by Dan Hunke, Canada
Looking very at home on my desk, attached to my port replicator.
The Znote 6214W is one of Zepto's first original notebooks, as they have largely produced rebadged Compal machines up to this point. The 6214W is a 14.1" mobile gaming platform, offering a a great deal of power under the hood while still remaining very portable. Best of all, Zepto throws a very complete and well outfitted package together for a price that rivals those of lightly outfitted notebooks offered by Apple, Dell, and Lenovo (to list a few) in the same category. Are you sacrificing anything to get so much for so little? Read on.
(to view larger images in this review simply click on an image)
Getting right to the point, here are the specs of Zepto 6214W as reviewed:
Price and Availability
Configured as above, this notebook comes out to a total of $1,557.74 USD ($1,755.65 CAD). Comparing against similarly sized and graphically outfitted notebooks, I can pretty much only come up with the Thinkpad T60 and R60; of course any T60/R60 for ~$1500 is going to be significantly less outfitted than the 6214W being reviewed here. Even compared against larger notebooks in the mainstream 15.4" category, the Znote 6214W provides more features and power than a Macbook Pro or similar notebook at the same price.
As for availability, as a European brand you'll be able to easily order this notebook online in Europe. Availability in North America is a little tougher, Zepto does not have any offices on this side of the Atlantic so you'd have to work out shipping from Denmark if you were to decide a Zepto notebook is what you want.
Build and design
The Znote 6214W is covered top to bottom with the same, dark grey plastic. The outside is smooth and sleek, the back of the LCD bearing only the unobtrusive Zepto logo. The bezel on the inside of the machine is more of the same, broken only by a shiny black enclosure above the keyboard for the power button, model branding, status indicators and functionality keys. While a notebook entirely encased in one color may sound less than exciting to you, I love the look. It's clean, it's elegant, it doesn't have any distracting colors and best of all it looks very little like anything produced by other manufacturers. This machine will stand out in a crowd and in my experience always garnered a number of questions.
Build quality on the 6214W is fine when inspected visibly, but creaks a bit when pushed. The keyboard is nice and solid, but I can feel bend to the case when I push down on the palm rests or up on the bottom. The screen noticeably twists when pressure is applied to it. It's best to get a good notebook backpack to properly protect this notebook if you'll be carrying it around a lot.
The machine is pleasantly thin and light, weighing in at 5.18 pounds (2.35KG) with the battery and only 1.06 inches (27mm) thick. For a 14.1" widescreen notebook, it feels and looks smaller than it sounds on paper - perhaps this is because it's thinner than my "thin and light" Dell Inspiron 710m (a 12.1" widescreen notebook).
From top to bottom: Inspiron 710m, Thinkpak T30, Znote 6214W
The Znote 6214W sports a 14.1" widescreen display with a resolution of 1280x768 pixels. The display is evenly lit and can be adjusted through eight levels of brightness, has excellent contrast but falls slightly short in the viewing angle department. Being a matte screen, it makes up for this shortcoming by being easily readable in even direct sunlight. To be honest, I would have liked to have a second 6214W with a glossy screen to compare it against, but you'll have to live with comparing it to my Inspiron 710m's screen.
Inspiron 710m on the left (notice light reflection from glossy screen) on the right Znote 6214W (matte screen)
As you can see, the display on the Znote 6214W holds up well compared to the Dell 710m which has one of the most beautiful glossy screens I have ever used. Compared against the regular matte screen of a Thinkpad T30, the 6214W is miles head in all aspects except screen resolution.
On the topic of screen resolution, 1280x768 fits well on a display of this size and dimensions and is probably the best resolution to go with the included GeForce Go 7600. As well, 1024x768 letterboxes fit perfectly onto this screen without any scaling, so games that don't support the LCD's native resolution will still look good (if you ignore the black bars on the side). I would have loved to see a WSXGA+ option available for this machine; as a man who thinks a 1280x800 resolution fits perfectly on a 12.1" display and a 1400x1050 resolution is divine on a standard 14.1" display, I obviously love to squint and I'd like manufacturers to respect my decision to destroy my own eyesight!
Light leakage is minimal.
Speakers and sound quality
One of the selling points for the Zepto 6214W has to be the Realtek HD 7.1 audio, complete with S/PDIF optical output. I haven't a 7.1 channel system to hook this up to for testing purposes, but my previous experience with Realtek chipsets leads me to believe that sound quality would be excellent through the optical output. Sound quality when hooked to a pair of low end Altec Lansing speakers is excellent, but it almost always is.
