NEC Generation A review

£599
Price when reviewed

NEC’s Generation A is aimed squarely at the education market and employs some clever strategies to safeguard data and deter theft. These will be welcomed by any parent sending a child to school with hundreds of pounds worth of electronics tucked under their arm.

NEC Generation A review

Naturally, the notebook can be used in any other sphere of activity, although the primary theft deterrent – a large “Generation” logo on the lid – will limit the appeal. An inset panel has an international freephone number and web address to report to if the notebook is found, and removing the panel reveals the word “STOLEN” below.

The contact details are for Oxygen Cubed. More than just a simple tracker, the scheme includes software that can locate a stolen notebook when it connects to the internet, and the notebook also has three years’ replacement theft insurance.

Using the fingerprint reader for secure login, you can initially set access rights, including control over security settings and hardware such as drives, networking and expansion ports. There’s also data encryption and a managed version of McAfee’s anti-virus software.

With an Intel 1.5GHz Celeron M 370, it’s far from the most powerful notebook here, but given the education bias it’s sufficient. The 40GB hard disk isn’t really big enough, though. Elsewhere, the Generation A is better specified, with a dual-layer DVD burner, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), a memory card reader and four USB 2 ports.

The 14in widescreen display (1,280 x 768) isn’t the brightest example, but there’s good protection behind for when it’s crammed in a bag full of books. The build elsewhere isn’t quite as reassuring, particularly the keyboard. Ours had a comparatively spongey feel, and the touchpad was a little vague as well.

With a life of travel on the cards, the 2.3kg weight is manageable, but it would be nice to have more battery life than the 3hrs 33mins we obtained under light use. Fortunately, replacements cost only £49 – the cheapest we’ve seen.

NEC’s Generation A is a fine example of a manufacturer addressing a specific market, and the plentiful security measures will be gratefully received. But, unless you’re swayed by them, others are better value here and have much bigger hard disks.

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