NEC Versa One review

£574
Price when reviewed
NEC’s brand-new Versa One might look a bit familiar. Quite aside from its similarities with the MSI VR601, it’s a dead ringer for the Versa P570 we saw in issue 163’s Business laptops Labs (web ID: 175563). It’s also one of only two laptops here to use up every single penny of the maximum £499 budget.

Ignore the Versa One’s exterior and look straight to the heart of its spec, and you’ll see where the extra cash has gone. An Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor is 200MHz faster than any of its rivals, and with 2GB of RAM nestling alongside it propelled the NEC to the top of the 2D table with a fine score of 1.06. Its battery life is superb too – almost five hours.

The Versa One is also unique in having a socket around the back to accommodate NEC port replicators and docking stations. But while this would be important in a business setting, it’s far less so in a domestic environment.

And it’s when you set it next to other consumer-oriented laptops here that the NEC struggles. Looks aren’t everything, but with budget laptops becoming increasingly slick, the NEC’s businesslike frame fails to impress. It’s not as dour as the P570, but swapping a few black strips for silver ones and changing the lid to blue isn’t enough to disguise its boxy figure.

Build quality is average too. The lid seems to do a better job of protecting the display than the P570’s did, but the plasticky chassis is still far too pliant.

But it’s the Versa One’s ergonomics that really rule it out of contention. The glossy 15.4in display is bright enough, but this isn’t accompanied by accurate colour reproduction. Skin tones appear oversaturated and unnatural, and Crysis’ lush jungle scenes were far from their usual vibrant selves.

Turn your attention to the keyboard, and it’s enough to push the NEC into last place. Squeezing in a numeric keypad might please some, but leaves the keyboard feeling cramped. The Enter and right-hand Shift keys are shrunken to tiny proportions, and compared with others’ more spacious layout, using the NEC’s proves purgatorial.

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