The integrated speakers are a bit of an enigma to me. They are placed under the screen on the notebook but seem to sound a bit off if your head isn't positioned directly between them; unless my hearing is going each individual speaker seems to overpower the other if I am not placed directly between the two. Volume range is great, bass is lacking, but the speakers manage to hold clarity even at upper levels. They are definitely suitable for sifting through Google Video's top 100 videos with one's sister, but not something I'd recomment for use in listening to that favorite Apocalyptica album.
Processor and performance
This is the first Core Duo machine I've had the opportunity to use extensively and I'm simply blown away. Multitasking ability aside, the T2500 puts every other CPU I have used to shame. Every task is quick and painless, ripping a CD in iTunes and playing a movie in Media Player Classic results in zero slowdown and everyday applications open and operate without a hiccup. I'm sure the full two gigabytes of RAM doesn't hurt, but the CPU holds its own very well.
Zepto 6214 (2.0 GHz Core Duo)
Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)
Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
|Notebook||3DMark 06 Results|
Zepto 6214 (2.0GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go7600 512MB)
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,528 3DMarks|
HP nc8430 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)||4,085 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3DMarks|
Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results Zepto 6214 (2.0GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go7600 512MB) 3,556 3D Marks Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 3,925 3D Marks Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3D Marks Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB) 2,536 3D Marks Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks
3D Mark 05 Results
Zepto 6214 (2.0GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go7600 512MB)
3,556 3D Marks
Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
3,925 3D Marks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)
1,791 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)
7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)
2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)
2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)
HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)
2,536 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)
2,090 3D Marks
At 1 minutes, 12 seconds, the 6214W boasts the best Super Pi score I've seen for a 2.0 GHz Core Duo yet. With a 3DMark 05 score of 3556, the GeForce Go 7600 easily beats any ATI x1400 or GeForce Go 7400 and gives the ATI x1600 a good run for its money. The included Hatachi Travelstar hard drive shines with solid transfer rates and low access times.
I wouldn't be much of a reviewer if I didn't say how a portable gamer's notebook stacked up as a gamer's notebook, would I? In the two weeks I have had this machine I have played a fair bit of Counterstrike: Source, World of Warcraft and Oblivion to get a feel for how the Core Duo T2500 and GeForce Go7600 stack up.
I ran CS:S at the display's native resolution of 1280x768, with all settings maxed. Average FPS (according to FRAPS) was 86.91, and it played smooth as butter. Heat was not an issue in this game.
World of Warcraft
WoW also ran fantastically at native resolution with all settings maxed. An average FPS of 57.09 isn't too bad either.
Oblivion didn't run quite so well as the first two gmaes I tried, but I was impressed. At 800x600 with 4x Antialiasing and Bloom, I was happy to garner an average FPS of 56.09. Very playable, and with fixed apsect ratio scaling on it wasn't hard to look at either.
The Battlefield 2 demo ran well on 1024x768 with all settings maxed again and produced an average FPS of 47.55, but I encountered some strange graphical glitches. It appears that I'm not the only one but it also looks to be an issue with the driver for the GeForce Go 7600 and not with the Znote 6214W itself.
All in all, I was very pleased with the gaming performance of this machine. Counterstrike Source and World of Warcraft were the two I wanted to play the most - and both passed with flying colors - but I was impressed by how playable Oblivion turned out to be.
Heat and noise
Under regular wireless internet surfing and listening to music, the included fan is barely audible and heat is minimal. Using this notebook on your lap for regular use will not cause any burns, nor will it endanger any odds of producing offspring. Under heavy gaming and CPU usage the fan kicks up into high and is quite audible, but not abnoxious. At this point I would suggest that the notebook is used on a hard surface of some sort, as the bottom chassis and palm rests can get quite warm, if not to the point of uncomfortable. At best, the machine is whisper quiet and runs cool, at worst it is quieter than any music or noises from the game being played.
My only actual complaint here would be the hard drive - the Travelstar is a noisy little bugger. Heavy usage is very audible and can be disturbing in a quiet room.
The Intel Wireless 3945 chipset is a solid wireless chipset from what I've seen so far. Providing 802.11 a/b/g in one integrated package is appreciated, though I have yet to actually run across an 802.11a router. Range was more than satisfactory and throughput was always consistent and at good speeds. No Intel wireless software was provided with the initial installation of Windows, but the integrated client is more than good enough.
For average internet/wireless use, I averaged between 2 to 2.5 hours of life between having to rush to find an outlet. Under heavy usage or gaming performance, I experienced battery life around an hour and a half. Nothing spectacular, but certainly not abysmal either. Good enough for taking to the local Starbucks for an hour or two, but not enough for a plane trip anywhere.
Included adapter, with converter than I purchased at Walmart
Keyboard and touchpad
I'm going to start off by saying that I really like the keyboard on the Znote 6214W, but I don't really like the touchpad.
