Hi-Grade Ultinote M6500-2000

hig-un6500-lead.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Excellent performance with high-end content creation-type applications
  • attractive price.

Cons

  • Bulky, heavy and noisy
  • poor 3D graphics performance
  • no built-in wireless networking.

Hi-Grade's Ultinote M6500-2000 is the first 2GHz notebook we've received for review, but it doesn't use Intel's newly-released 2GHz Mobile Pentium 4 processor -– instead, it continues Hi-Grade's policy of using desktop Pentium 4 chips in this product line, first seen in the Ultinote M6400.

Despite Intel’s reservations about the practice of using desktop CPUs -- which lack the SpeedStep power-saving technology and lower operating temperatures of mobile processors -- in notebooks, we found little to criticise in the 1.8GHz M6400 beyond its increased bulk and weight compared to a regular two-spindle notebook. Many users would be prepared to sacrifice some portability, we felt, for a fast notebook with an attractive price tag. So, do our conclusions still stand now that the clock speed has risen to 2GHz?

Externally, the M6500 looks very similar to the M6400 model, the main difference being its 15.1in. rather than 14.1in. XGA TFT screen. Inside, instead of using ATI’s Mobility M6-M graphics chipset as the M6400 does, the M6500 uses the graphics module integrated in the system’s SiS 650 chipset -– to the detriment, it must be said, of its 3D graphics performance.

The M6500’s 2GHz Pentium 4 processor is supported by a generous 512MB of DDR RAM and SiS’s 650 chipset, whose integrated graphics module appropriates 32MB of system memory for its purposes. Fixed storage is provided by a 40GB Hitachi hard disk, while the system’s optical drive is a Matshita DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. Like the M6400, the M6500 is not particularly portable, measuring 32.8 cm wide by 27.4cm deep by 3.7-4.6cm high and weighing 3.7kg (rising to 4.15kg with the AC adapter).

The remainder of the specification is pretty much as in the M6400 model. There’s a single Type II PC Card slot, an RJ-45 Ethernet port and access to the hard disk compartment on the left-hand side, while the optical drive, battery compartment and a Fast infrared port are found on the right-hand side. At the rear, there's an S-video out connector, four USB ports, plus parallel, RJ-II modem and VGA ports. The front panel is home to a 4-pin FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, microphone and line-out jacks, a thumbwheel volume control, status LEDs and a pair of stereo speakers. There’s no built-in wireless networking, so you’ll have to use the PC Card slot to provide this functionality.

In our benchmark tests, the 2GHz Ultinote M6500 generally acquits itself with distinction, as you’d expect -– but it’s not all good news. Its Business Winstone 2001 score of 39.9 is good, but is actually behind that of the 1.8GHz M6400 model, which scored 42.7. On the other hand, the M6500’s extra processing power is put to good use in the Content Creation Winstone 2002 test, where it scored 28.7 –- the highest we’ve recorded to date. The M6500 disappoints in the 3D graphics test, thanks to its use of the integrated SiS 650 chipset -– the M6400, with its ATI Mobility M6-M graphics chipset, delivered almost double the M6500’s 3DMark 2001 score. Finally battery life, at two hours and eight minutes, is respectable for a system of this class, although this 3.7kg system is unlikely to be used much on the road. It’s also worth noting that, like the M6400, this desktop processor-powered notebook requires a hefty 6,000mAh Li-ion battery to achieve its no-better-than-average BatteryMark 4.01 score.

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When we reviewed the 1.8GHz M6400, we noted that it had more fans and cooling vents than the average notebook, but didn’t find the system especially noisy. Unfortunately same cannot be said for the 2GHz M6500, whose cooling system comes on more often, and is noisier when it does.

The main incentive for choosing a notebook powered by a desktop processor, like the Ultinote M6500, is its attractive price/performance ratio. To get this sort of performance from a Mobile Pentium 4 system, you’ll be paying around £2,000 (ex. VAT) rather than this machine’s £1,399 (ex. VAT). In fact, Hi-Grade is now selling this configuration for the same price with a 2.2GHz desktop chip, and offers a 2GHz system with 256MB rather than 512MB of RAM for just £1,149 (ex. VAT). If you’re prepared to put up with the fan noise and a bit of extra bulk and weight, the Ultinote M6500 is still good value.

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