Evesham Quest A230 review

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Intel has been hogging the notebook headlines for months now thanks to its Core Duo mobile processors, but AMD hasn’t just been sitting back and twiddling its thumbs. From the outside, the Quest A230 from Evesham may look like any ordinary mid-range notebook, but inside sits AMD’s new mobile technology, which finally brings the dual-core X2 range of processors to notebooks.

Although at 1.6GHz it isn’t the most powerful of the series, the Turion 64 X2 TL-52 sits in the new Socket S1 socket and brings some evolutionary changes. The most notable is the support for faster DDR2 memory, so Evesham has wisely fitted 1GB of 667MHz PC2-5300 RAM split over two SODIMMs. The 80GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard disk is also fast enough to lend a hand, and the results are pretty good, as we’ve come to expect from dual-core mobile processors.

It’s interesting to compare the 0.87 score in our benchmarks with this month’s Acer Aspire 9410. The Acer also has 1GB of RAM with a near-equivalent 1.66GHz Core Duo T2300, and its score of 0.98 leaves Intel with the edge in terms of performance per clock. The gap isn’t huge, though, and is largely due to the T2300’s 2MB of Level 2 shared cache over the TL-52’s total 1MB.

But speed isn’t the sole reason for AMD’s move to the new technology. All the obvious benefits of dual-core processing apply, mainly the ability to multitask more efficiently. There’s also the matter of reduced power consumption – from the new chips and DDR2 RAM – theoretically giving longer battery life. The A230 lasted 1hr 47mins when we pushed the processor to its full extent and 3hrs 46mins when left idle. This is a respectable showing for a notebook with this amount of power, but it doesn’t take the Turion to any level that Core Duo hasn’t already been.

This amount of battery life goes well with the reasonably portable nature of the Quest A230, though, making it a reasonable alternative to some of the bulkier systems in our ultra-light notebook Labs. The lower power consumption also results in less heat and therefore requires less cooling, so the chassis is pleasantly light and compact, weighing a reasonable 2.1kg. And, just as importantly for some, it means the fan very rarely becomes audible.

The 12.1in widescreen TFT has a glossy coating and fully deserves its X-Bright tag, and the 1,280 x 800 resolution is fine for a screen of this size. The two-tone black and silver styling is pleasant enough too, and the rounded edges make it a fairly attractive notebook. The thin lid has a fair amount of bend in it, which is a slight concern, and the keyboard is a bit too springy for comfort. But the glowing power button and four shortcut buttons above it are a nice touch, and overall the build quality is fine, although it does feel a little plastic. The three-year warranty – the first of which is on-site – should help to ease any fears.

This is very much a budget notebook, all the more impressive given the presence of the new processor, and gaming isn’t a priority. The ATi Radeon X300 graphics will get you through a game of Doom, but it won’t cope with today’s 3D games. DVDs fare better thanks to the glossy coating, although viewing angles aren’t particularly wide, and the drive will write to dual-layer discs as an added bonus. The speakers won’t be much good for blockbusters, though, as they’re extremely tinny and the top volume is barely loud enough even for personal use. A headphone socket sits on the front edge as an alternative audio option.

The A230 is well equipped when it comes to ports and connections: a D-SUB output allows connection to an external display, and there are three USB 2 ports and a mini-FireWire. On the left side, a media card reader can handle SD, MMC and Memory Stick cards, and it sits below an ExpressCard/54 slot for future expansion. Finally, Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b/g wireless complete a well-featured set.

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