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Tiny MediaBook Extreme

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Pros

  • Fast processor
  • good-quality 14.1in. screen
  • reasonable price.

Cons

  • No port replicator option
  • moderate battery life.

Tiny's MediaBook Extreme is notable for featuring Intel's 933MHz FC-PGA 'flip-chip' Pentium III. However, it fails to outperform existing 750MHz notebooks with mobile chips, let alone leading-edge 850MHz systems.

The flip-chip Pentium III is normally a desktop part, and as such lacks the SpeedStep product's ability to automatically reduce its clock speed and operating voltage to conserve battery life when away from a source of mains power.

This might not pose too much of a problem in practice, as the MediaBook Extreme is an all-in-one, three-spindle notebook that's more likely to be used as a desktop replacement system than carried around wherever its owner goes. However, if you don't mind lugging the 3kg system weight around, then the moderate battery life of 2 hours and 31 minutes (as reported by ZD Labs' BatteryMark 4.0 test without power management) might prove limiting.

This Mitac-built notebook has a reasonably solid feel and is clad in a handsome silver/dark grey livery. However, the casing is plastic rather than magnesium alloy, which raises a question mark against its robustness if used regularly on the road. The basic specification is impressive, however, the 933MHz processor being supported by 184MB of RAM in our review system, with a maximum RAM capacity of 256MB. Main storage is provided by a 19GB Fujitsu Ultra ATA/66 hard disk, while the graphics subsystem is powered by Trident CyberBlade i1 graphics engine that's integrated into the system's VIA chipset.

The system's six-speed DVD-ROM and 1.44MB floppy drives are located on the left-hand side along with a couple of USB ports, but the drive bays are not modular, so you can't replace the floppy with an LS-120 drive, for example. The front of the system carries the audio ports, a volume control thumbwheel, a pair of stereo speakers and the single infrared port. The IR port's location is convenient if you're communicating with a pocket computer, for example, but less so when you're printing. The right-hand side carries two stacked Type II PC Card slots that can also house a single Type III card, and the RJ-11 connector for the built-in 56Kbit/s modem. At the back are the usual collection of I/O ports -- serial, parallel, VGA, PS/2-plus an S-Video TV-out port and a connector for a port replicator (although Tiny does not offer one).

One of this system's best features is its 14.1in. XGA TFT screen, which delivers a bright and uniform picture. The keyboard is good, too, featuring a sensible layout with separate cursor and Home, End, PgUp and PgDn keys. A pair of tilt feet on the underside helps to provide a comfortable typing angle. Between the keyboard and the screen are a series of status LEDs, the power button and two special buttons for quick access to your browser and email client.

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Our review system came with Windows 98 SE loaded, along with Microsoft's Works Suite 2000 and several utilities. The standard warranty covers parts and labour on a collect and return basis for 12 months.

As far as performance is concerned, the MediaBook Extreme is certainly fast, delivering a score of 27.5 under ZD Labs' Business Winstone 99 benchmark and Windows 98 SE. However, similar scores have been recorded from 750MHz SpeedStep notebooks, which suggests that the 933MHz desktop processor isn't reaching its full potential in this notebook setting.

The 933MHz processor certainly gives Tiny's MediaBook Extreme some news value, but you can get at least as good a combination of performance and battery life for the same money from mainstream designs.

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