- Relatively lightweight
- great battery life
- sharp design.
- Not very robust
- cheap and cheerful integrated graphics.
UK-based Evesham Technology’s Centrino notebook range starts with a system based on the 1.3GHz Pentium-M processor, but we were able to get our hands on the fastest 1.6GHz model for this review. The rest of the specification hasn’t entirely settled down yet, but it looks as though production versions of this notebook will have 512MB of PC2100 SDRAM, and possibly a 60MB Fujitsu hard disk. Our review sample came with 512MB of memory and a 40GB IBM Travelstar drive, but the price -- £1,399 (ex. VAT) -- looks set to stay the same.
Design & features
Like a number of Centrino notebooks, the Voyager Xi looks good. There are snazzy touches to the design like the integrated touchpad, which is seamlessly included in the palm-rest moulding, and the illuminated blue surround to the power stud. Whether the white trim around the edges of the case and lid works for you is a matter of personal taste -- we quite liked it. It's not too big (31.2cm by 26cm) and at 3.3cm thick with the lid shut, it's fairly slim too. This helps the weight, and we found the 2.45kg stand-alone heft relatively manageable. There have been compromises to get the weight down though, starting with the floppy drive (soon to disappear from all computers, it seems), which is an optional extra that plugs into a USB port. The other area which has been affected is the overall build quality. The case is constructed from rather thin mouldings and felt a bit flimsy, as did the lid, despite its (thin) metal surface. We also noticed that the slim case meant that the hard disk was in direct contact with the plate in the base covering the drive compartment. The plate had a rubber bump shield on it, but we weren't sure that it would be enough to dissipate a heavy impact, and this could prove to be a weak point in the design. The screen was perhaps a little dark, and not everybody will get on with the combination of a 14.1in. diagonal and 1,400 by 1,050 resolution. There's lots to see, but it's all rather small, and not always easy to read or hit with the pointer. The keyboard avoids the major pitfalls, but it feels a mite crowded and doesn't stand out from the crowd for comfort or ease of use. We liked the translucent, dark plastic keys though, which added another element to the Voyager Xi's general visual appeal. When it came to ports, the Voyager delivered roughly what we were expecting: you still get a parallel port, but serial and PS/2 ports have gone by the board; there are four USB connectors, FireWire, infrared, and sockets for the internal V.92 modem and 10/100Base-TX network adapter. The wireless side of the Centrino specification is handled by Intel's PRO/Wireless 2100 802.11b Mini-PCI card, well hidden away beneath the keyboard. There's a single Type II PC Card slot if you need it, and the optical drive -- a QSI DVD/CD-RW combo unit -- is modular and hot-swappable, so there is some scope for upgrading in the future.
Unfortunately, the one thing you might want to upgrade right now, you can't. We're talking about the integrated graphics module in the Intel 855GM chipset. This does have a clever trick up its sleeve, in that it can share memory dynamically with the main system. Instead of nabbing a fixed amount, say 32MB, it will use as much as it needs between 8MB and 64MB, and relinquish it back to the system when it's no longer in use by the GPU. This didn't make it go any faster as far as we could see, and it turned in a decidedly limp score of 1,914 under 3DMark 2001. Could do better. Mainstream 2D graphics acceleration is perfectly adequate though. The 1.6GHz Pentium-M processor did its stuff, helped along by the 512MB of DDR SDRAM, so we weren't surprised by the fairly assertive Business Winstone 2001 rating of 48.8. But Centrino isn't just about power -- it's also about power management and battery life. Evesham claims the Voyager's 4,400mAh Li-ion battery will keep it going for up to five hours, and BatteryMark 4.01 ran it down in a very creditable 4 hours 36 minutes, so the quoted figure isn't too far off the mark. At £1,399 (ex. VAT) the Voyager Xi isn't wildly expensive, but neither is it a compelling deal.