by Perry Longinotti, Canada
Our latest review sample from LG is the LG R1-C001A9 model which retails for $1400 USD or $1500 CDN. LG touts the R1 series of notebooks, "14 inch wide screen multimedia powerhouse." A quick look at the specs reveal a fairly conservative offering. Let's see if we are missing something or if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
LG R1 (view large image)
LG R1 and everything in the box (view large image)
The specifications place the R1 in a class with the Dell Inspiron 640m - a formidable competitor. We'll take a look at a feature and price comparison in a bit, but first let's delve into the details.
Starting with the CPU, we see the R1 employing the relatively new Intel Core 2 Duo T5600 operating at 1.86 GHz. Aside from a slower clock speed, the biggest difference between this CPU and the more expensive models in the Core 2 Duo line is the amount of level 2 cache. In the T5600's case it has 2 MB - half of what the bigger and better T7xxx series has. This is a great chip that is designed to hit a certain price point, but it will please almost anyone with its real-world performance.
In terms of measurable computational performance, the R1 calculates Pi to 2 million decimal places in 1 minute 16 seconds. This is a respectable score for a small notebook. FutureMark's PC Mark05 measures overall system performance and reported an aggregate score of 2855.
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|LG R1 (1,86GHz Core 2 Duo T5600)||1m 16s|
|HP dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion64 X2 TL-56)||1m 54s|
|Compaq V3000T(1.6GHz Core Duo)||1m 26s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.00 GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Toshiba A100(2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Acer Aspire 5102WLMi(1.6GHz Turion64 X2 TL-50||2m 22s|
|Gateway E-100M(1.2GHz Core Solo ULV)||2m 02s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|HP dv5000z(2.0GHz Sempron 3300+)||2m 02s|
Another synthetic benchmark we use is Futuremark's PCMark 05. This is a good general measure of system performance.
|LG R1 (1,86GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel graphics)||2,855 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV)||1,390 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)||3,427 PCMarks|
|HDD -- XP Startup||6.12 MB/s|
|Physics and 3D||81.1 FPS|
|Transparent Windows||219.06 Windows/s|
|3D -- Pixel Shader||12.84 FPS|
|Web Page Rendering||3.03 Pages/s|
|File Decryption||50.54 MB/s|
|Graphics Memory -- 64 Lines||482.49 FPS|
|HDD -- General Usage||4.29 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression||1275.14 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding||217.44 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit||68.96 Pages/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression||14.15 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression||5.43 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption||15.05 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD -- Virus Scan||24.25 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency -- Random 16 MB||7.65 MAccesses/s|
Memory is 1 GB of DDR2 running at 667 MHz in dual channel mode made by Hyundai. This amount of RAM should handle the typical workload of a notebook like the R1, but the integrated Intel video system likes to hog as much as 224 MB of the system RAM. It would be nice to have a user over-ride either in the Intel GMA control panel or BIOS, but there was none. This would be less of an issue if the R1 was configured with 2 GB or RAM.
Hard Drive and Optical Drive
Storage is handled by a Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 100 GB SATA HDD and the extremely capable LG GSA-4082N Dual Layer DVD-RW drive.
The R1's hard drive could stand to be bigger. Newer perpendicular hard drives are appearing in less expensive notebooks with 160 GB capacity. Some of these newer drives are also a bit faster than the Hitachi. The Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160 GB HDD would be a good place for LG to start as it offers an abundance of space and great performance. When I think of a good multimedia notebook I usually envision an abundance of storage, so I think LG might want to reconsider the R1's storage specifications.
LG R1 optical drive (view large image)
The LG optical drive will handle all the formats of CD and regular DVD media. It burns regular DVD-/+R and +RW discs at 8x, -RW discs at 6x, dual layer at 4x and DVD-RAM at 5x. It should cover most needs. I burned several CD and DVD projects with out a single problem. This drive is designed to be swapped out.
I mentioned earlier that the Intel GMA 950 video system gobbled up 224 MB of system RAM for its own uses. Why such an anemic video system requires this much ram is beyond me. It is frustrating to know this and not be able to rectify it. Intel's video solutions offer very modest features and performance. Thankfully their ability to do little more than render a basic two dimensional image means that power draw is low. A meager score of 594 is all the R1 could score in 3DMark05. Good battery life is therefore the biggest selling feature of the GMA 950.
