by Andrew Baxter
The Sager NP6260 is a 12.1" screen 2.8lb ultraportable laptop that breaks the mold for what this company typically offers. Sager is a known commodity among those notebook buyers that seek powerful systems with a screen size in the 15.4" - 17 "range. But the company has decided to broaden its offerings and cater to those that crave small and light notebook systems offering better battery life and portability. Following is a review of this first ultraportable NP6260 offering from Sager.
Sager NP6260 (view large image)
The NP6260 under review was provided to us by PowerNotebooks.com, an online computer reseller based in Nevada USA. The company prides themselves on customer service and caters to selling notebooks and other PCs for those that don't want a cookie cutter PC from the likes of Dell, HP or Toshiba (and so on). My experience in having this notebook sent to me was the same as any other person will receive, communication via email regarding notebook preparation and ship time was excellent and the NP6260 arrived superbly packaged and in an on time manner of 1-week shipping. You can check out ratings for PowerNotebooks.com at ResellerRatings.com, Donald Stratton of PowerNoteboks.com is also active in our notebook discussion forums and can be found helping people there.
Overview and Specs
The Sager NP6260 is a light 2.8lb machine specifically targeted at those for which smallness and low weight matters. Namely, people on the go and that travel a lot and for which blazing speed and high performance graphics don't matter, portability is the name of the game. Following are the specs for the NP6260 under review:
Design and Build
Sager NP6260 rear view and lid (view large image)
The NP6260 is available in two color options: silver or white. As you will see from pictures ours is the white color variety and looks a bit like a MacBook. However, unlike the MacBook this is a 12.1" standard aspect ratio (non-widescreen) PC and weighs about half of what the MacBook weighs. Without a doubt, it's the sheer lightness of this notebook that's the outstanding feature. 2.8lbs is light for an ultraportable without an optical drive, but to include an optical drive and keep weight at under 3lbs is astounding.
Front side view of Sager NP 6260 (view large image)
There's no doubt this has to be the lightest option out there for a 12.1" screen notebook that includes an optical drive. Even the Fujitsu LifeBook P7000 series 10.6" screen ultraportable notebook with an optical drive weighs in at 3.2lbs. The first time I picked up the NP6260 I thought I'd received some type of styrofoam dummy display unit. Every person I've watched pick this thing up has immediately commented "woah, this is light" and then inspected the bottom and tapped the notebook to make sure it wasn't some hoax. The notebook actually weighs the same or less than some bags I've used. When you put it in your bag you'll definitely wonder a few minutes later if the notebook is actually in there -- the weight of the laptop is so negligible you won't notice much of a difference between a notebook loaded and empty bag.
One thing to consider, Sony once marketed the X505 razor thin notebook and Fujitsu now sells its LifeBook Q2010 ultra slim notebook. The Q2010 is super skinny at about .8" of thickness and weighs 2.2lbs. But, the Q2010 is so skinny it uses proprietary ports for such basic things as VGA out and ethernet and built-in optical is of course out of the equation -- yet it weighs 2.2lbs, only a half pound less than the NP6260 that has everything you need for on the road.
Light indicators on the frontside of the NP6260 (view large image)
The NP6260 casing is constructed of magnesium alloy. Which is quite surprising given the light weight -- you'd expect a thin plastic and not a metal. However, you can't wave a magic wand to keep weight down, compromises have to be made somewhere. In this design instance weight is kept off by making the case a bit thinner than I'd like in some spots. There's flexing on the underside and top when you push in, around the optical drive area on the bottom is particularly flimsy. I'd avoid shoving this into a book bag with a bunch of large textbooks. The good news is that the palm rests are actually quite firm and no issues of flexing there.
Another area that could do with some improvement in terms of build are the screen hinges. It's a little loose and you get some wobble with the screen. The screen latch could be improved too, it's hard to push in and open the screen, and the latch just generally feels rather cheap.
Processor and Performance
The processor powering the NP6260 is an Intel Core Solo ultra low voltage U1400, it clocks in at 1.2GHz. The perceived performance speed is equivalent to what regular clocked Pentium M processors got a couple of years back. Benchmark wise, the U1400 clocks in slightly better than what a 1.6GHz Dothan Pentium M machine did two years ago. Not bad if you ask me.