The keyboard is perfectly sized, the keys have good travel and make a satisfying click when depressed. The home bar on the right side is where it should be, and I like that I don't have to press the function key in order to turn num lock on and off. There are plenty of function keys that do everything from putting the notebook into standby to toggling Bluetooth, as well as additional function keys near the power button.
I think my biggest gripe with the touchpad is that it's the same material as the surface around it and it isn't sunken in at all. It's too easy to be using the mouse and to attempt to click on something to find that I'm just tapping at palm rest. This can be irritating. I do like the mouse buttons themselves, they feel solid and well built and have excellent feedback. Touchpad scrolling required an update of the Synaptics driver (I doubt most people will need to do this), but it's there and works well. It would be nice if the touchpad were a bit wider, I find myself running out of room and had to bump up the sensitivity a few times.
Input and output ports
The Zepto web site states that the Znote 6214 has the following:
On the left side:
AC adapter plug, 56k modem, exhaust (I see copper!), WiFi switch, USB 2.0, Firewire, Express Card, 3 in 1 card reader
The Express Card slot is an excellent touch as it leaves room for future expandability (like an HSDPA wireless high speed card), and the 3 in 1 card reader takes some getting used to but support Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and SD/MMC.
The right side:
S/PDIF optical and audio ports, USB 2.0, Sony Slot-In DVD-RW DL, locking port
The S/PDIF optical port is of note, but I think the big winner on this side is the slot loading DVD writer. The novelty of a slot loading optical drive is one I think we all can appreciate as it adds to the cool factor of the notebook, but it also comes with the downside of not working with oddly shaped optical media. As well, the drive is prone to rattling when tilted and I don't suggest you try to move the notebook while anything is in it.
Status indicators (WiFi, power, battery usage/charge, hard drive, card reader), infrared
Not pictured here but still on the "front" in my opinion is the microphone, just to the right of the status indicators. I'm also glad to see an infrared port here, many machines are coming without them and I still find uses for this port.
Final two USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, S-Video out, 10/100/1000 Gigabit port
These last two USB 2.0 ports bring us up to a total of 4, which I think is perfect for a notebook of this size. VGA and S-Video are pretty much standard, though DVI instead of VGA would have been nice. Gigabit LAN on a machine in this price range is certainly an added bonus and very nice to see as well.
And the bottom:
The hard drive, RAM and battery are the only accessible items here
With 802.11 a/b/g wireless, integrated Bluetooth and an infrared port, the Znote 6214W is very well connected. Four USB 2.0 ports are a blessing when I would only expect two on a machine of this size, and it's convenient that two of them have been placed on either side of the machine. With optical audio out and standard audio in/out ports as well as an integrated microphone and decent speakers, the 6214W is well covered on the multimedia front, and the slot-in optical drive rounds out the package and gives you a bit of something to write home to Ma about. Nothing to dissapoint here, folks.
Operating system and software
Initial bootup resulted in the above screen; this is the first time I haven't felt that a complete wipe of the OS was necessary. I can't believe how little bloat was installed on the system, from what I recall I only uninstalled the demo MS Office install and the included Antivirus, changed the system language to English and was pretty much done. Just in case you mess up and have no internet connection, Zepto has also included a general driver CD along with an Intel Wireless driver CD.
Barely any change required at all!
I have to take this time to congratulate Zepto on giving the consumer the option to order their system without an OS included. I've long said that all manufacturers should offer this, as many users prefer a different OS (some flavour of Linux for some, educational versions of XP for others, etc) than what is normally offered with a system. If you do happen to want Windows with your 6214W purchase, Zepto offers both Home and Pro varieties of XP as options.
For those of you looking to upgrade to Windows Vista when it one day comes out, you're set. The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor advised me that the system was set to run the core experiences of Windows Vista, exceeding all of the recommended system specs with flying colors.
Any contact I've made with Zepto has been with Roelef at Zepto DK, and he has been simply great in answering any premature questions I had. Mind you, I haven't had any technical problems (and could probably fix them myself or with the help of fellow NotebookReview.com forumites) but I doubt my experience would have been any less spectacular.
If you do manage to get one of these machines in North America, don't plan on getting next business day warranty support -- that's for Europeans only! The default support length is 2-years, which is generous.
Overall, I'm very pleased with Zepto's Znote 6214W. It offers powerful processing power, solid graphics performance and a very complete package at a very respectable price. Yes I had some concerns with the case build quality, the touchpad and the battery life - but these complaints are all silenced by the extra $500+ you would save buying a Znote 6214W over an identically outfitted notebook by anyone else.
Zepto looks to make a great portable gaming machine for a good price, here's hoping they decide to expand their operations to those of us on this side of the Atlantic in the new world!
I hope you enjoyed my review and I'd be glad to hear any feedback (positive.. or constructive) you may have!
For your enjoyment..
Some unboxing pictures!
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