Watford Aries Precision 1001 review

Price when reviewed

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that a notebook priced under £600 will lack quality, but the Precision 1001 blasts this assumption to smithereens. Based on MSI’s Megabook M510C chassis, it looks great – there’s more than a hint of iBook about it – and the build quality is generally impressive too. Our only criticism is that the lid doesn’t provide a huge amount of protection for the screen.

We also like the side-mounted lid release, while the typing position is relatively comfortable. We’re less fond of the half-height Enter key, though, and the mouse buttons could be more responsive.

Where Watford does compromise is the processor. The 1.4GHz Celeron M CPU hasn’t impressed us in the past, but in fairness to Watford the Precision proved to be quicker than we expected: it scored 1.42 in our 2D application suite.

Some of the credit for this goes to the Precision’s 512MB of PC3200 RAM, and there’s even a spare memory socket for adding more. The 60GB hard disk is also generous at this price, but note that there’s only a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive rather than a DVD writer installed.

The other notable omission is wireless networking. Although understandable at this price, we’d be tempted to pay Watford an extra £80 and upgrade to full Centrino specification: this buys a 1.5GHz Pentium M CPU and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. For another £40, you could have a DVD writer too.

Where Watford is surprisingly generous is in the graphics department. It includes a 64MB Mobility Radeon 9700, which pushed the Precision to over 40fps in Unreal Tournament 2004.

The Radeon powers a rather nice TFT too. With a 15.1in diagonal, it supports a 1,400 x 1,050 resolution. It’s perfectly sharp and bright compared to the others on test, and contrast is fairly good too.

Surprisingly, the fans aren’t overly noisy, even when the CPU and GPU are fully loaded. We measured 33.dBA from the side where the air exits. The PSU became the hottest we tested at 39ûC, but the Precision itself was average at 35ûC underneath. Despite this power leakage, battery life was above average at around two hours for intensive use and three hours for light use.

It adds up to a phenomenally good value notebook – albeit one without much of a warranty, with just a single year of return-to-base cover to speak of. If your budget is limited, this is a great buy.

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