Evesham Voyager C510 review

£899
Price when reviewed

Don’t judge a book by its cover is an equally applicable maxim for notebooks. You’ll no doubt have noticed that on the previous page is a near-identical-looking machine for a comparable price from AJP. But aside from the swapping over of the two-tone colour scheme, they’re very different machines.

Opening the sturdy lid of the Evesham Voyager C510 reveals a large 15.4in 1,680 x 1,050 resolution screen. It’s not widescreen, but a large Desktop is always welcome, and it’s technically impressive too. Colours are well handled and, perhaps more importantly, viewing angles are impressively wide in both planes: near 180 degrees horizontally and 100 degrees vertically. Although a touch grainy close up, video looks great from a distance, thanks to the sympathetic colour reproduction.

You’ll be able to watch most films in their entirety when travelling, with the battery lasting two hours, 21 minutes in our DVD playback test. It’s best to keep CPU-intensive tasks for when a mains socket is to hand, though, with our toughest battery test lasting only one hour, 39 minutes, extending to just over three hours during light use. However, the Voyager C510 has a trick up its sleeve: the DVD drive is hot-swappable for a second battery, which costs an extra £74.

You could also hot-swap a second hard disk, which will set you back a further £74 for 80GB. This shouldn’t be necessary for most, though, as this configuration comes with a spacious 80GB Fujitsu hard disk. The DVD drive will also be adequate for most needs, burning +/-RW DVDs at 4x, and dual-layer DVD+R9 discs too.

With these hot-swappable components allowing for easy upgrades, you’ll only have to open up the notebook to access the core components. And you won’t need to do this for a while. The Sonoma Pentium M 750 runs at 1.86GHz, providing plenty of processing power. Twinned with 512MB of PC4200 (533MHz) DDR2 RAM, it ploughed through our application benchmarks, scoring 2.00. Evesham was also kind enough to let us see what the top-of-the-range 2.13GHz Pentium M 770 model could do. While it boosted the score to 2.12, the flagship processor has a significant price premium, and at an extra £230 most people will find it hard to justify the additional cost.

The main distinction from the AJP Z71A, however, is the GeForce Go 6600 graphics chip. This is our first look at the new mid-range mobile GPU, and with its desktop cousin performing so well we expected great things. Predictably, Unreal Tournament 2004 proved no challenge, with our botmatch benchmark running at 56fps. The Halo and Doom 3 tests also sailed along at smooth frame rates of 30fps at a 1,280 x 1,024 resolution, as did Far Cry when we stretched the Voyager with this tough test.

To take full advantage of the 1,680 x 1,050 screen, we had to drop the detail levels in Far Cry to Medium. The timedemo then raced along at a playable 49fps. This is roughly what we’d expect from a standard desktop GeForce 6600 – a splendid achievement by nVidia, particularly considering the power-saving tweaks.

We’ve few complaints in general use either. The Voyager’s keys are large enough to give a decent margin of error when typing and are logically arranged. The touchpad and buttons also feel sturdy, although with five USB 2 ports going spare it’s tempting to fill one with a mouse. Four of these ports are housed at the back, with the fifth nearby on the left-hand side. Also at the rear are the gigabit Ethernet and 56K modem ports, as well as D-SUB and S-Video outputs. You’ll also find mini-FireWire, a mini-jack S/PDIF out, a Type II PC Card slot and two slots for SD/MMC and Memory Stick PRO media cards. The right-hand side is exclusively the domain of the DVD writer, avoiding any potential cable tangles when ejecting a disc. And, naturally, there’s WLAN, with both 802.11b and 802.11g coming courtesy of an Intel chip – this is a Centrino notebook after all.

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