Evesham Quest A630 review

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Last month, we saw a blurring of the line between the desktop and the notebook. Rock and SavRow submitted notebooks with AMD’s desktop Athlon 64 X2 4800+ chip, while Evesham went one better and shoehorned an FX-60 into a notebook chassis. This month, it’s the turn of high-end gaming, with the amazing news that nVidia’s SLI technology has come to notebooks.

Evesham Quest A630 review

With a 19in screen diagonal and weighing 6.7kg, the sheer size of the Quest A630 can be overwhelming. Despite this, it’s a reasonably attractive package; the silver and black styling is minimalist, while the chassis is more broad and flat than thick and chunky. While the flex in the main body and lid is a touch worrying, the lid can withstand evenly applied pressure.

With two Go 7800 GTX cards in SLI, our standard Half-Life 2 test proved no problem: it scored 94fps at 1,280 x 1,024 with 4x AA and 8x AF, dropping to 92fps at the screen’s native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050. Far Cry proved much more troublesome, refusing to run smoothly with SLI enabled; however, when we switched to just one card, it scored 58fps, and nVidia assures us it’s tackling the problem.

And even this hiccup couldn’t hide the sheer speed of the A630. The incredibly demanding Call of Duty 2, with all its settings turned to maximum, proved little bother: with 4x AA and 8x AF, our timedemo returned an average score of 35fps. More real-world testing resulted in some enjoyable non-jerky high-detail gaming. Naturally, the Quest A630 outstrips any other power notebook for gaming, but, more importantly, it outperforms most desktops too.

The same is true of its 2D performance, with the Quest scoring marginally higher than our top-end dual-core Intel reference rig. Although not on a par with its FX-60-powered A620 cousin or high-end Core Duo notebooks, there’s still plenty of performance from the single 2.4GHz core AMD Turion ML-44, helped by 1GB of RAM. You’ll only see the Quest A630 begin to suffer if you’re the most demanding sort of user who likes to encode audio while editing photos.

Photo editing on this machine is a viable option with the glorious 19in 1,680 x 1,050 TFT. We saw little to be worried about in our technical tests, with generous colour gamut and the glossy coating giving images a rich vibrancy. Contrast range is a touch restricted, though, with bright whites and dark blacks lacking distinction. For everyday use in Windows, games and watching films the Quest A630 screen is great.

The inclusion of Windows Media Center 2005 Edition is welcome, although a USB TV tuner is needed to make the most of it. We recommend you partner the A630 with a decent pair of speakers too, as the integrated set are very tinny.

There’s an extensive range of ports and media card slots on the vast chassis. Three USB ports are handily accessible on the right, while another two reside at the rear. Joining the ports on the right are an SD/MMC card slot, a Type II PC Card slot and a mini-FireWire port. There’s also Gigabit Ethernet to complement the 802.11b/g WLAN and Bluetooth. The integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen is also a nice touch for instant messaging or during online gaming. This leaves the left-hand side for the audio connections and the dual-layer DVD writer. You’ll find both D-SUB and DVI outputs at the rear to feed a second monitor.

Although the keyboard may look small in the photo, it’s actually all but full sized. And while keys rattle a little, we were happy typing and gaming on it for extended periods. Of more concern is the whining noise the fans make, but that’s simply the price you pay for cramming in two hot-running high-end graphics cards.

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