NEC Versa S970 review

£549
Price when reviewed

Looking at the low price, you might expect the NEC Versa S970 to be a cheap and cheerful entertainment station. In fact, it’s a serious machine – designed for business use – and comes preinstalled with Windows Vista Business.

The Versa S970’s priorities are clear as soon as you take it out of the box. For a laptop with a 14.1in screen, it’s light at just 2.2kg – great news for professionals who regularly cart their laptops about with them. What’s more, this portability is backed up by a good battery, which gave an impressive 4hrs 42mins in light use. For the best possible battery life, you can engage the unique ECO switch, which reduces power consumption by throttling the CPU. This can be configured in software, of course, but a physical button is far easier and we’d like to see it on more laptops.

Mobility isn’t the S970’s only business credential. Below the trackpad sits an unobtrusive fingerprint reader, and there’s an infrared port at the front of the chassis. However, there’s no webcam and the tiny integrated speakers are anything but hi-fi. Another frugal choice is the 1GB of RAM, which holds back the T7300 CPU from achieving its full potential. It still clocked a respectable score of 0.97 in our benchmarks, though.

Another area in which the S970 shows its low budget is the TFT panel, a matte unit that’s distinctly dim, even when plugged into the mains and set to maximum brightness. Colours appear muted, and dark shades are lost in the murk. Although this subdued screen may contribute to the S970’s battery life, we’d have preferred the option of a bright presentation mode.

Still, for £549 it’s an affordable and coherent package with some unique merits. If you’re looking for a general-purpose laptop you might be frustrated by the S970’s lack of versatility, and it certainly won’t win any awards for its styling; if you just want to get lightweight work done on the move, though, it could be your perfect match.

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