Velocity Micro is known for well-constructed gaming desktops that manage to pack in cutting-edge components without breaking the bank. The company's laptops may not be as groundbreaking, but they still provide decent performance in a slick-looking package. Our $2,575 NoteMagix L80 Ultra matches up in terms of both price and specs with the Alienware Area-51 m5550, so it's largely a matter of personal preference in terms of fit and finish between these two mobile-performance rigs. If you're willing to take a few steps down in processor power and halve your RAM, the HP Pavilion dv6000 offers a similarly slick package for a lot less.
At 7 pounds, the NoteMagixL80 Ultra is the same weight as the Alienware Area-51 m5550. When you include the AC adapter, that rises to 8.1 pounds (8.2 pounds for the Alienware), so you won't want to lug this around on the subway every day. It's still portable enough for occasional commutes, however, and certainly far from being a backbreaking desktop replacement system like the hulking Acer Aspire 9800.
The system will turn heads with its brushed-aluminum lid and a small Velocity Micro logo. The interior is black plastic, with a brushed-aluminum trim around the full-size keyboard. Several multimedia hot keys to the left of the keyboard can launch applications, change volume, and so on. The touch pad has a biometric fingerprint reader below it and dedicated vertical scrolling, a must-have feature for easy Web surfing. Ergonomically, the button layout works well--although some users prefer mouse buttons on top of their touch pad, rather than below.
The NoteMagix L80 Ultra boasts all the connectivity options you'd expect from a high-end laptop. Wireless access is provided by an integrated 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi adapter. An Ethernet jack is located on the left side, where you'll also find a PC Card slot, an ExpressCard slot, a mini FireWire jack, and a single USB 2.0 jack. On the right side are two more USB 2.0 jacks, audio jacks, a VGA output, and a DVD burner. An SD card reader is on the front panel and a Webcam is built in to the lid, right above the screen.
Inside the case, the RAM is maxed out at 2GB, and there is a 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm SATA hard drive. If you want to save a few bucks, you can knock the RAM down to 1GB and take $110 off the price or trade down to an 80GB 5,400rpm hard drive for a $115 price break.
With a 1,680x1,050 native resolution, the 15-4-inch wide-screen display offers the same resolution as a 20- or 21-inch desktop LCD. Text at such a high resolution may appear small to some, but LCDs look best at their native resolution, so if small text is a problem, consider a laptop with a lower-resolution panel. Screen brightness was excellent throughout our tests, and the included Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 GPU has all the current bells and whistles, including support for High Dynamic Range lighting and Nvidia's PureVideo for HD playback. It also gave us a very playable 59.2 frames per second in Quake 4 at 1,024x768.
With a top-of-the-line 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 CPU, our review unit maxes out the available processor options. It compared favorably with two other performance notebooks with the same CPU, the Alienware Area-51 m5550 and the Dell XPS M1710, although the Alienware managed to edge out the other two systems in CNET Labs' Multitasking tests. Battery life was also good, at 3 hours, 1 minute, better than either the Dell or the Alienware. The included 9-cell battery sticks out a bit from the rear of the system, but it's your only option. Other companies, such as Dell and HP, offer a variety of battery sizes with their systems.
The Velocity Micro NoteMagix L80 Ultra is covered by a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Normal toll-free telephone support hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. During these hours, the company uses onsite techs for phone support. For an additional $59, you can add 24/7 support, which means that during off-hours, you'll be connected to a call center and a Velocity Micro tech will call you back within 15 minutes. Online support resources include FAQs, driver downloads, and a helpful glossary of hardware terms.