Advent 4211 notebook review

4.5 out of 5
£279.99

For

Price, good screen, usable keyboard, good overall design

Against

No 3G option, battery life

Since the news a few weeks ago that PC World was to launch a version of the MSI Wind under the Advent brand, the Internet has full of discussion about the new kid on the block. So what’s the score? We got out hands on the Advent 4211 for a play.

It is impossible to review the Advent 4211 without referring to the MSI Wind, but perhaps there is no need because the Advent 4211 is identical, as contributors to the comments on Pocket-lint have established.

The difference lies in the price, the colour schemes and bundled software. The Advent comes in a black outer shell, with silver (looks like light taupe to us) interior. Perhaps not as cohesive in appearance as the black MSI Wind, but not that we would spend the extra money in pursuit of such vanity.

The Advent 4211 is home to the Intel Atom N270 chip, which gives you 1.6GHz processing power but is much more efficient than traditional chips so is ideal for small format portable devices such as this. The display is a crisp 10in LCD (1024 x 600) LCD which stands up fairly well in a range of light conditions, both indoors and out.

The keyboard is obviously small, but fills the width of the frame so maximal space is given over to the keys. Some keys suffer, for example the comma, which is pretty small. The trackpad is a two button affair and can be easily disabled with the Fn shortcut (F3) if using a mouse, but in-use seemed accurate enough.

In terms of physical connections, you get three USB, and LAN, with a VGA output for your monitor and headphone and microphone connections, linked into the Realtek HD audio manager. The on-board speakers are basic and really don't give you much, but you can listen to the radio and enjoy your web videos and so on, but music is fairly lacklustre. However, chances are that if you are being this portable, you either don't need sound, or you'll be using headphones.

The VGA connection works as any other XP-based device, so you can easily hook the 4211 to a larger screen and use a USB keyboard and mouse, for example, when at home.

You also get wireless LAN and Bluetooth built-in as standard, and from a mobile connections point of view, the only thing we'd want to see added is a 3G/HSDPA option. The integrated hard drive is 80GB, which gives you plenty of space for storing your files on the move.

As there is no optical drive, you'll either have to download the software you want, which is an increasingly common option, or install from a USB stick or SD card. An integrated SD card reader is also here, making it easy to get photos from your camera and so on, or even it use as a file store to swap back and forth to a larger PC.

All of this is the same as the MSI Wind, as are the function controls on the keyboard, critically F10 lets you switch between high and low power when running on battery and F11 lets you cycle through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enable and disable options. We found the battery lasted at best 2hrs and 30mins in light usage. It is worth switching power modes to conserve battery life, as well as disabling your wireless connections you don't need. There has been much talk of the six cell MSI battery and we can't see any reason why this can't be added retrospectively, if they are sold as an accessory in the UK.

So where does it differ from the Wind? Well, apart from the price, which is £50-ish less (depending on where you buy your Wind), the software offering is pretty similar: both ship with Windows XP Home Edition and the BIOS is essentially the same, with a minor difference of dates from when the notebook was assembled. The bundled software is mildly different, as the Advent 4211 incorporates backup and recovery solution from The TechGuys and you'll find Microsoft Works bundled, whereas the Wind has an Office 2007 trial. You also won't find any AV software included, as this is usually offered at point of sale at PC World.

Verdict

The Advent 4211 is a great little computer and runs very well. We have used both the Advent and the Wind and there is nothing to tell them apart aside from a more competitive price. The packaging, aside from the exterior branding is also all the same, so a buying decision is easy to make: you shoot for the cheaper model. We loved the MSI Wind, and we love the Advent 4211.

But perhaps this also marks something of a turning point for Advent, who have in the past suffered from a degree of negative brand snobbery. Perhaps buyers will look in more details at the range of PCs available.

Thanks to PC World for the loan of the Advent 4211.