Velocity Micro NoteMagix B50 review: Velocity Micro NoteMagix B50

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The Good Fast; screaming hard drive; excellent battery life; Secure Digital slot; includes Open Office suite.

The Bad Expensive; no recordable-DVD option; one-year warranty.

The Bottom Line The NoteMagix B50 offers plenty of portable power for work and play. For those who crave ultimate performance, this is your notebook hot rod.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Battery 8
  • Support 7

Review summary

If studio execs needed a notebook for The Fast and the Furious, they might have looked at the Velocity Micro NoteMagix B50 series. As its name implies, this notebook is all about speed. Like a tricked-out race car, the top-of-the-line model that we tested came with a 1.7GHz Pentium M processor, 1GB of DDR RAM, and a 60GB hard drive spinning at an incredible 7,200rpm. This notebook ripped through CNET Labs' tests. It will chew through large spreadsheets and conquer the gaming world with ease. It goes easy on the gas, too, lasting nearly five hours on a single battery charge. However, you're likely be furious when you find out that the model we test-drove costs $2,780, lacks a burnable-DVD option, and comes with only a one-year warranty.

At 12.9 inches wide by 10.7 inches deep by 1.1 inches thick, the NoteMagix B50 series looks like a typical two-spindle mainstream system. At 6.3 pounds, it falls on the low side of the scale, and even with the tiny 12-ounce AC adapter, the system weighs just a tad more than 7 pounds. The chassis gives the appearance of brushed aluminum in places, but the white-plastic lid lock and hinges seem out of place.

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The touchpad and the buttons below the keyboard feel a bit small.
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The wide case allows for a big and comfortable keyboard.

The case allows for a big, 15-inch display and a wide, firm keyboard with full-size 19mm keys. Below the keyboard, however, sits a rather small touchpad and two mouse buttons. The NoteMagix B50 series lacks a recordable-DVD option, but you do get a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. The side-firing speakers sound loud and clear but a bit hollow. Fortunately, you can tweak the audio with the exceptionally flexible sound software, which includes a 10-band graphic equalizer, lots of simulated listening environments, and a karaoke setup.

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The notebook features one FireWire and three USB 2.0 ports for connecting peripherals.

No other portable system matches the NoteMagix B50 series' spec sheet, which reads like a hybrid between a desktop and a portable PC. In addition to a Type II PC Card and Secure Digital flash card reader, the series has one parallel, one FireWire, and three USB 2.0 ports, although the parallel connection feels like extra baggage in this age of USB printers. The system also has audio-in and audio-out plugs but no S/PDIF optical connector for driving a high-end set of speakers. You can, however, hook it up to a TV via its S-Video-out connector or to a monitor using its VGA plug.

The Velocity Micro NoteMagix B50 series offers a dizzying array of configuration options. The basic model starts at $1,730 and comes with a 1.3GHz Pentium M processor, which you can bump all the way up to 1.7GHz, currently the fastest Pentium M. Memory starts at only 256MB with a maximum of 1GB, while the hard drives come in 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB capacities. Velocity Micro is one of the first notebook designers to offer a 60GB hard drive spinning at a sizzling 7,200rpm. With an 8MB data buffer, the drive has a superfast, 4.2-millisecond access time, but it uses only about the same amount of power as a 40GB or a 60GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. Finally, to help keep the notebook cool, the company uses an oversized fan attached to the CPU with highly conductive Arctic Silver Adhesive.

The NoteMagix B50 series features a bright 15-inch display with a native resolution of either 1,400x1,050 or 1,280x1,024. Each system also includes ATI's latest graphics accelerator, the Mobility Radeon 9000 with 64MB of dedicated video memory. For a $30 fee, Velocity Micro will even overclock the graphics engine, which, according to the company, yields about a 7 percent improvement in performance. CNET Labs has not verified this claim.

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The notebook comes with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive but offers no option for a recordable-DVD drive.
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A wireless On/Off switch is located on the left.

The notebook offers a plethora of communication choices. In addition to the pedestrian 56Kbps modem and the Ethernet LAN adapter, the notebook features an integrated 802.11b wireless radio and an IrDA port. A Bluetooth short-range data radio will be a $70 option starting in August.

For the operating system, you can choose between Windows XP Home, XP Professional, or 2000. In addition, you get Ahead Software Nero Express for burning CDs and Open Office suite, which matches Microsoft Office and Lotus SmartSuite app for app but is much smaller and simpler to use. Trading up to Microsoft Office adds $360, while Corel WordPerfect Suite 2002 is just $40. Norton AntiVirus, with a 12-month subscription of updates, will set you back $40. Each notebook comes with a lightly padded carrying case and a year's subscription to Computer Games magazine.

Mobile application performance
Thanks to its plentiful 1GB of DDR RAM and its superfast 7,200rpm hard drive, the Velocity Micro NoteMagix BCL50 turned in a score of 196--one of the highest mobile-performance scores we've seen from a Pentium M system. In fact, it is the first notebook we've tested with a hard drive spinning at 7,200rpm. But that drive wasn't enough to top the fastest notebook we've tested, the Acer TravelMate 803LCi.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Velocity Micro NoteMagix BCL50
Toshiba Tecra M1

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).

SysMark2002 performance
The NoteMagix BCL50's superior performance continued when plugged into AC power. It placed first in our small roundup of systems and posted the highest SysMark2002 score of any Pentium M notebook we've tested. Its 1.7GHz Pentium M processor, 1GB of DDR RAM, and 7,200rpm hard drive combined to push the notebook ahead of the competition.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Velocity Micro NoteMagix BCL50
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Toshiba Tecra M1

To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
The NoteMagix BCL50 captured first place in this test also. With its faster processor and hard drive, the NoteMagix BCL50 beat the Acer TravelMate 803LCi by more than 1,000 points, even though the systems share the same graphics adapter. If you want a system that can crunch bad guys as easily as it crunches numbers, check out the NoteMagix BCL50.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE  
Velocity Micro NoteMagix BCL50
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Toshiba Tecra M1

To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768.

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 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm