Desktop replacement isn't just a marketing jingle when it comes to Sceptre's new, well-equipped S7300. Even without a docking station, you can run your office right out of a briefcase with this machine; just latch on the docking station and you're ready for multimedia, as well. And though it's not as fast as a desktop system equipped with the same 600-MHz Pentium III, the S7300 runs with the big dogs of the notebook world. Desktop replacement isn't just a marketing jingle when it comes to Sceptre's new, well-equipped S7300. Even without a docking station, you can run your office right out of a briefcase with this machine; just latch on the docking station and you're ready for multimedia, as well. And though it's not as fast as a desktop system equipped with the same 600-MHz Pentium III, the S7300 runs with the big dogs of the notebook world.
Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay
The base system costs $1,899 with a 6GB hard drive and 64MB of memory; CNET tested it with 128MB, which bumps the price up $100. On CNET Labs' trials, the Sceptre beat a Micron equipped with a 600-MHz PIII and 64MB of memory by 6 percent and stomped 500-MHz PIII systems from Dell and NEC by 11 and 19 percent, respectively.
We like the S7300's bright, crisp, 13.3-inch, active-matrix LCD screen running on a Rage Mobility M1 2X AGP video card, which displays a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels on its own or 1,600 by 1,200 on an external monitor. It also supports dual, independent monitors, which comes in handy for watching movies on the optional $100 DVD player that can attach to the notebook or slide into a slot on the docking station. To add devices, the S7300 has a PS/2 mouse port; a Type II PC Card slot that begs for a modem or a network card; a parallel port for your old printer; and a USB port. A low-profile PCI slot hides behind an easily removable metal plate. The system weighs 4.5 pounds with battery and stands 1.25 inches thick, and the ensemble is encased in a metallic blue chassis.
For $199, the docking station is a good investment--even if it does add .75 of an inch in thickness and 3.5 pounds with an AC power supply. But you might need it because the Sceptre drained its battery in only 2 hours and 10 minutes on our tests--too fast for a cross-country flight or even a long meeting. The dock doubles as a battery charger or a second battery, and you can plug it in without shutting down. It also has two FireWire ports (one with power and one for devices that need external juice, such as video cameras) and a S/PDIF port, a common hookup for digital speakers. You may welcome the S/PDIF port because the feeble built-in speakers don't pump out much sound, and they're positioned so that your wrists cover them while typing.
A Few Weak Spots
The S7300 has a few other downsides. For example, the power switch pokes out from the edge; a bump can turn the system on in your briefcase. Additionally, the keyboard clatters a bit and feels somewhat flimsy, and the one-year depot warranty could provide better coverage. But the company offers lifetime, toll-free, no-charge tech calls from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. An overnight-exchange program comes only with extended warranties, and there's no onsite repair. However, those minor details don't detract seriously from this fast, versatile system.