Packard Bell Easynote M3 325 laptop review

Obviously the gang over at Packard Bell have been noshing down their Weetabix as this latest Easynote laptop is about as mobile as a tethered breezeblock. The monstrous new M3 325 comes in at cheeky 3.8Kg and requires an adapter so beefy to charge it that there's a built in fan.

But what under the hood of this might hotrod? The processing power comes from the new Athlon 64 3200 2.0Ghz processor, so straight away you can tell that despite the heavy bodywork she'll be fast off the grid for applications speed. Couple this with the 512Mb of RAM and 60Gb of hard disk and suddenly breaking your spine into tiny shards, to move the blessed thing, seems like a fair exchange for the sheer power on offer.

To be fair, I don't really think the M3 325 is designed to travel far or often. The fact that you have also been given 64Mb of Video RAM to play with, plus 6 USB ports as well as a Firewire socket, leads me to believe the standard use of this machine would be surrounded by enough peripherals to give any gadget lover a case of swoony tech-head.

The DVD-RW drive is quite standard but an unusual feature is the 4-in-one digital media reader that's been shoehorned into the front of the M3 325. This reader will accept Smart Media, Secure Digital, Multi Media Cards and Memory sticks, and effortlessly move images onto the computer to be worked on. It even includes options to view the images as a slide show, print them out or order prints off a web based picture repro houses.

The software that comes shipped with the M3 325 is Windows XP home edition and this suffices to get most of the tasks you need done in the frustratingly standard MS manner. It's a shame that instead of a proper version of MS office you are made to suffer the indignity of MS Works, which really is just not cricket at the end of the day especially when you consider you are parting with around £1300 but they have thrown in Word 2002. The general configuration is more biased towards home entertainment than work, with a very respectable suite of imaging and music software including Photo Express 4.0 and Music and Video Maker 7.0 included. Gaming comes in the guise of Splinter Cell and Civilisation 3 and so long as borderline megalomania and being sneaky about float your boat you should be smiling all the way to the shrink's couch.

The screen is a respectable 15.4in TFT with the video RAM coming from a slinky ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 system. Due to the vast expanses of the machines body 4 separate speakers have been crammed in, split into 2 groups of 2, one set a the top of the screen and one set at the top of the keyboard. Even so I was still left scrabbling to find the 11 setting on the volume when watching DVDs but I suspect this could be corrected with some advanced tweaking.

The mouse pad could do with a little work as the pointer has a tendency to drift and get into mischief if fingers are not kept in very careful check when working at speed. The keyboard itself is large and comfortable to use with plenty of wrist support, afforded the user by the larger body.

Verdict

Overall the M3 325 is a very nice computer to use, although really a desktop replacement. Not perfect, as I can testify to when I lost half this review mid-stream when I closed a dialog window for the modem that seemed to drag the Works document into the abyss with it, but these errors can be erased with practice. The connectivity to devices and web is excellent and there really is some impressive creative power tucked away inside the bulky bodywork.