Again, when I think 'multimedia powerhouse' I expect, if not a gaming capable GPU, at least video acceleration like that offered by Nvidia's Pure Video, ATI AVIVO or S3's Chrome Engine. ATI's newly released Radeon Xpress 1250 chipset with integrated video (and Avivo) might be a good choice for the nest revision of the R1.
The R1's 14” 1280*768 display is glossy. Text looks great on the screen. While watching movies and playing games there was no evidence of ghosting. You get a VGA and S-Video port if you care to output to a second monitor or TV. I would want to plug my multimedia powerhouse into an LCD or Plasma TV, so a DVI port should be present.
Intel's 945 PM Express chipset ties all of these components together. This is Intel's top of the line core logic chip, which means that it is by far the best mobile core logic chip available right now. The increased performance versus Intel's other offerings comes in the form of maximum bandwidth in the connection between components: PCI-Express x16 and x1, Serial ATA, dual channel DDR2 667 support.
Behind every great Northbridge there is an equally great Southbridge. In the R1 you get Intel's ICH7 south bridge chip – another state-of-the-art component. It handles the Input/Output duties such as the storage and USB connections (3x USB 2.0 in this case) and audio. High Definition audio (formerly: Azalea) is included and routed through the RealTek ALC883 - a whopping 10 channel codec chip. This chip allows you to run 7.1 channels to a receiver at the same time that you listen to headphones on the notebook. This is kind of neat, but only the standard audio outputs are present on the R1. Fully implemented with some 2 channel to 7.1 channel virtualization, this chip might have given the R1 some bragging rights. As it is, I don't really see a multimedia powerhouse in the audio department either.
Ports and Slots
LG R1 left side view (view large image)
LG R1 right side view (view large image)
The R1 has a 5-in-1 media card reader that supports the smaller card formats (XD/SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro). A four pin firewire port is included which is accompanied by three USB slots. For connecting other expansion devices, LG has provided a single ExpressCard/34 slot.
LG R1 back side right view (view large image)
LG R1 back side left view (view large image)
Connectivity and Wireless
WiFi is handled by the Intel PRO/wireless 3945ABG chip. It is Intel's top of the line wireless chip and offers all three official WiFi formats. Since switching to a D-Link wireless router (after using a Linksys for 5 years) I have experienced nothing but problems with Intel's WiFi chips. I am at a loss to explain it even though I have been dependent on the technology for years and I think that I am pretty good at troubleshooting wireless networks. Another laptop with the Atheros AR500G chip connects and stays connected with no troubles at all on the very same router. If you can get WiFi to work, LG's Hexa-Band antenna technology will help increase signal strength. In my tests I found the LG R1's ability to see available wireless networks to be average - finding 9 networks where my Acer sees 11.
The last few Intel Centrino notebooks that I have reviewed all shared the WiFi problem, so I can not fault LG for this. Clearly this is a case of some components in my network not wanting to play nicely with Intel's solution.
For folks that still use wires, LG has included a Gigabit Ethernet port powered by a Marvel Yukon PCI-Express x1 chip. Often, cheaper solutions use the PCI bus for Gigabit networking. Because PCI is three times slower than PCI-Express x1 this can cause a bottleneck. Speaking of bottlenecks, a 56k modem is also included.
Bluetooth is absent.
Battery and Power
Battery Eater Pro consumed the R1's charge in about 81 minutes. That is a low score, so I figured a DVD test might be a good idea. The R1 finished the French Connection (about 1:43:00) with 28% of its battery power left - that amounts to 40 minutes or so (probably more if you follow up the movie with some Excel and Word work. I watched the entire movie with max brightness and volume.
LG R1 underside (view large image)
I was not able to measure battery life while surfing wirelessly because after struggling with the Intel 3945ABG chip for a couple of hours I gave up. Just doing basic word processing activities I managed to get from three and a half hours to four hours of battery life with the screen at full brightness. Very good!
