that you would find on a higher-end (and more expensive) laptop, it should be all the average home user will need.
Our Systemax Pursuit 4155 review unit cost $999. And for that low price you get the low end of Intel's latest processor line, the 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500. Other components include 1GB of middling 533MHz RAM, Mobile Intel Express 945GM integrated graphics, and an 80GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. By way of comparison, a Lenovo 3000 N100 and a Gateway NX570X that cost $999 deliver almost identical components, though the Gateway's price depends on a $200 "instant discount" which may or may not be permanent. When it came to CNET Labs' performance benchmarks, the Systemax Pursuit 4155 ran neck and neck with the identically configured Lenovo 3000 C200 ($999) and well ahead of the Lenovo 3000 N100 that had half the RAM. (We have not tested the $999 version of the Gateway NX570X.) The Systemax also performed within 10 percent of the more expensive Asus W7J and the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010, which had more VRAM and more system RAM, respectively. In short, the Systemax Pursuit 4155 packs plenty of performance punch for the types of tasks the typical budget-minded buyer wants a laptop for: word processing, Web surfing, and photo touch-ups.
The battery in the Systemax Pursuit 4155 lasted an average 3 hours, 12 minutes in our drain tests. While that's better than the Asus (2 hours, 29 minutes) and the Fujitsu (2 hours, 7 minutes), it couldn't beat the Lenovo 3000 C200's 4-hour, 29-minute battery life. Still, we're not sure whether an extra hour of battery life would matter with a laptop as large as the Systemax--you're not likely to venture far from an outlet for long.
Systemax backs the Pursuit 4155 with an industry-standard one-year warranty that covers parts and labor. Support is available via a toll-free number or through the easily navigable SupportForYourPC.com site. You also have the option of e-mailing a support rep for help. Warranty upgrades are reasonably priced, starting at $170 for an additional year of support.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)