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After spending months searching around for a laptop, this was an offer I simply couldn't refuse. I'm glad I took it!
Unless you connect to an external monitor or TV, the screen is going to be very important when choosing a laptop. This LED 15.6" screen is a nice size in my opinion, and the resolution of 1366x768 is neither impressive nor disappointing. It can go bright enough to easily be seen in strong sunlight.
This was the main reason for my purchase. I do a lot of music recording and production running various plugins, which needs a lot of power to keep everything running smoothly. The Intel i5 2.4GHz processor is truly impressive, and means I'm never left wishing for more power. If you just doing the occasional bit of casual browsing you will easily be satisfied with a cheaper model that has an i3 processor instead. The 6GB of RAM is very good, but many programs don't offer a 64 bit version to take advantage of all of this.
The first setup was extremely easy, self-explanatory and quick. Any computer with Windows 7 Home Premium should be the same.
The massive 750GB hard drive should mean you don't have to worry about running out of memory. I transferred everything across from my old computer and have been filling this with uncompressed music recordings, and still have 500GB left. Storage and retrieval are both quick, and the Intel Rapid Storage Technology that comes with it may be partly to thank.
-Mouse and Keyboard-
The keyboard is nice and springy, which helps with quick typing. The keys aren't particularly raised so catching the wrong one can happen at times, more so than with large keyboards of desktop computers. WiFi, music, screen settings and brightness can all be controlled directly from the keyboard with one press. A small white light comes on the Caps Lock button when in use, which is handy.
The mouse is made up of many small grooves, which gives it a nice texture. It is accurate, and things can be controlled with special gestures. For example, double tapping the top left corner disables the mouse, putting two fingers on it and moving them apart makes it bigger, and moving two fingers down scrolls down. The only problem I've discovered is that the mouse stops working if you have sweaty hands.
There are a variety of colours available, but shops only seemed to have red available. Still, the red looks fine, and compliments the black panels and keyboard. It's sexy!
The first thing I noticed about the built in Altec Lansing stereo speakers is their impressive maximum volume. It doesn't seem to reproduce anything at all below around 200Hz (so there's absolutely no bass), but those frequencies it does bother with sound acceptable.
-Webcam and Microphone-
The webcam is 0.3MP, so not ideal for filming things, but fine for a Skype chat, as you'd expect from a small built-in webcam. Me and my friend both have the same laptop, and we were both surprised by how clearly we could hear each other over Skype, which is a compliment to the built-in microphone.
The WiFi operates perfectly. Along the sides, there are many possible connections and ports. There is a disc drive which is capable of quickly reading and writing CDs, playing DVDs as smoothly a DVD player would, and (although I haven't yet tried it) writing DVDs too. There's a slot for an SD card, 3.5mm microphone and headphones/speaker connections, a HDMI port, Ethernet port, VGA port, and 3 USB 2.0 ports, which are a fairly average speed. I'm disappointed in the lack of Bluetooth, which many modern laptops have.
The battery is Lithium-Ion. To you or me, it simply keeps working for a long time. There are a bunch of power options, including a power saving mode which slightly sacrifices performance and brightness for battery life. For most things this reduced performance will still be perfectly fine, and it can last up to 6 hours.
It's all worked perfectly so far, besides one occasion where it complained about my desktop missing upon startup. I panicked a lot for a second, restarted and then was relieved to find that all was back to normal. It doesn't feel like the toughest piece of technology in existence, but I can't say how well it reacts to being dropped as mine has been carefully carried everywhere.
With it being a laptop, you want something that can easily be carried around. It's fairly average size, with dimensions of 374 x 245 x 36mm, and not too heavy at 2.55kg.
I happily purchased this laptop in January 2012, for £400 from PC World. I've seen it in a local computer shop for £350 second hand, which I think is still quite a good deal. For a laptop with similar spec, it's normally needed to pay much extra.
A quick search around the internet suggests that it's not particularly easy to find, but if you do get the opportunity to buy one and you need more power than the cheaper models, I would highly recommend this.