Evesham Voyager C720 review

£1233
Price when reviewed

It’s been a busy month for Evesham, with two of its systems boasting cutting-edge graphics technology. The Blaze 1800XL features ATi’s next-generation card, while nVidia’s latest 3D innovation, the Go 7800 GTX, can be found in the Voyager C720.

As we’d expect, given the fantastic performance of its desktop counterpart, it yielded spectacular results in our 3D benchmarks. At the laptop’s native resolution of 1,440 x 900, with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering, we saw 62fps in Far Cry and an amazing 63fps in Doom 3; both games looked incredible at these high settings yet remained completely playable throughout. Applying the gruelling High Dynamic Range (HDR) setting to our Far Cry tests indicated that there’s some leeway for the next generation of games too. At 1,440 x 900 with 8x anisotropic filtering and HDR on, we saw a rate of 55fps – well above the threshold for smooth gameplay.

The appeal doesn’t end at phenomenal 3D performance either, as the Voyager boasts plenty of other attractive features. The most obvious is the 17in widescreen TFT, with its native resolution of 1,440 x 900. It’s enough to give plenty of Desktop space without rendering small fonts unreadable. As ever, though, we’re ambivalent about the glossy finish on the screen: it’s a potential source of irritating reflections and attendant eye-strain if you’re using it for long periods, but it certainly adds appeal to DVD movies, Internet browsing and digital photos.

The keyboard is a big boon to working, taking full advantage of the widescreen form factor by including a full-sized numeric keypad. It’s comfortable and well laid out too, with a good depth of travel, separate page-navigation keys and a spacious feel. The only letdown is the trackpad, as the mouse buttons feel cheap and the vertical slider isn’t separated out, so if your hand moves too far to the right the mouse stops responding. However, the rest of the chassis is easily able to cope with occasionally being shoved in a bag or hurriedly slid into a drawer.

Inside, the CPU is a powerful 2.13GHz Pentium M 730 and there’s 1GB of PC4200 RAM, as well as a spacious 80GB hard disk to look after storage. The Voyager sailed through our benchmarks with an overall result of 0.95 – just behind our top-end Pentium D reference PC. Naturally, the C720 will whistle through email and Internet browsing, but with this much power on tap there’s no reason to shy away from more demanding tasks such as photo or video editing.

The rest of the specification is high end too, with Intel’s a/b/g wireless card conferring full Sonoma Centrino status, while a dual-layer, dual-format DVD-RW drive takes care of removable storage and backup. A memory card reader on the side of the chassis supports SD, MMC and Memory Sticks, with CompactFlash being the only notable omission. You’ll find DVI-I and S-Video ports at the back, enabling you to add a larger TFT or output the image to a TV, and there’s an S/PDIF digital audio output.

The few complaints we have about this machine stem from the sheer level of power on offer. Push the processor hard, and the cooling fan slowly winds up to full speed, causing an increasing whine. It only happens during intensive processing work or gaming, but you’ll certainly know about it. Second, the Voyager isn’t built for a life away from the mains. Lasting just 39 minutes under intensive use, and one hour, ten minutes during light use, don’t expect to settle down on the train for too long. It also tips the scales at a hefty 4.3kg – fine if you’re keeping it in a drawer or for the occasional excursion in motorised transport, but certainly not for carrying around town.

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