The PC Club Enpower ENP680's silver lid and black case could almost pass for a Dell or a Toshiba laptop, and its $1,499 price tag, which includes the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a discrete Nvidia graphics card, adds to its allure. Unfortunately, the Enpower ENP680 suffers from a few design flaws, such as a superreflective display and an overly flexible keyboard, that some users may not be willing to accept in exchange for the low price. Looking strictly at performance and battery life per dollar, though, the Enpower ENP680 offers a decent, low-price alternative to Core 2 Duo systems from some of the larger laptop manufacturers.
Measuring 14.3 inches wide, 10.4 inches deep, and 1.3 inches thick, the PC Club Enpower ENP680 is a bit larger than the Gateway M255E and thinner than the HP Pavilion dv2000t. Weighing an even 7 pounds, the Enpower ENP680 is heavier than its competitors; its AC adapter brings the total travel weight to a barely portable 8.1 pounds.
The PC Club Enpower ENP680 features a beautiful 15.4-inch wide-aspect display with a native resolution of 1,280x800. We usually like a glossy display that makes colors in movies and games pop, but the Enpower ENP680's screen is too glossy for its own good: we were annoyed by glare and reflections. We like the sliding cover for the 1.3-megapixel Webcam, however, which sits above the display.
Along the left side of the PC Club Enpower ENP680's metallic silver keyboard deck are raised rectangular buttons to control media, as well as a key that launches a media player without booting the OS. Above the keyboard sit four similarly styled programmable quick-launch buttons. The overall effect of the raised buttons is retro chic--they reminded us of the controls on our dad's late-70s stereo system.
The overall construction of the ENP680 feels about as sturdy as a laptop from a major manufacturer, but its keyboard is extremely flimsy. Though it's full size, key travel is shallow, and the keys make an annoying clacking sound when you type. In addition, the board flexes noticeably with even light typing pressure. The touch pad is ample, and we like its scroll zone, but the pad is so close to the keyboard that it's impossible to type more than a sentence without misplacing your cursor--we really wish there was a hardware switch to turn it off for long periods of typing. The mouse buttons are large and have good travel; a fingerprint reader sits between them. The final design feature of note is the Wi-Fi on/off switch along the laptop's front edge.
The Enpower ENP680's large case leaves plenty of room for ports and connections; you get four-pin FireWire, VGA, S-Video, and three USB 2.0 ports, as well as a microphone jack and a headphone jack that supports S/PDIF output. The laptop includes a PC Card slot and a slot for the latest ExpressCards, plus a four-in-one card reader that recognizes Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital, and MultiMediaCard formats. Networking options include Ethernet, modem, and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi. A dual-layer DVD burner rounds out the feature set. In keeping with its consumer focus, the PC Club Enpower ENP680 runs on Windows XP Home Edition; its software bundle includes a year of antivirus protection plus some basic disc viewing and burning apps.
The Enpower ENP680 we reviewed cost $1,499 for a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor; 2GB of screaming 667MHz RAM; a blazing 7,200rpm hard drive with a modest 80GB capacity; and Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics with 256MB of system memory. Those are some pretty sweet specs for the price, and the system performed admirably on CNET Labs' application benchmarks, matching the faster processor of the HP Pavilion dv2000t on our MP3 encoding test and besting both the HP and the Core 2 Duo-based Gateway M255E on our Photoshop test. The Enpower ENP680's battery lasted an above-average 3 hours, 54 minutes in our battery drain test, but was unable to match the HP and the Gateway, both of which lasted more than 6 hours.
The PC Club Enpower ENP680 is backed by an industry-standard one-year warranty on parts and labor, with extensions to two years of coverage available. The company's online downloads and FAQs are paltry, though there is a helpful user forum, and if you live in one of the eight states with a PC Club retail store, you have the option of carrying your system in for service.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|iTunes 220.127.116.11 AAC-to-MP3 conversion (seconds)||Photoshop CS2 performance (seconds)|