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Packard Bell Dot S review: Packard Bell Dot S

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Netbooks are not the most powerful of computers you can carry around these days -- in fact, many smart phones pack more heat -- but they're still a clever choice for work on the go when a phone or tablet won't cut the mustard.

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7.5

Packard Bell Dot S

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Excellent battery life; Fair power by netbook standards; attractive design.

The Bad

Awkward keyboard; unimpressive screen resolution; Poor construction in places.

The Bottom Line

The Packard Bell Dot S gives a fair performance by netbook standards but is sadly let down by an unimpressive screen and an awkward keyboard. A powerful battery will help you keep working all day though.

The Packard Bell Dot S comes equipped with a 1.66GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 processor and 1GB of RAM.

It's available now for around £240.

Design and build quality

The Dot S may very well be seen as a slap in the face for the plethora of boring-looking netbooks around. Rather than opt for a miserable plain black lid, Packard Bell has slapped a rather attractive purple on top with a pattern reminiscent of wood grain.

Under the lid you'll find plenty of white plastic with the same wood-effect pattern showing its face on the wrist rest. The keys and screen surround are white too, so things appear somewhat clinical. If you're a nurse in a busy hospital wanting to bang out a few tweets, you'll fit right in with the Dot S -- just make sure you properly wash your hands before and after you use it.

Darker purple, white and black colour variations are available if you're particularly colour-minded.

Packard Bell Dot S colours
The Packard Bell Dot S comes in all the shades and colours under the sun, from purple to purple, black, white and purple.

The isolated keys are raised away from the base by quite a bit, which makes them feel rattly and fragile. Like all netbooks, there isn't much room for a keyboard so you may find you need to squash your hand in to type properly. There's barely any gap between each key, which makes differentiating between them at speed more awkward than we'd like.

The base of the Dot S feels pretty sturdy and doesn't offer much flex or creaking when we pressed down on it. The lid doesn't feel as good though. It's far too easily bent for our liking. We would expect a more robust feel from something designed for use on the move.

With a width of 259mm and a height of 31mm, it's about as portable as every single other netbook on offer -- it'll fit easily into a bag. It weighs 1.3kg, which again is what we'd expect from a netbook. It's not so heavy that you couldn't take it to the coffee shop, but not so light that it risks being blown off the table every time someone walks past.

Around the sides you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, which is generous enough, along with a VGA port, an Ethernet port and microphone and headphone jacks. There's an SD card reader too, which is great news for quickly dumping your embarrassing holiday snaps off your camera.

The trackpad is a very little thing and it's only distinguishable from the white plastic surround by being slightly indented. It's responsive so it's not unpleasant to use when you're browsing quickly through web pages. The buttons beneath it are fused at the middle to create one long button. So long as you make sure to touch it on the edges, rather then towards the middle, it's easy to click.

Packard Bell Dot S colours
The base is sturdy enough but the less butch lid is easily bent.

Screen

The Dot S sports a 10.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1,024x600 pixels. This is the minimum we'd expect from a netbook. We'd have liked to have seen Packard Bell slap in a higher res to allow more of a web page to fill the screen. As it is, you're going to have to put up with a lot of scrolling down.

Thankfully the screen is quite bright so it will cope reasonably well under bright sunlight. It will do the job of showing your documents, photos and a spot of video adequately.

Performance

The Dot S uses an Intel Atom N570 dual-core processor running at 1.66GHz, backed up by 1GB of RAM. That's not that powerful. But then again, netbooks aren't. If you're after heavy-duty computing on the go, then check out the Asus Zenbook UX21 but be prepared to shell out considerably more money.

We ran the Geekbench benchmark test and the Dot S received a score of 1,297, which isn't too bad. With general office tasks, we found operation was fairly swift, making work on the go that bit easier.

If you're a heavy web user you might not find performance to be quite so good; the 1GB of RAM means that multi-tasking isn't this machine's forte. If you've got numerous tabs open on your browser then you can expect it to slow down, especially if you're running Spotify and other programs in the background.

Packard Bell Dot S closed black
General everyday use like web browsing and word processing is handled with ease, but with just 1GB RAM, you'll flummox the Dot S with strenuous multi-tasking.

It comes pre-installed with a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is a nice touch, if a little ambitious. The machine is powerful enough to cope with resizing holiday snaps but if you ask it to do anything more intense -- such as dealing with raw files -- it's not going to be happy with you.

We ran the 3DMark06 test to see how well it coped with 3D graphics and were shown a score of 160, so you can forget about playing any games more demanding than Solitaire (and it may not appreciate that too much either). Still, netbooks really aren't designed for games so we can't hold that against it.

Battery

When we ran our battery test, the Dot S managed to hold out for around 4 hours 25 minutes. That is an excellent time. The test is hugely demanding and runs the processor at a constant 100 per cent until the machine conks out so you can easily get a lot more time with more cautious usage.

It's all about working sensibly -- if all you need is word processing and you make sure to put the computer to sleep between uses, you can easily make the machine last all day, or longer. If you make a habit of connecting to wireless networks and streaming a lot of high-quality video, you're not going to get such a great performance.

Conclusion

In general, the Packard Bell Dot S offers decent power by netbook standards. It does so with a touch of style not offered by many of the dreary, dull alternatives out there. It may not have a great screen resolution, and we wouldn't trust the lid to hold up to a beating, but if you're after a fresh-looking machine for work on the go, the Dot S is definitely worth considering.