Most of the 17-inch wide-screen laptops we've seen have been high-end configurations tailored to gamers or multimedia enthusiasts. The $1,199 Averatec AV7160-EC1, the top model in the company's 7100 series, eschews pricey, powerful graphics and TiVo-like DVR functionality for a simple design, a thin profile, and a light weight. It also affirms Averatec's reputation for aggressive pricing; though it lacks the performance and the features found on other desktop replacement laptops, it's about the cheapest 17-inch model you'll find. If you require more oomph than this midrange configuration provides, you'll have to look elsewhere; the AV7160-EC1 is a fixed configuration, meaning you can't customize the specs prior to purchase. Granted, 17-inch laptops such as the Dell XPS M1710 and the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600 provide much more performance and features, but they cost twice as much. For added screen real estate in a laptop for basic office tasks, not to mention DVD viewing when the workday is done, the Averatec AV7160-EC1 is an excellent value.
As affordable as it is for a 17-inch laptop, however, we have trouble recommending a system at this price that uses a single-core CPU, knowing the performance advantages a dual-core CPU provides. For roughly the same price, 15.4-inch laptops such as the Lenovo 3000 N100 and the Dell Latitude D820 provide better performance now and a better pathway for transitioning to Windows Vista next year.
The Averatec AV7160-EC1 is one of the trimmer desktop replacements we've reviewed, measuring 16.6 inches wide by 10.9 inches deep by 1.4 inches thick (1.6 inches thick when you include the tall rubber feet on the bottom) and weighing only 7.3 pounds. The small, two-prong AC adapter brings the total travel weight to a still reasonable 8.4 pounds. The HP Pavilion dv8000 is far from the heaviest desktop replacement, and it weighs 8.3 pounds, AC adapter not included. And the 17-inch Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600, by comparison, is nearly 2 inches thick and carries a hefty total travel weight of 11.5 pounds.
As thin as it is for a laptop of its size, the AV7160-EC1 feels sturdy; it doesn't creak or groan when picked up by one side. The black lid and the silver body present a pleasing appearance; the black bezel surrounding the display works well, providing good contrast against the bright display. The screen itself features a 1,440x900 native resolution, which isn't as fine as the 1,920x1,200 native resolution on other 17-inch wide-screen displays, such as that of the Alienware Aurora m9700. While you miss out on some extra detail, one positive of the slightly lower 1,440x900 resolution is that desktop icons are larger and more easily read.
Whereas the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600 features all manner of multimedia features, buttons, and connections, the Averatec AV7160-EC1 sticks to the basics. It uses Windows XP Media Center, but it supplies neither a TV tuner nor a remote control. Likewise, there's nary a single media control or quick launch buttons; we'd like to see a volume dial at the very least. Given the size of the laptop, there's plenty of room for such additions. You do get a full-size keyboard with a number pad, and next to the power button above the keyboard is a wireless on/off switch. The only areas on the keyboard that felt cramped were the narrow arrow keys, which took some getting used to.
The Averatec AV7160-EC1 lacks a DVI-out for digital LCDs but serves up an analog VGA port and an S-Video port. Audio ports comprise microphone, headphone, and line-in jacks; no optical audio ports here. There are three USB 2.0 ports, two on the left side (along with the double-layer DVD burner) and one on the right. A 4-pin FireWire port and a 5-in-1 media card reader reside on the front edge.
One gripe we have with the otherwise clean design has to do with Averatec plastering its tagline on the base of the laptop above the keyboard. It'd be one thing if the tagline were placed on the hood, where it'd be out of sight when the laptop was in use. As it is, we grew tired of looking at the mindless "mobility without boundaries" each time we reached for the Escape key, and we've had the machine for less than a week. Why Averatec believes it must market to people who have already purchased one of its products escapes us.