Super Pi Comparison Results
The Super Pi results bear out the fact that the undervolted Core Solo is in line with performance from the Dothan Pentium M generation of processors:
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Sager NP6260 (1.2 GHz U1400 Core Solo)||1m 58s|
|Dell Inspiron 700m (1.6GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook P7120 (1.2 GHz ULV Pentium M)||2m 32s|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo)||1m 07s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)||1m 46s|
|HP nc8430 (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo)||0m 58s|
Some laptop companies use the 1.8" hard drive size to keep weight down and allow for thinness. The big problem with 1.8" hard drives is that they top out at 4200RPM in speed and are hard to find over 80GB. But thankfully the NP6260 uses a 2.5" notebook hard drive size and therefore we get a faster spinning 5400RPM hard drive with a very genorous 100GB of room. You can even get a 120GB hard drive configured, which is exceedingly good for an ultraportable. Below are the HD Tune results for the Samsung 100GB 5400RPM hard drive included:
The memory configured in this NP6260 comes in at 1GB, it is upgradeable to 1.5GB. 1GB is the recommended amount, especially since the graphics system is integrated and will borrow up to 128MB from system memory when needed.
Although the Core Solo is pretty good, it's not going to compete with a Core 2 Duo notebook in terms of performance of course. It can actually hold its own against the lowest end Core Duo (Intel T2300E) until it comes to multithreading, where of course two cores will trounce the one core in the U1400:
|PCMark05||Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300E)||Sager NP 6260 (1.2GHz ULV Core Solo U1400)|
|HDD – XP Startup||5.57 MB/s||5.752 MB/s|
|Physics and 3D||64.66 FPS||50.731 FPS|
|Transparent Windows||123.63 Windows/s||157.702 Windows/s|
|3D – Pixel Shader||12.43 FPS||8.528 fps|
|Web Page Rendering||2.51 Pages/s||1.779 pages/s|
|File Decryption||41.52 MB/s||29.321 MB/s|
|Graphics Memory – 64 Lines||289.82 FPS||285.772 fps|
|HDD – General Usage||3.82 MB/s||4.074 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression||1725.17 KB/s||N/A|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding||246.21 KB/s||N/A|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit||89.01 Pages/s||32.245 pages/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression||19.71 Mpixels/s||7.047 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression||6.12 MB/s||1.324 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption||16.0 MB/s||7.296 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD – Virus Scan||26.27 MB/s||12.161 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency – Random 16 MB||7.32 Maccesses/s||6.867 Maccesses/s|
The 12.1" screen uses an XGA 1024 x 768 resolution screen. An XGA resolution on a 12.1" screen means you're limited to viewing one window at a time, but that's par for the course for any ultraportable notebook.
The screen is not glossy so no problems with reflections in rooms with strong lighting. The screen gets very bright, in fact at top level it may be too bright. If you're running on battery setting the screen at half brightness will still leave the screen very readable. Speaking of brightness setting, one annoying thing is that when you hold in on the "Fn" + "F5" to increase brightness or "Fn" + "F6" to decrease brightness, there's no heads up on screen indicator to see what level you're now at.
The horizontal viewing angles are quite decent, but as is usual with notebook screens, vertical viewing angles aren't as good and colors change from low or high viewing angles. There is some definite light leakage at the bottom of the screen, this is only noticeable on dark screens though, for instance if you're watching a widescreen DVD with black bars on the top and bottom you'll notice the extra light band at the bottom of the screen.
The speaker for this laptop is on the bottom, and quite obviously an afterthought. Volume and sound quality are about as bad as they come, the volume was so low via the built-in speaker I struggled to hear even spoken dialogue such as the ESPN Motion sports updates you can get from the front page of ESPN.com (which I usually find has a default sound that is ear piercing loud). You'll absolutely need a pair of headphones to hear anything more than system sounds from this little guy.
The underside of the NP6260, the speaker can be seen on the bottom at the center front (view large image)
As with the screen brightness toggle, you don't get any obvious on screen volume meter to indicate you are successfully adjusting volume. Maybe a driver update is needed to get these on screen meters to show up.
Heat and Noise
While the notebook does use an ultra low voltage processor for its engine, Intel still hasn't kept power consumption low enough that product designers can leave off fans. So, this ultraportable does have a good sized vent on the back left side and a fan that will really kick up if you're doing anything intense. When I ran some benchmarking tools such as PCMark05 that really pushes the system to its limits, the fan revved up all the way and got quite loud. In general though, the system is quiet and the fan always remained off when the system was idling or being used in a light manner.
Input and Output Ports
Sager NP6260 right side view of ports (view large image)
Sager NP6260 left side view of ports (view large image)
The NP6260 has 3 USB 2.0 ports, that's a good amount for an ultraportable and I'd never ask for more. Sadly, the ThinkPad T43 14.1" notebook I use has only 2 USB 2.0 ports, so the NP6260 is better than some even larger notebooks in this regard.
