by Andrew Johnson, Alaska USA
Averatec has totally refreshed the design of their 12" notebook line with their 3700 series, which continues Averatec's trend of offering great specifications at a bargain price. This time, however, it's a truly well-rounded machine that combines great looks, strong performance, and a long battery life.
Averatec 3700 Series 12" Screen Notebook (view larger image)
Specs as tested:
Build & Design:
The 3700 is a great looking notebook. It has a simple compact design, with nothing sticking out, a flush-fitting battery, and slightly rounded corners. It is a simple white color with one piece of silver trim, and a silver bottom. Compared to the previous generation, it is just a bit thicker, but has a significantly smaller footprint. I greatly prefer this design to some notebooks which seem as if their only goal was to be thin, at the expense of a flimsy feel, wasted space (like a thick bezel around the screen), and a larger footprint. Do buyers really only look at the thickness spec when searching for a small notebook?
When open, the notebook is clean and simple. It has an even, thin bezel around the screen, which looks very nice compared to the thick, space wasting bezels on so many notebooks.
Build quality is the usual fairly sturdy with a bit of flex here and there. A firm push on the back of the LCD will cause ripples to appear, and the keyboard is not super-stiff. Speaking of the LCD, the hinges seem sturdy and well-damped. Also, there is no latch. The LCD just closes and stays closed until you pull it open. Nice.
There seems to be a very small gap between the LCD and keyboard when closed, which worries me somewhat. In the past, I've seen notebooks that mark the LCD with the keyboard over time. It might be wise to use the included LCD sleeve to protect the screen when transporting this notebook.
Averatec 3700 front side view (view larger image)
Averatec 3700 left side view (view larger image)
Averatec 3700 right side view (view larger image)
Averatec 3700 underside (view larger image)
The screen is a basic, easy-on-the-eyes matte type. It is 12 inches and 1024x768 resolution. It gets commendably bright, and has good contrast and even backlighting. Viewing angle characteristics are the usual, with a better horizontal than vertical viewing angle.
The speakers definitely impressed me. Not because they sound especially good. Perhaps a little better than most small notebooks. But because they sound good even though they point directly down from the rear of the notebook!
Processor and Performance:
This is my first experience with AMD's Sempron mobile processor. I am impressed. It seems to be a great competitor to Intel's efficient and popular Pentium M. The 3000+ in the Averatec 3700 actually runs at 1.8GHz, and is comparable to a Pentium M at the same speed.
General performance was responsive and snappy, even when using Averatec's hardware "S" for silent mode/battery savings, which locks the CPU speed at 800MHz. This really shows that for most common tasks like office work, web browsing, and DVD viewing, modern processors are far more than fast enough.
Heat and Noise:
I expected a fair amount of heat and noise from a 12" notebook, especially one without a Pentium M. I was wrong.
The 3700 has a fairly large vent and an intelligent fan for keeping the CPU cool. When I first started using the notebook, the fan seemed somewhat loud and also sporadic. Then I found out there is a fan calibration option in the CMOS setup, which I ran. It ran through over 10 different fan speeds, ranging from inaudible to annoyingly loud. Now, depending on CPU load, it will switch between off, almost inaudible, and a hum that isn't too loud. However, when it switches speeds, it revs up to full speed for a second, which is a bit annoying. Still, things are much better after running the fan calibration, which I would recommend anyone do.
As with most notebooks, and especially small ones, heat and noise is proportional to how hard you use the notebook, i.e. what the CPU, video, and hard drive load is. For low load work like typing and web-browsing, the notebook stayed very cool except a little warmth on the right side of the palm rest. The fan cycled onto low speed periodically.
With DVD playback, which heats up many notebooks significantly, the right side only got a little warmer. The left side also began to heat up just slightly. Throughout the entire DVD the fan stayed at the "almost inaudible" setting.
Only running CPU-intensive benchmarks continuously, which use the CPU 100% and don't really emulate normal use (except gaming and rendering graphics), could cause the fan to run at the high speed and the notebook to heat up more. The bottom was warmer than the top palm rest area. However, it never got uncomfortably hot. In fact, it was cooler than an old 12" Averatec I've used gets when just sitting idle! This was tested with the laptop sitting on a flat surface. Literally using it on a lap might make things heat up more because the air intake might be blocked.
Also of note, Averatec's "S" button for silent mode really works. Even with 100% CPU load, the fan would switch to low speed shortly after pressing the button to lower the CPU speed to 800MHz. It also didn't take too long for the fan to shut off after completing the CPU-intensive benchmark, although it would cycle back on periodically.
As mentioned before, the 3700 seems plenty quick and snappy for a variety of tasks, especially for a compact notebook. The integrated S3 graphics on the Averatec 3700 make it pretty useless for 3D games. It's really not the purpose of this notebook. However, it does allow an independent external monitor, while some other notebooks only allow the external monitor to mirror the LCD.
To give some numerical comparison to other notebooks, I ran the Super Pi Benchmark.
Super Pi: Time to calculate Pi to 2 million digits: 2:11
|Averatec 3700 (AMD Sempron 3000+ 1.8 GHz)||2m 11s|
|Fujitsu S6231 (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 6s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
Averatec 3700 Series keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
For such a small notebook, the keyboard is very good. It has an almost perfect layout and makes good use of the limited space. The only key that is too small is the right shift key. I would have preferred that the arrow keys be compacted into one row to allow for a full sized right shift, like on Apple keyboards.
The keyboard sounds like a desktop keyboard. A bit more loud and "clicky". Some may like this. There is some flex when you mash the keys, which is something I only notice if I purposefully mash the keys.
The scrolling touchpad is flush with the palm rest, so some might accidentally brush it while typing.
Input and Output Ports:
Aside from the standard array of ports, Averatec included a mini firewire (1394) port and a 4-in-1 multi card reader. The 3 USB 2.0 ports are all on the right side, which could get in the way when using an external mouse on a small surface.
The included 802.11g wireless works very well and connected to my home and work wireless network without problems.
Battery life is impressive, especially at this price point. DVDs are always fairly taxing for a system. I was able to get over 2 hours and 10 minutes of DVD playback with the LCD at a comfortable level 5 of 7. On a dark Airplane, this could easily be lowered to increase battery life.
If I am really careful I can squeeze a full 4 hours of battery life out, with LCD brightness at low and doing only simple tasks. If I allowed the screen to turn off, this could be even more.
One little thing that is especially notable to me is that the battery slides in easy, and fits flush. It seems ridiculous when a battery sticks out the back of a notebook.
Operating System and Software:
The 3700 includes Windows XP home and a fairly low amount of "annoyware."
I am extremely pleased with this notebook. It has a full feature set at a great price, and it looks outstanding. It is surprisingly cool and quiet under most conditions, and battery life, while not excellent, is very good. At this price, a spare battery could double the battery life and still keep the price below the competition. The keyboard is a nice layout which makes good use of the small space offered on a 12" notebook.
Pricing and Availability: Averatec 3700 Series
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