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Polywell PolyNote 3000N review: Polywell PolyNote 3000N

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The Good Fast performance; long battery life; wireless networking option; four USB 2.0 ports; lightweight design.

The Bad Keyboard rattles; touchpad looks like wrist rest, causing misses; glued-on nameplate fell off; limited service and support.

The Bottom Line The PolyNote 3000N offers blazing speed and long battery life in a thin-and-light package, but some design miscues keep it out of the top realm of Centrino notebooks.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Battery 9
  • Support 6

Review Sections

Review summary

Polywell, known more for its desktop gaming PCs than notebooks, has now designed a sleek, blazingly fast, long-lasting thin-and-light. The PolyNote 3000N is the second-fastest notebook tested in CNET Labs; it features a 1.5GHz Pentium M processor and weighs a mere 3.9 pounds. It lasted an impressive five hours in battery-life tests. If not for a quirky touchpad, a below-average keyboard, and cheap, glued-on nameplates, the PolyNote 3000N would've scored higher. As is, this speedster misses the lofty mark set by other Centrino thin-and-lights, such as the Acer TravelMate 803LCi, the Sony VAIO Z1, and the IBM ThinkPad T40. Still, with a base price of just $1,500, the PolyNote 3000N has a lot to offer the budget-conscious consumer.

/sc/30422620-2-200-DT1.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
The keys rattle when you type.

The all-silver PolyNote 3000N looks gorgeous when you unpack it, reminding us of an Apple PowerBook. It measures 12 inches by 9.9 inches by 1.1 inches and weighs an impressively svelte 3.9 pounds. The bright screen measures 14.1 inches and has a native resolution of 1,024x768 pixels. The media bay on the right side features a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, and it can also accommodate a second battery, a second hard drive, or a plastic weight saver to make the notebook even lighter for travel. Ports and slots include Ethernet, 56Kbps modem, four USB 2.0, FireWire, VGA out, and a single Type II PC Card slot.

/sc/30422620-2-200-DT2.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" /> /sc/30422620-2-200-DT4.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
The touchpad blends in with the wrist rest, causing misses. The small nameplate at the base of the screen came unglued.

Unfortunately, miscues with the keyboard, the touchpad, and the nameplates detract from this machine's otherwise promising design. The touchpad is unusual; it has a bit of a rough feel, and with its tiny rim, it blends too easily with the similarly colored wrist rest. After several days of use, we noticed that we sometimes mistakenly tapped on the wrist rest instead of the touchpad, especially when we were working quickly. The keyboard's translucent keys rattle when you type and have somewhat mushy feedback. Worst of all, a small rectangular nameplate below the screen came unglued during the week we had the system. It plopped down on the keyboard when we tipped the notebook to check the back edge. Then we checked the small nameplate on the lid; it, too, came unglued with a slight nudge from our fingernail. Most other notebooks build the name right into the chassis. A Polywell representative said the company would use better glue in the future and eventually build the name into the chassis.
/sc/30422620-2-200-DT3.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
A variety of drives can go in the media bay.

Polywell offers a dizzying array of configuration options when you buy the PolyNote 3000N. The unit we tested came with a 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512MB of 266MHz DDR memory, and a 40GB hard drive spinning at a fast 5,400rpm. All models feature a 14.1-inch screen with a 1,024x768 native resolution, an Intel 82852 graphics controller, and a removable DVD/CD-RW combo drive. You can also choose a Pentium M processor in 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz, or 1.6GHz speeds. Hard drives range from 30GB to 80GB, with 40GB and 60GB available at a faster 5,400rpm. Memory goes from 128MB to 1GB of DDR RAM. There are several options for the single swappable media bay, including DVD, DVD/CD-RW, DVD-R/-RW, a second hard drive or battery, or a plastic weight saver. You can increase your port options by buying the optional port replicator for a reasonable $125.

Our test unit featured Windows XP Home, but Polywell offers five other operating system choices. Catching your eye first are two Linux choices, either Red Hat 8.0 or SuSE Linux Professional. (Linux on a notebook is still quite rare.) Rounding out the choices are Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000, and the ancient Windows 98. Office suite choices include Lotus SmartSuite Millenium 9.7 or Microsoft's Office XP Professional or Small Business Edition.
Mobile application performance
The Polywell PolyNote 3000N scored very high marks in mobile-performance tests. It placed second to only the Acer TravelMate 803LCi, which scored seven points higher. In order for a system to do well in mobile performance, the CPU must not throttle so low (to save on battery life) that speed suffers. Like the TravelMate 803LCi, the PolyNote 3000N gets the most out of its 1.5GHz Pentium M processor by striking the right balance. In our small roundup, it easily beat comparable systems from Compaq and Dell. All in all, the PolyNote 3000N is one of the top mobile performers we've tested yet.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
211 
Polywell PolyNote 3000N
204 
Compaq Evo N620c
178 
Dell Latitude D600
176 

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Compaq Evo N620c
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

Polywell PolyNote 3000N
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855GM/GME Graphics Controller (up to 64MB); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 5,400rpm
The Polywell PolyNote 3000N lasted more than five hours in battery life tests, beating the Acer TravelMate 803LCi by 15 minutes. Although the notebook sports a 14.4V, 4,400mAh (65WHr) battery, we expected a slightly larger battery based on its impressive score. With the help of its efficient Pentium M processor, the PolyNote 3000N proves that you don't need a huge battery to achieve great mobile performance and incredible battery life.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life in minutes  
Polywell PolyNote 3000N
304 
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
289 
Compaq Evo N620c
274 
Dell Latitude D600
242 

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Compaq Evo N620c
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

Polywell PolyNote 3000N
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855GM/GME Graphics Controller (up to 64MB); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 5,400rpm
Polywell offers a limited service-and-support package. The standard warranty lasts for one year; three years costs an additional $150. When it comes to telephone tech support, we recommend that you spend the $35 for 24/7 coverage from a third party. Otherwise, telephone tech support is available only Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m PT.

The company's support Web site is decent, with a handful of FAQs and driver downloads, but the site is not on a par with that of big hitters, such as Dell or IBM. Polywell lacks elements such as customer forums and the ability to chat in real time with a Polywell tech-support rep. Thankfully, the 60-page-plus user manual is thorough, with helpful pictures and screenshots.

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