WinBook Fusion PC F220 review: WinBook Fusion PC F220

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The Good Entertainment components function without powering up the PC; small footprint; innovative wireless, rechargeable mouse; DVD playback is superb.

The Bad Poor TV image quality; unable to schedule TV recordings; noticeable lag on even basic Windows tasks; no option to choose a larger display or customize at all.

The Bottom Line An innovative PC/TV hybrid, the WinBook Fusion PC F220's poky PC performance and limited DVR functionality place it behind the all-in-one PC pack.

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6.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 6

Review summary

After introducing its first desktop last year, longtime notebook-maker WinBook launched an all-in-one desktop that fuses PC functions with entertainment features, such as TV, FM radio, and a digital video recorder (DVR). Unlike most systems we've seen that provide such functionality, the $1,100 Fusion PC F220 does not run Microsoft's Media Center OS. The upside of not using MCE 2004 is that you can engage the entertainment functions without having to power up the PC. Unfortunately, the downside is more severe: the WinFast DVR software is less polished than Microsoft's app, with limited functionality. We also experienced poky performance in Windows. If the Fusion's design catches your fancy, consider the more powerful F260 model or MPC's winning ClientPro All-in-One.

With a small 19-by-14-inch footprint and a flat-panel display, the all-in-one WinBook Fusion PC F220 can find a perch in any number of spots in your home. But you won't want to sit too far from the 15-inch screen if you plan to follow the action on TV; the Fusion F220 is best suited for cramped apartments and dorm rooms where there isn't room for both a TV and a PC. The system would also work well on a kitchen counter for casual viewing of the evening news or for finding recipes online.

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Ports aplenty line the back and the side of the Fusion F220 and include USB 2.0, FireWire, S-Video, and S/PDIF. There's also a PC Card slot and a media-card reader.

You can choose any color for the case--as long as it's black. We like the look of the system, and we believe it would make an unobtrusive addition to any room. We were less enthralled with the screen's range of motion. Unable to swivel, it can be tilted back only about 25 degrees.

Although the TV picture quality was poor using the standard cable connection from our satellite cable box, it improved drastically when we switched to an S-Video connection. The signal noise was no longer evident, and the Fusion F220 provided a clean, crisp picture. DVDs, too, looked sharp, with rich colors at the system's native resolution of 1,024x768.

Given its all-in-one design, unfortunately, the Fusion F220's case is not meant to be opened for future upgrades, so you're stuck with the TV tuner with which it ships. External expansion is another story; the system is loaded with ports. On the back panel, there are two USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports, microphone and audio jacks, an S/PDIF digital audio connection, and 56Kbps and Ethernet ports. Along the left edge, the Fusion serves up two more USB 2.0 ports, a PC Card slot, and a media-card reader for the following formats: SmartMedia, Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, and Sony's Memory Stick. In addition to the optical drive, the right side provides TV and FM radio inputs, as well as an S-Video port.

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Behind the Fusion F220's DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive are inputs for TV and FM radio.

To hit its $1,100 price, WinBook had to make some sacrifices on the Fusion F220. In addition to Intel's budget Celeron chip (clocked at 2.2GHz), the system uses relatively poky 266MHz memory (though you do get a hefty helping of 512MB), a slow yet roomy 120GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and integrated graphics. This list of components obviously precludes you from using the Fusion F220 as a gaming system. But worse, beyond dreadful Unreal Tournament frame rates, we noticed a lag when engaged in the most basic Windows tasks.

Although it won't improve your gaming prospects, a higher-priced model, the Fusion F260, is available. The F260 adds $400 to the bill and bumps you up to a 2.66GHz Pentium 4, a faster frontside bus, and a larger and faster hard drive. It also gives you an 8X DVD burner, as opposed to the F220's combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. Both systems are fixed configurations with no option for customization.

The Fusion F220 provides many of the same entertainment functions as a Media Center PC. Instead of using Microsoft's Media Center Edition OS, the Fusion F220 runs on Windows XP Home and uses LeadTek's WinFast TV software for watching and recording TV. Like any Media Center PC, the Fusion F220 includes a remote control, which gives couch potatoes the necessary 10-foot interface. Unlike a Media Center PC, however, the WinFast TV app doesn't provide a programming guide, which results in limited scheduling options. And without an IR blaster, you can set up recordings for only one channel at a time because you need to set the WinFast TV app to record channel 3 and use your cable-box remote to choose the channel to record. This prevents you from recording more than one channel without having to be home to manually change to a different channel.

We did appreciate, however, the ability to just flip on the TV without having to wait for Windows to load--a trick that Media Center PCs can't pull off. You can also play a CD or a DVD or listen to FM radio in this same manner, all thanks to Linux Instant-on technology. You'll need the PC on and the WinFast TV software running to record a program or use the timeshifting feature of pausing live TV.

Audio provided by the integrated stereo speakers was adequate in our tests, but it would be improved by the use of an external set. Still, for casual use, it provided clear sound at even high volumes. A wireless keyboard and an innovative mouse round out the system. Upon first glance, the mouse appears to be wired, but you can actually unplug it and use it on battery power. As you would with a cell phone, you simply plug the mouse back in to charge it up.

Application performance
The WinBook Fusion PC F220's performance is held back because it uses Intel's budget Celeron processor clocked at 2.2GHz, it has slower 266MHz memory, and it has a poky 5,400rpm hard drive. The system ably performed its intended entertainment duties, which include watching and recording TV along with playing FM radio, CDs, and DVDs. We had no complaints about its performance on the entertainment side of the equation. As a PC, however, its performance left us wanting. Simple operations in Windows often resulted in a noticeable lag. Its SysMark 2002 score of 132 was 16 percent slower than that of a similarly clocked Athlon XP 2600+-based system from eMachines. Since we haven't reviewed a Celeron-based system since we last updated our benchmarks, we can compare it with only two 2.4GHz Pentium 4 machines, which led the Fusion F220 by roughly 43 percent on our application tests. If you are looking at the Fusion as more of a PC than an entertainment device, consider the more powerful F260 model or another all-in-one altogether.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2002 rating  
SysMark 2002 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2002 office-productivity rating  
HP Compaq d530 Business Desktop (2.8GHz Intel P4, 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz)
Sony VAIO PCV-W510G (2.4GHz Intel P4, 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz)
Gateway E-4100 (2.4GHz Intel P4, 256MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
eMachines T2625 (2.12GHz Athlon XP 2600+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
WinBook Fusion PC F220 (2.2GHz Intel Celeron, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, 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).

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