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Systemax SV14-C10 review:

Systemax SV14-C10

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The Good Inexpensive; includes DVD-ROM drive; plays MP3s without booting.

The Bad Slow; short battery life; no CD-RW or floppy drive for backups.

The Bottom Line The Systemax is a practical, average-performing notebook that could be a reasonable purchase for users on a budget.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

For its SV14-C10 notebook, Systemax has pulled together a combination of basic components and a few extras, all at such a low price that even seasoned bargain hunters will be impressed. What the SV14-C10 lacks in speed and battery life might dismay frequent fliers, but it strikes a decent balance if you're strapped for funds or just need a second laptop for occasional use. For its SV14-C10 notebook, Systemax has pulled together a combination of basic components and a few extras, all at such a low price that even seasoned bargain hunters will be impressed. What the SV14-C10 lacks in speed and battery life might dismay frequent fliers, but it strikes a decent balance if you're strapped for funds or just need a second laptop for occasional use.

I want my MP3
While you shouldn't expect much from a notebook as inexpensive as the $1,167 SV14-C10, it has a few distinctive features to its credit. The front edge of CNET's test unit sports a row of buttons and a small, upward-tilted LCD. Although such displays usually only indicate system status, the LCD and buttons on this notebook run a built-in MP3 player, which you can enjoy without opening the lid or booting the system. Stereo speakers flank the MP3 controls and sound surprisingly loud and rich. In an Apple-esque touch, Systemax made the keyboard out of translucent blue plastic. It looks cool, but under certain lighting conditions, distracting reflections shine up through the keys as you type. The keyboard has a solid feel; only the Backspace key is too small. A scroll button is sandwiched between the left- and right-click buttons beneath the touchpad.

The notebook's good-sized, 14.1-inch (diagonal) screen renders saturated colors; the 1,024x768 native resolution fits the display size well, but a higher resolution might make more efficient use of the space. The display managed good color and crisp detail on static images and text; however, when we ran a movie on the installed 8X DVD-ROM drive, the image turned slightly blurry and went flat. The degradation is probably due to the integrated SIS 630s graphics controller, which relies on system memory for processing. This saves money but hobbles the system's overall performance and still offers only limited graphics capability.

Plain-Jane portable
The SV14-C10's other components are mostly ordinary. Its hard drive is an adequate 18.6GB. Ports include infrared (you can add a Wi-Fi LAN adapter for $99), modem, Ethernet, one PS/2, two USB, and a single Type II PC Card slot. For video mavens, the Systemax has S-Video and four-pin FireWire ports--but the slow graphics controller would surely constrain video editing. It all fits in a plump 6.8-pound (add 1 pound for the AC adapter) package that measures a midsized 12 by 10.5 by 1.6 inches. Note that it has no floppy drive; if you want removable, rewritable onboard storage, you can order the system with a combo DVD/CD-RW instead of the DVD drive for $299 extra.

The SV14-C10's performance is also run of the mill. Equipped with a 1GHz Celeron and 128MB of memory (expandable to 512MB), the Systemax was about 9.5 percent slower overall in SysMark 2001 benchmarks than the WinBook J1, which had the same processor and OS but twice the memory. The Systemax slipped further behind on battery life, conking out after an inadequate 126 minutes.

So-so support
Systemax supports the SV14-C10 adequately, considering the cost of the system. It comes with a common one-year warranty that provides 48-hour repair turnaround and a year of toll-free, 24/7 live tech support. The manual is bare bones, but the Systemax Web site provides extensive help and information, and the company preinstalls its Tech-In-A-Box and Hardware Diagnostics maintenance and troubleshooting software to help you through any problems that might arise.

The SV14-C10 offers all the basics and a few interesting extras at a very reasonable price. Budget users may be willing to tolerate the system's ho-hum performance and short battery life simply because it's so affordable.

Performance test
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1)
Longer bars indicate better performance

Overall rating   
Internet content creation   
Office 2001 productivity   
Systemax SV14-C10
66 
64 
68 
WinBook J1
73 
79 
67 
 
Battery life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Systemax SV14-C10
126 
WinBook J1
138 
 
Systemax SV14-C10
Windows XP; Celeron-1GHz; 128MB RAM; SiS 630S integrated graphics; 20GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

WinBook J1
Windows XP; Celeron-1GHz; 248MB RAM; Trident Video Accelerator CyberBlade i1 AGP 8MB; IBM DJSA-220 18.6GB 4,200rpm

The SV14-C10's performance is run of the mill. Equipped with a 1GHz Celeron and 128MB of memory (expandable to 512MB), the Systemax was about 9.5 percent slower overall in SysMark 2001 benchmarks than the WinBook J1, which had the same processor and OS but twice the memory. The Systemax slipped further behind on battery life, conking out after an inadequate 126 minutes.

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