Laptops from the same core group of manufacturers march through CNET Labs every day, but occasionally, a new notebook business, such as Averatec, joins the parade. The small company, formerly known as Sotec, is shipping a thin-and-light laptop, the 3150 series, that provides a unique case design and a cool scroll-button setup. The system also includes an extralow, $919 starting price. While the 3150 lacks speed and long battery life, it offers enough oomph for the basic tasks of its target audience: habitual travelers on a budget. The 3150 displays one unfortunate sign of its company's young lineage: an underdeveloped tech-support Web site. For those who can handle their own problems, however, the Averatec 3150 may still be a tempting deal.
The Averatec 3150 series' case design sets it apart from everyday thin-and-lights. The 4.5-pound, 10.6-by-9.6-by-1.2-inch notebook is about the same size as its competitors, including the Fujitsu LifeBook S series and the , but the top corners of the 3150's lid are cut at a slight angle, giving the case a slick look. Under the lid, there are two very cool-looking, egg-shaped mouse buttons beneath the standard touchpad. Two regular-looking scroll buttons stacked one above the other make it easy to navigate through documents or Web pages.
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Averatec uses a very cool mouse-button arrangement beneath the standard touchpad.
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Unfortunately, the keyboard features a ridiculously short spacebar.
Averatec errs too much on the small side with its keyboard, though. By placing two Windows keys on either side of the spacebar, this all-important key becomes ridiculously short. The extra key also makes the rest of the keys in that row especially small. At least the remaining ones are average size, exceptionally quiet, and firm under your fingers.
Continuing the tiny trend, the diminutive wireless On/Off button recessed into the 3150's left edge (on some models) could pose a problem for big fingers. Otherwise, the system's edges are filled with the right connections, including Ethernet and VGA ports and one Type II PC Card slot. The front edge contains headphone and microphone ports, as well as a handy volume-control wheel. Three USB 2.0 ports line up in a row along the laptop's right edge, along with a 56Kbps modem jack. The internal DVD/CD-RW combo drive also opens out of the right edge. Unfortunately, you can't swap this built-in drive for other modules, such as an extra battery. While it's common for an ultralight to offer almost no component flexibility, thin-and-lights such as the 3150 should include more components choices.
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The 3150 comes with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, but you can't swap it for other modules.
Averatec distinguishes the different 3150 series models through two letters: P and H. Our evaluation unit, the 3150P, includes Windows XP Professional, while the 3150H ships with Windows XP Home. In most other respects, the notebooks mirror each other. Both carry an AMD Mobile Athlon XP-M 1600+ processor running at 1.4GHz, 256MB of DDR memory, an S3 ProSavage8 graphics chip that borrows up to 32MB of video RAM from main memory, a 12.1-inch display with a native resolution of 1,024x768, and an integrated DVD/CD-RW combo drive.
However, the 3150H and the 3150P sport a couple of significant differences. With the former, you have a choice of either a 30GB or a 40GB hard drive. The latter provides only a 30GB hard drive option, but it also offers a built-in 802.11b wireless mini-PCI card. If you want 802.11b in the 3150H, you'll have to add it via an optional Type II PC Card from a third-party provider.
All 3150s come with the same software package. Each system ships with Microsoft's mini office suite,. Averatec throws some more apps in the box, including Roxio Easy CD Creator 5.0 for burning CDs, for fighting viruses, and a homegrown DVD-playback program.
Mobile application performance
The Averatec 3150P's S3 ProSavage8 graphics chip borrows up to 32MB of video RAM from main memory and prevents the system from living up to its true mobile-performance potential. In our small roundup, the 1.4GHz 3150P tied the 1.8GHz eMachines M5305 for second place, while the 1.5GHz Fujitsu LifeBook S2000 captured first place with room to spare.
Mobile application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test notebooks.System configurations:
Windows XP Professional; 1.4GHz AMD Athlon XP-M 1600+; 224MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; S3 ProSavage8 32MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon XP-M 2200+; 480MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 320M 32MB (shared); Toshiba MK4021GAS 40GB 4,200rpm