One of the best things about the sub-AU$2,000 Centoris W259 is that it doesn't look like a budget notebook. It comes in a rather smart matte silver finish offset with a charcoal keyboard. Judging by looks alone, we wouldn't have been surprised if it retailed at an extra AU$1,000. It's a credit to the design team at Australian-based Optima and certainly an improvement on the less than inspiring Prolite K series.
We also like the touchpad pointing device, which features two buttons and a touch sensitive scroll bar for scanning through Web pages and documents.
Weighing 2.9 kilograms with battery and optical drive, the W259 falls into the portable category, but if you're after a notebook purely for travel, you'll be better off with an ultra light model, such as the IBM's ThinkPad X40, which tips the scales at 1.4kg.
A 1.6GHz Pentium M processor 725, Intel's 855GME chipset and an internal 802.11b/g wireless adapter allow the Centoris W259 to proudly display the Centrino badge. Optima also sells the Centoris W259 in Celeron M chips, with speeds of 1.3GHz and above. For Pentium systems, there is 2MB of L2 cache and 512KB on Celeron versions. Our test unit came with a bare minimum 256MB of DDR SDRAM installed, but it supports up to 2GB. The 15.4-inch LCD is has a maximum resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 drives the display by sharing up to 64MB of the system's memory.
For storage, the W259 supports 30/40/60/80GB hard disk drives. On the optical side, you get a choice of a CD-RW/DVD-ROM or a DVD+/-RW. During our tests, it took about 12 minutes to burn a full 4.7GB DVD.
At the front of the notebook there is a built-in media card reader that supports three formats: Multimedia card (MMC), Secure Digital (SD) and Sony's Memory Stick. For digital photographers, it presents an easy way to copy photos onto the notebook without having to use a USB cable to connect to a camera.
Next to the memory card slot is a switch to the wireless component on and off. The Centoris W259 also has an integrated 56K modem and Ethernet port for networking.
There are three USB 2.0 ports on the right-hand side of the notebook, next to an IEEE 1934 FireWire connection. For video output, there is a VGA port at the rear of the notebook and S-Video at the side.
With a relatively low-speed processor, don't expect the W259 to be render graphic-intensive 3D games such as Half-Life 2 very well. However, we found playing DVDs to be jitter free and it was tolerable to use for Web browsing and writing documents.
The W259 scored a performance rating of 147 under Bapco's MobileMark 2002 productivity test, putting it into the average category. During this processor-intensive workload, which puts notebooks through automated tasks in Microsoft Office, Photoshop and other common applications, the battery lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes with wireless switched off. Again, this is fairly mediocre.
The Centoris W259's hardware specs aren't going to wow gamers or tech enthusiasts, but this isn't the market Optima is aiming for with this notebook. For a reasonable AU$1,999 you get a portable system that copes with mainstream applications, burning DVDs and connecting to wireless networks. It's definitely suitable for a student looking for a reasonably light notebook with a solid set of features who doesn't want to spend a fortune.
Editor's note: Optima plans to drop the price of the Centoris W259 from AU$1,999 to AU$1,799 in April.