(Pocket-lint) - Thanks to the ever popular direct sale policies of the likes of Apple, Dell and Tiny, buying online these days is easy, with a range of power and drive options available across the various screen (machine) sizes. Spotting the difference between models is not however.
All buyers receive a standard shell, but with the relevant hardware plugged in. Shoppers erring on the cheaper side will find some slots (like the card reader) empty, but the quality of finish and layout is pretty much standard across the board. Tough? Yes. Slim and lightweight? No. This is a twin-fanned beast weighing in at 3.6Kg - that’s four bags of sugar this is one heavy beast.
Undoubtedly made to order models offer a good saving (Tiny's range starting at sub £500, with DVD player and CDR/W drive), with a staggered range of laptops featuring ramped up hard drive, disc drive and processor options.
Of course there are hidden software costs. The XP installation is pre-loaded and aside from the recovery CD, programs are scant. I would expect more than a 60-day trial copy of Microsoft Works at the price. No wonder the bootleg software market is what it is today. Microsoft Works Version 7 seems terribly scant and the Cyberlink PowerDVD Software Suite is functional for movie playback but seems a little lonely in the extras department. At least the raw cost allows best buys, without the added peripherals, normally of an average quality and used as marketing filler to drive sales.
What remains is just the NB 64-3700+ E01315 as the proposition, although judging by the markings on the box or the laptop it could be any model as there seems to be no physical model number branding on the notebooks in Tiny's off the shelf range.
The home and power ranges look very similar externally, which is probably a good sign of build quality.
Here is what we know about our review model. Pre-loaded with Windows XP home 2002, this one comes with an update for the XP SP1 to bring it up to 2004 standard. Having to update is an added source of confusion for the less experienced user and a worry for those used to battling with Microsoft's patch solutions. The whole series come with an Athlon AMD Mobile Processor - this model came with a AMD Athlon Mobile 64 3400+ Processor, but our 'Power' laptop version has the beefed up 80GB Hard Disk, compared to the standard 40 GB on the £500 'Home' user model.
Packing 1024 MB, DDR RAM (2x 512MB), and our DVD rewritable 'ultra speed' drive seems a sensible ad on for memory transfer and back up purposes. Despite being in the 'Power' range, we have only three USB2.0 slots on this one, although even the budget option from the 'Home' range on website has four.
Male users worried about overheating should be glad to hear that this range comes with twin fans, keeping you cool where it counts. Unfortunately, the fans aren’t evenly distributed, causing an unusual sensation in one thigh. The layout is comfortable to use- plenty of room around the foot of the keyboard, a good size touchpad and four accompanying buttons. The on/off and accompanying hotkeys are neat and compact, with a discreet set of lights on the left rim of the bottom piece. Shame about the open slots for memory card, USB, TV out, modem etc. Not only a harbour for dust, it spoils the line of the design. It is not ugly, but it is simple. As it is heavy too, it is more comfortable as a desk replacement than something anyone would want to lug around the world. The weight pays dividends when typing though. The keyboard feels sturdy, as does the area below that provides a comfortable resting spot for the wrists.
This is a good range of solid notebooks from Tiny. Refreshing to know that both the Home and Power ranges are built using the same chassis, to the same high standards. While the Tiny logo on the top may not sing like a Sony, this is, nevertheless, a nice piece of kit- don't be dissuaded by brand association and the Skoda principle. If you are looking for a budget notebook, without splashing out extra on a bag full of short-lived accessories, this could be for you. Be aware that while the cost of hardware may be low, the software could end up costing a lot more.
With the popularity of Microsoft XP and IE, you'll need anti-virus protection at the very least and with the pre-loaded links to ISP firms, software providers and a 50p/min call charge, you may be left feeling that your budget notebook purchase is merely the beginning of a rather expensive experience. Worse still, spending £999 may not be your idea of a budget notebook!