We're not completely sure what the thinking is behind the names of Advent's new budget laptops. First there was the Roma 1000, then the Roma 3000, then the Milano and now the Verona. We can only assume that the next model to arrive will be the 'Pollo Ad Astra'. Until then, let's take a look at this budget, 13.3-inch, ultra-low-voltage laptop. Here we review the £330 model with an Intel Celeron 743 CPU. A model with an Intel Pentium SU2700 CPU is available for £400.
Easy on the eye
Budget laptops usually tend to look rather bland, but, like the 15.6-inch Roma models and the 10.2-inch Milano netbook we reviewed recently, the Verona is rather pleasant to look at. The chassis is well-proportioned, with a profile that tapers from a very thin front edge to a 32mm-thick rear end. Its 1.6kg weight compares favourably with that of other 13.3-inch, ULV laptops we've looked at.
Both the lid and keyboard surround are made from light grey plastic, with a darker pattern of swirls, while the rest of the case is black plastic. All in all, the Verona isn't a bad-looking laptop, particularly considering its price.
The chassis provides plenty of room for a full-size keyboard. The Verona has a low-profile keyboard with wide, flat keys. It's comfortable enough to use, but we didn't care for the wobbly key tops, or the excessive travel. Neither are major hindrances, but we've used better keyboards, even at this price.
More worrying was the amount of flex on the keyboard's right side, and its top edge seemed to have come loose from its fixings. Pressing the row of function keys caused the keyboard to snap back into place, but it popped back up immediately. We'll assume it's a one-off quality-control oversight in the case of our review model, but check this carefully if you decide to buy a Verona.
The large multi-touch trackpad is moulded into the wrist rest and, although it works well, its shiny finish means it suffers from the usual stickiness with sweaty fingertips. We also found the buttons to be on the stiff side, and, after a short while, they became something of a chore to use.
Since it's powered by a single-core ULV Intel Celeron 743 processor, we had pretty low expectations for the Verona in our performance benchmark tests. Its PCMark05 score of 1,864 isn't much higher than that of some Atom-powered netbooks we've reviewed, and, while Windows 7 feels snappy enough (helped by 3GB of RAM), applications become rather slow to respond when more than a few are running at once.
A 3DMark06 score of 680 is also on the low side for the Intel GMA 4500MHD GPU, but that relatively puny Celeron processor is undoubtedly partly to blame. This means that any kind of 3D gaming is out of the question, but we were also surprised to see the Verona struggling with high-definition video -- 720p QuickTime video is less than smooth and HD YouTube clips are very jerky.
Unfortunately, this heavily diluted performance doesn't help much with battery life. The Verona's battery only managed to last for 1 hour and 45 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic text, and just over 3 hours and 15 minutes in the less stressful Reader's test. That equates to around 2 hours of typical use, which should be enough for the daily commute.
Although the specification suggests otherwise, the Advent Verona isn't capable of much more than an Atom-powered netbook, but, if you just need a lightweight laptop with a big screen, it's not a bad deal. Better battery life and an improved keyboard would make it more tempting, but neither is a deal-breaker at this price.
Edited by Charles Kloet