FireWire is offered as well as a 3-in-1 media card slot, both nice media touches. You also get a VGA out port. No S-Video or DVI port, but neither are expected on a 12.1" notebook.
You get a PCMCIA type II card slot for expansion. The alternative slot would be ExpressCard, if a manufacturer has to choose between one or the other PCMCIA at least means you'll have more accessory options available because it has been around for some time. ExpressCard is the future expansion slot of choice as the industry slowly shifts in that direction though.
You of course get a microphone and line-out for headphones. There is even a built-in microphone at the bottom of the keyboard.
One thing I didn't like regarding the ports are that dummy plastic pieces are used to fill the empty media card slot and PCMCIA slot -- I much prefer flaps, plastic pieces are too easy to lose and clumsy.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Fitting a good keyboard on an ultraportable is tough, sacrifices with key size must be made somewhere. The good news with the NP6260 is that the key sizes are actually pretty generous, I had no issues adjusting to size as it is pretty much so full size.
However, the keyboard falls far short in terms of firmness -- there's a lot of flex going on and the keys are very clickety-clack sounding. The keyboard is probably the biggest downside of this machine, it just feels cheap, if the notebook were to be improved this is where the designers should focus.
The touchpad is small, but works well. It is well textured and your finger won't slide. Given this notebook has built-in Bluetooth, a Bluetooth wireless mouse is a real treat and much better option for using as an input and navigation device. The mouse buttons suffer the same clickety-clack noise as the keys on the keyboard, they're not very smooth in travel and could be improved.
A nice touch is the biult-in Wi-Fi on/off button at the top of the keyboard. The disable touchpad button right next to it at the top is good to have too. I like the fact these buttons are out of the way so that you won't accidentally bump them, yet in plain sight so that you won't miss seeing them. I can't tell you how many times I've had a notebook with a wireless on off switch hidden on the side that gets accidentally bumped, and then several minutes of confusion ensue trying to figure out why wireless won't work -- this won't happen with the NP6260.
Given this notebook would be used by travelling professionals, the fingerprint reader offers some nice user friendly security. The fingerprint reader comes with UPEK software Protector Suite which is the best in the industry. I use the fingerprint reader for logging into Windows and at the system level.
Also offered and built-in is TPM 1.2 security from Infineon to allow for secure transactions and communication should you utilize this feature.
The battery for the NP6260 is a 4-cell variety. The battery size is always a tough call on ultraportables. You could put in a larger 6-cell battery and get an extra hour or two of battery life, but that would mean .5lbs more weight. I was able to get 3 hours and 20 minutes of usage with Wi-Fi off and screen at half brightness under normal usage with the 4-cell. That's not bad at all. I could probably have even comfortably used the NP6260 at a lower brightness -- Wi-Fi off is kind of a bummer so most will have that on. Assume you'll get a little over 3 hours of battery life in normal usage.
Something worth mentioning is that the power adapter itself is very small and light too, so it won't add too much weight or bulk when travelling. It's always a pain when you get an ultraportable notebook but not an ultraportable power adapter, with the NP6260 both the notebook and power adapter are small.
The NP6260 offers 801.11 a/b/g via the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 wireless chip. The software drivers provided to manage connections is provided by Intel. Also built-in is Bluetooth 2.0 for use with notebook peripherals or pairing with other devices such as cell phones and PDAs.
Customer Support and Warranty
One of the really nice things is that the standard warranty on the NP6260 is a 3-year warranty direct from Sager. So while most manufacturers are being stingy and only offering one year, and then forcing you to cough up $300 for a 3-year warranty, it's included with the purchase of the NP6260. You can checkout the details of the 3-year warranty here.
In addition to the warranty, I have first hand experience in dealing with PowerNotebooks.com and have heard many stories from others -- they are recommended as a place that will do right by you.
The best attribute of the Sager NP6260 is of course the astoundingly light weight for a machine that has an integrated optical drive. At 2.8lbs, including the battery, it's only about half a pound heavier than the ultra slim and ultra mobile Fujitsu Q2010 which makes a lot of sacrifices in order to be so light. The screen brightness and viewing angle on the NP6260 is very good. The overall sturdiness of the NP6260 leaves something to be desired, the case could have been thickened for better construction, but would have of course added to the weight. If there were one thing I could change about the laptop it would certainly be the keyboard though, the size is fine, but it's got too much flex and makes too much noise to make for a pleasant typing experience. Overall though it's good to see Sager moving into the ultraportable arena with a notebook offering for those buyers that crave lightness but still need an optical drive while on the go.
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