Averatec C3500 review
Averatec is a US-based notebook manufacturer with Korean backing. It’s got big plans for bursting onto the scene and becoming a major player in the UK, so we had high hopes for the C3500. At this price, it’s trying to dispel the myth that tablet PCs are expensive. However, it’s usually true that you get what you pay for, so we were intrigued to see how Averatec managed to meet this price point.
The first thing to note is that, in a market so dominated by Intel’s Centrino, this tablet uses an AMD Athlon XP-M processor. The 2200+ runs at 1.1GHz and, paired with 512MB of PC2700 RAM, powered the C3500 to a score of 0.94 in our application benchmarks. While not overly fast, it’s good enough for anything but the most intensive tasks and perfectly acceptable for a machine costing £745.
However, the XP-M begins to show its comparative shortcomings all too quickly: our intensive battery tests finished off the C3500 in only 42 minutes. Even worse, sitting idle with its screen at medium brightness, the C3500 struggled to survive for two hours – no tablet in our last tablet PC Labs scored anything less than three hours in this test.
Physically, the C3500 is a good size; small enough to be portable, but large enough to have a 12.1in TFT and comfortable-sized keyboard. This helps when using it as a standard notebook, but the keys feel flimsy when typing, with the keyboard distorting under pressure – a classic sign of cutting corners. It won’t stop you typing, but if you’re particular about these things it will be a frustration.
Swivelling the screen around for tablet mode makes things worse. You can rotate the screen through 360 degrees in 90-degree increments, and so hold the tablet any way you like. However, in portrait mode, you either end up holding (and therefore blocking) the hot exhaust vent in your hand or, spun 180 degrees, pushing it into your arm. Things are better in landscape mode, although the excessive heat of the base is uncomfortable no matter which way the screen is orientated.
Thankfully, the lid and the chassis are made of strong plastic. As such, the C5000 will stand up well to the knocks and bumps tablet PCs are prone to. The sturdiness comes at a cost, though, as the C3500 weighs 2.5kg. This is heavy for something designed to be carried around casually – you’ll probably want to put the C3500 down even before the battery dies. This combination of power, weight and battery life seriously dents its appeal. The Toshiba Portege M200 (see A List, p49) weighs less and has a far superior 1.8GHz Pentium M, while the Acer TravelMate C112TCi costs a comparable amount, is just as fast and weighs over a kilo less.
The C3500’s sturdy lid does protect a decent screen, though. Cramming in all the electronics required for the touchscreen, while ensuring good image quality, is a tough task, so Averatec has done well to manage it. Horizontal viewing angles are good, approaching 160 degrees before text becomes unreadable. As with most TFTs, vertical angles are narrower, with text becoming difficult to read at around 45 degrees. Still, the wide horizontal viewing angles help you see the screen clearly when balancing the C3500 on your arm.
The arrangement of the ports and plugs is rather hit-and-miss. The DVD combo drive shares its side with a lesser-used headphone and a microphone mini-jack, preventing potential tangles with cables when ejecting a disc. However, the four USB 2 ports are all situated on one side. The C3500 would have benefited from having these scattered around for better accessibility, especially with its 360-degree rotating screen. There’s a reasonable line-up elsewhere, with a D-SUB, S-Video out, 10/100 Ethernet and 56K modem ports, plus a Type II PC Card slot. There’s also an internal 802.11b/g wireless card for high-speed, clutter-free connectivity.