Advent Altro notebook

Apple’s MacBook Air features one of the most impressive form factors we’ve seen to date, but its price tag puts it out of range for most people. Advent is hoping to take advantage of this with its Altro, offering a spookily similar design for just £600.

The Altro’s most noticeable feature is the skinny chassis, the bottom half of which looks near identical to the Air – even down the black isolated keyboard and silver colouring for the rest of the machine.

The design differs when you get to the screen, however, with a thick bezel that makes the 13.3-inch display look a lot smaller than it actually is, and gives this machine a somewhat cheap appearance. The screen itself is reasonably sharp, with a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, and colour reproduction is good.

Rather predictably at this price, the Altro is made from plastic – rather than the MacBook Air’s aluminium construction. The 1.7kg weight is easily light enough to carry around on a daily basis, although it’s more than we were expecting considering the 25mm depth of the chassis at its thickest.

Quality could be better, especially around the hinges, as the screen flexes worryingly under pressure. Advent has got it right when it comes to the keyboard, however, which is solid in use and offers an excellent typing action. The keys are well spaced, and offer a perfectly judged amount of travel.

Those wanting performance should look elsewhere, as Advent has fitted low powered budget components in order to keep the price down. An CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) 1.2GHz Intel Celeron 723 chip provides processing power, and although it’s capable enough during simple tasks, it gets bogged down when running a couple of applications. While the performance isn’t a surprise, considering the low-powered processor, a battery life of 3 hours is less than expected. That said, if you just need a simple machine to edit documents with on the way to work, then the Altro is worth a look.

It’s not just the styling that the Altro shares with the MacBook Air; like its Apple counterpart the Advent is also painfully short on ports, with just one USB port for adding peripherals. Thankfully you also get a small adapter as standard, doubling the USB count, and also providing an Ethernet connection. The only other port you’ll find on the Altro is an HDMI-out, offering support for high-definition TVs.

Things are better on the wireless front, with 802.11n Wi-Fi offering the fastest connections, and an integrated 3G/HSDPA adapter letting you browse the web on the move. The SIM card is housed beneath the battery, and the Altro isn’t tied to any specific network.

Verdict

Although the Advent Altro can’t match the MacBook Air for quality or desirability, it does a pretty good job of imitating Apple’s finest. It’s incredibly thin, and it offers a decent blend of portability and usability. The comfortable, responsive keyboard makes it a pleasure to use for longer periods of time, and it’s the ideal companion for those wanting a machine for the daily commute. It’s let down by poor performance, however, and with slightly dubious build quality we’d also suggest investing in a decent carry case.