The ultraportable laptop is set for a summer revival, with high-profile systems including the Toshiba R500 and Dell XPS m1330 offering ever-slimmer and more powerful options. But these new systems are both expensive and still a ways off, so for the space-challenged or the frequent traveler looking for a 12-inch laptop at a reasonable price, there's a lot to like about the $899 Averatec 2371. We're not overly impressed with this AMD-based ultraportable's performance, especially compared with the latest Intel Centrino Duo systems, but for the money, it offers acceptable performance and good looks. You'd be hard-pressed to find a cheaper ultraportable.
|Price as reviewed||$899|
|Processor||1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 x2 TL-52|
|Memory||1GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||120GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Nvidia nForce 430|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce Go 6100|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||11.7x8.4x1.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||12.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter [pounds]||4.3/5.0 pounds|
The Averatec 2371 has a subtle, sophisticated look that we chalk up to its unusual dark brown chassis. The finish is slightly glossy, and we had some trouble with fingerprints on the lid, but the one-color look for the lid, keyboard tray, and screen bezel contrasts nicely with the black keyboard. At a little more than 4 pounds, it's average for a 12-inch laptop--lighter than the bulky Dell XPS M1210, but heavier than the Toshiba R400, which omits an optical drive to save on weight.
The keyboard and touch pad are comfortable and a good size for such a small system, but they are tightly packed into the keyboard tray with little wasted space. Typical for ultraportable laptops, some controls, such as page-up and page-down keys, are mapped to other keys and can only be accessed by holding down the function key. That particular space-saving trick always irks us, as the page-down key is crucial for quick Web surfing. There are no quick-launch keys, just a power button and a button for activating a power-saving mode, which dials down CPU performance to improve battery life.
The 12.1-inch display features a standard 1,280x800 native resolution, which offers an optimal balance of screen real estate and readability. The glossy screen coating, which Averatec calls AveraBrite, fortunately was not overly reflective, which can be a problem with high-gloss screens.
|Averatec 2371||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Audio||headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Three USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader||Two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat or SD memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard slot||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||None or DVD burner|
The Averatec 2371 has a mini FireWire jack and an ExpressCard slot--two features that sometimes get cut from systems that are either small or inexpensive (and this laptop is both). The VGA-only video output is fine for most users--we can't recall using an S-Video output jack in years.
As a fixed-configuration system, you don't have any choice of processor, hard drive, or other components, but for $899, you get a reasonably decent set of specs for an ultraportable. A second GB of RAM would be our first choice for an upgrade and would likely add around $100 to the system price if it were offered.
Our biggest gripe is about the AMD Turion 64 x2 TL-52 CPU, which simply can't measure up to the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The performance of the Averatec 2371 closely matched another recent AMD-based ultraportable, the Fujitsu LifeBook S2210, but both systems fell far behind even lower-end Centrino Duo laptops such as the Lenovo 3000 V200 and the Dell Latitude D630. In real-world terms, however, the differences are not that stark, and we stand by our usual advice: for common Web surfing, office applications, and basic multitasking, any modern dual-core laptop will perform at an acceptable level, with little, if any, stuttering or slowdown. Heavy-duty tasks--encoding video files or working with large Photoshop files--will take longer on the Averatec than the Intel-based competition.
The system includes Nvidia's GeForce Go 6100 GPU, but this integrated chip is no better than Intel's integrated graphics, offering less than 10 frames per second on our standard Quake 4 test at 1,024x768. We managed to get a more playable frame rate in the same game by turning off anti-aliasing, dialing back visual quality options, and dropping the resolution to 800x600, but a gaming machine this is not.
The Averatec 2371 ran for just 1 hour, 35 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the default battery. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. For a budget laptop, this falls within acceptable, if unimpressive bounds, as you're likely to get more than two hours of use for standard Web surfing or other low-impact computing. An extended-life battery, which sticks out somewhat from the back of the system, is available as a $149 accessory.
Averatec includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line ("excluding holidays"), an online knowledge base, and driver downloads. Also available on the Web site are PDF versions of Averatec's user manuals, which are among the best we've seen, with clear, detailed illustrations of each laptop's ports and features. These beat the more generic manuals favored by other vendors, where the content may or may not refer to your specific system.
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