NEC Versa C250 review

£800
Price when reviewed
Time was when usernames and passwords were almost unheard of, but now you need them for practically everything. So, it’s a joy to be able to consolidate them all in one place with the Versa. As with the Lenovo and Sony, the C250 from NEC includes a fingerprint reader to achieve exactly this.

The simple Protector Suite QL software encrypts everything you need into a single finger swipe, which can then also be used to lock the system and access the My Safe area. This is an encrypted portion of the hard disk in which vital files can be stored out of sight from other users.

The scanner itself is mounted between the two mouse buttons, so you may brush it accidentally, but on the whole the design and build quality of the NEC are fantastic. There’s no sturdier notebook here, with top-notch TFT protection from the lid and a chassis that feels far more substantial than some.

The 15in XGA TFT is clear and bright, although viewing angles are a little poor, making the top a touch darker than the bottom, even looking square-on. The keyboard could be improved too, with Delete at the bottom and a few other keys out of place, but it’s not uncomfortable to use. Shortcut buttons for email and web browsing are handy as well.

Under the covers is an 80GB hard disk and a dual-layer DVD writer. Power is provided by the only non-Intel CPU here – a 1.8GHz AMD Turion 64 ML-32 with a copious 1GB of memory. But with just 512KB of Level 2 cache, it was soundly beaten by the nominally slower 1.73GHz Pentium M processors – with less RAM – partially due to their 2MB of cache.

Naturally, Office applications still run smoothly, and Microsoft Works 8 is provided if you can make use of it. If you need to work on the move, the battery offers a below-average three hours when idle and one hour, 20 minutes when pushed hard. At least you’ll be able to communicate with your phone using the Bluetooth or infrared connections, and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi is supported too.

Four USB ports, mini-FireWire and a PC Card slot are present, but there’s no media card reader. The one-year collect-and-return warranty adds to the generally solid but unspectacular theme. When you consider the £53 delivery cost (which is only halved with volume orders), the Versa simply doesn’t represent good value for money compared to the better-equipped and lower-priced Lenovo.

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