Coming with an 18.4-inch screen, the resultant footprint is large, measuring 44cm wide, and 30cm deep, which is to be expected in this type of machine. In terms of design, however, there is little in terms of flair. Mostly a combination of matt and gloss black/grey plastics, it lacks the sharp design you’ll find on something like the Acer Gemstone Blue models.
That said the design doesn’t offend either. The main glossy area is on the deck around the keyboard, an area designed to be touched, meaning fingerprints are a problem, but the smooth finish gives it a nice feel. With such a wide deck there is plenty of space on offer, so it is a surprise to find the touchpad is a little small and the two buttons don’t get the glossy treatment as they fall off into the rough matt border at the front.
On the left-hand side of the keyboard you’ll find touch media controls, which again brings that aforementioned Acer model to mind, although this is rather basic - stop, play, forward and back can be found here, topped by the large Medion signature triangular power button. It’s a shame there is no volume control here which there is certainly space for, so you’ll have to resort to Fn shortcuts for that particular control, which seems like a strange omission on a media notebook.
The keyboard itself leaves a little to be desired. The first major gripe here is that the Fn and Ctrl keys in the bottom left have been reversed, so those who use a lot of control shortcuts will find that they are hitting the function key instead. Given the space available, it is also a shame that more space wasn’t given over to the keyboard, with some keys being too small for this size of laptop. I’d guess that the keyboard was lifted straight from a smaller chassis machine. You do, however, get a number pad on the right-hand side. Overall the keys do seem a little too loosely spaced leaving lots of room for debris to get underneath, but are comfortable enough to type on.
You’ll also raise an eyebrow at the battery, because it rattles around alarmingly, even when locked into place with the catches. This is the first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the P8610 and spoils the otherwise fairly good quality.
That large 18.4-inch screen takes a 16:9 aspect ratio and is great for watching movies, however the native resolution is 1680 x 945 pixels, so whilst it counts as HD, it can’t claim the Full HD panel resolution that some rivals can. This might deter some, although in practice it is perhaps less significant. The glossy surface lends itself to watching movies at home and high-definition content looks sharp enough. There is a fair degree of backlight bleed, particularly across the bottom edges, but considering the price, that can perhaps be forgiven.
The lack of screen resolution might not be a problem as the Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS, with 512MB is dedicated memory and the HDMI port will allow you to output your HD content onto an HDTV. This is relatively simple to do and after some minor tweaking in the Nvidia control settings you can enjoy your Blu-ray movies playing off the included player (multidrive), straight on your TV, including the audio.
When it comes to audio in the notebook itself, Medion have turned to Dolby to boost the offering and it certainly works. The onboard twin speakers and subwoofer deliver impressive sound quality, thanks to the Dolby Home Theater approval rating, avoiding the normal tinny effect you get from notebook speakers. If you are serious about watching films, then larger external speakers will do you wonders. However, as part of Dolby Home Theater you get Dolby Headphone, which will enhance the headphone experience, creating virtual surround sound. Certainly a set-up from a normal headphone offering, this will appeal to gamers and movie watchers alike, and it is definitely worth playing with the options here. SPDIF is also included for those looking to integrate into an existing home cinema set-up.
Sitting at the core of all this entertainment goodness is an Intel Core 2 Duo T5800, running at 2GHz. This is backed by 4GB of RAM. Whilst not the most powerful of processors available, it will handle everyday tasks with ease, and combined with that graphics power, had no problem playing back a Blu-ray movie on our TV, whilst browsing the Internet. Those looking for a high-end gaming experience might want for more power however.
In terms of storage you’ll find a 320GB hard disc, which should suffice for most, although the inclusion of an eSATA port on the side will enable you to hook-up an additional drive and take advantage of the advanced speeds on offer. Even so, 320GB is not the largest capacity around and is becoming fairly "average", but I guess this helps keep the price reasonable.
Around the body of the P8610 you’ll find a host of connections. Down the left-hand side you’ll find a Kensington lock slot, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, 2x USB 2.0, a 4-in-1 card reader and ExpressCard slot. The right side gives you the power socket, a further USB and the headphone, mic and SPDIF 3.5mm jacks. An additional mic is located on the body of the notebook, which when combined with the bezel-mounted 1.3-megapixel webcam provides a convenient solution for those looking to video chat. Wi-Fi b/g/n is also included, but strangely the Bluetooth Fn shortcut doesn’t enable Bluetooth and we couldn’t find it in the hardware listing either, suggesting that Bluetooth might be available on some other models.
You also get a range of accessories, including a soft case which is handy for protection and at a push, for transportation, but at 3.7kg you’ll not be carrying it far. You also get a mini wired mouse which is very basic, and a DVB-T tuner with remote that slots into the ExpressCard slot, although this was missing from our review sample, so we couldn’t test it.
In terms of software, the P8610 comes loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium, with Cyberlink PowerDVD handling Blu-ray playback, and NERO Essentials. Bullguard provides security software but only on a 90-day trial. Other than these main packages, there is some Google freeware, but nothing in the way of office software.
With this size of device you wouldn’t expect much from the battery, but the inclusion of HybridPower and Hybrid SLI technologies do give you a boost. These systems from Nvidia will cause a step down to the Nvidia motherboard GeForce 9100M G chip when running on the battery, thereby saving you power.
You can toggle between the high and low power settings if you wish, and a neat Nvidia logo displays which setting you are on. Even so you’ll only get 2hrs 15mins from the battery on performance mode, boosted to 3hrs 30mins in power saver mode, with the screen brightness right down. Start watching a Blu-ray disc, and even in power saving mode you are looking at just over 2 hours from the battery, so a push to finish many films.
But then there is the price and at £799 Medion have once again opted for a compelling price point. The inclusion of a Blu-ray drive as standard does provide some degree of future proofing, however, there are better quality builds, more powerful processors and better designs out there if you have a little more cash.
If cash is king, however, then this is worth seriously considering.