First look: four new Packard Bell laptops
While Packard Bell is making plenty of fuss about its AMD-powered netbooks, the firm’s new line-up of full-size laptops has plenty of potential, too.
The most exciting of the new models is the EasyNote TR series, which takes a leaf out of Apple and Sony’s books by concentrating on design just as much as hardware. And it’s not just any old in-house designers who are putting together these latest laptops, either – Packard Bell has enlisted the help of Italian design house Pininfarina to make sure that the TR can match up to the best in the business.
A glance at the chassis reveals that the experiment has paid off: the TR is stylish without being garish and includes several neat touches. While the lid is finished in a glossy black that’ll surely become a fingerprint magnet, the interior boasts a good-looking matte coating that brings to mind the far more expensive, and revered, Sony VAIO AW-series.
The speakers, meanwhile, seem to be totally original: while they still sit above the keyboard, they sweep upwards when the laptop is open, meeting the edge-to-edge screen in a seamless curve – it’s a good look, and we were pleased to note that the curved speaker didn’t protrude from the laptop when the lid was closed, although this did make the back end of the machine feel a bit bulkier than your average 15.4in notebook.
We’re also assured that the Dolby technology inside the curved speakers will make the TR sound as good as Toshiba and HP’s premium machines, which come with harmon/kardon and Altec Lansing speakers respectively and are routinely best-in-class for audio quality.
The keyboard has flat rather than traditional bevelled keys and, in the short time we had to try them out, the individual keys felt comfortable with a reasonably positive typing action – although, like the new range of netbooks, the base of the keyboard still felt a little spongy.
The trackpad was better: wide, responsive and with two good buttons, it includes the multi-touch functions that are also incorporated into the new series of netbooks: move two fingers towards and away from each other to zoom in and out, for instance, and rotate a finger from a right-hand corner to the centre of the trackpad to scroll a document up and down. The same motion from the left hand side rotates a document or picture, and swishing two fingers horizontally across the pad skips to the next picture in a series.
Inside, the Packard Bell is a little less exciting: Core 2 Duo processors, Nvidia GeForce GT graphics chips and decent-sized hard disks and allocations of RAM are the order of the day – so it sounds as if the new TR series will be a stylish and comfortable notebook without really innovating on a hardware level.
T is the magic number
As well as the new TR series, Packard Bell also introduced a few more notebooks. While the EasyNote NJ, TJ and LJ-series machines don’t benefit from the Pininfarina design that made the TR look so special, they’re reasonable-looking machines that also have multi-touch trackpads, decent keyboards and what felt like solid build quality – although, during our brief time with the machines, the screens did appear to be a touch too reflective and a mite too pale for our liking.
Inside, again, little has changed – with Core 2 Duo processors, Nvidia graphics chips and all the requisite bells and whistles, we can expect these notebooks to be good performers without excelling themselves in our comprehensive benchmark suite.
Packard Bell isn’t resting on its laurels, either, after its buyout by Acer earlier this year. We’ve been assured than an 18in version of the TR-series will be released in time for Christmas, and that the majority of the new machines will be available in several colours and configurations, ranging from 14 to 17in screens and white, black, blue and red exteriors.
These new notebooks could make a return to form for a revered old brand, then – one that’s been around since 1926 but, recently, has been delivering merely average notebooks that don’t stir the soul in the way that those from Sony, Apple or Dell manage.
It’s looking up for Packard Bell, then, and we’ll deliver our definitive verdict as soon as we get our hands on any of these new notebooks in the PC Pro Labs.