LG R1 Battery (view large image)
The R1's power supply is small and should fit easy into even a slim notebook bag. It does not get too hot when powering the notebook.
I was surprised to see the R1 spec'd with Windows XP Home. It would have been a better choice to ship the R1 with Media Center Edition as that operating system does such a great job tying all your media together. Other than the choice of OS, everything else is nice and lean - you will find your new notebook in the most pristine and virginal configuration.
LG Intelligent updater (view large image)
LG's excellent value added software is included. Foremost among these is LG's 'Intelligent Update' utility. This utility quickly connects to the Internet and checks for LG updates. It then updates all of your drivers and software to the latest LG-tested versions – automatically. It also handles Microsoft updates and value added software. Frankly this development is overdue and I applaud LG for getting it right.
LG's Battery Miser 4, On Screen Display Manager and IP Manager round out the included utilities. Part of me wonders if IP Manager might have made some registry entries that caused my problems with WiFi - but I can't say for sure that this is the case.
You also get a CyberLink software disk that includes a selection of their ubiquitous software including PowerDVD 6.0. Restore disks for the Operating System and Utilities are also included in the box.
Handling the R1, it is solid and flex-free. This notebook is made in Korea in an LG factory - no offense to Taiwan and China based ODM manufacturers but everything else being equal I will always take the 'made in South Korea' product. The point of origin may put LG at a disadvantage against its competitors who have their notebooks made for them in China. But LG stands behind this quality with a standard 3 year international warranty, two years longer than most.
LG R1 keyboard (view large image)
The R1 has a good keyboard. Keys have lots of travel, and do not feel cheap. The base does not flex. Like many notebooks, the R1’s keyboard has quite a few Alt-Function keys. The Onscreen Display Manager gives visual feedback about these functions as you enable/disable them. It is a pretty sharp-looking utility. In addition to volume, brightness and wireless the R1 also includes a feature that is common on LG notebooks: fan control. You can toggle between three settings: automatic, cool and quiet. The R1 also has a cool 'Info' function key that brings up a chart that shows system utilization.
Sometimes a manufacturer is tempted to add lots of cool looking extra functionality to a notebook's touchpad. Thankfully the R1 is not one of them. The buttons are nice too - they feel much better than those on some of the Acer notebooks that I have tested recently.
The R1 is average sized for a 14” notebook. It is about thirteen inches wide, an inch and a quarter thick, and ten inches deep. It weighs about 5.4 lbs which is fair considering the solid-feeling construction. It is not an ultra-portable.
Heat was never an issue with the R1 when plugged in. I found it to be neither hot nor noisy.
Conclusion, is it worth the money?
I think that if we were talking about a notebook with a slightly lower price, the R1 would be a very good choice as a business notebook. It is well built and compact. It would make a great travel companion for professionals. It is no where near a multimedia powerhouse though.
I mentioned the Dell Inspiron 640m earlier. It is not a multimedia powerhouse either, but it is a darn good business laptop. Let's take a quick look at how these two notebooks stack up.
|Feature||LG R1-C001A9||Dell Inspiron 640m|
|CPU||IntelÂ® Core™ 2 Duo processor T5600||IntelÂ® Core™ 2 Duo processor T5600|
|RAM||1GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHZ, 2 DIMM||1GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHZ, 2 DIMM|
|HDD||100 GB 5400 RPM HDD||120 GB 5400 RPM HDD|
|Optical||8x Dual Layer||8x Dual Layer|
|LCD||14” Glossy 1280*768||14” Glossy 1280*800|
|Battery||6 Cell||6 Cell – 53 watt hour|
|Chipset/Video||Intel 945/GMA 950||Intel 945/GMA 950|
|WiFi||Intel 3945||Intel 3945|
|Antivirus||Norton Antivirus Trial (90 day)||McAfee Trial (90 day)|
|Burning Software||Cyberlink Suite||Unnamed Suite|
|Bluetooth||Not available||$50 option (internal)|
|Weight||5.4 lbs||5.3 lbs|
|Warranty||3 Years||3 Years (upgraded)|
|Price||$1499 (CDN)||$1363 (CDN)|
So, what we have here is a really nice notebook for traveling professionals. I think it has an identity problem. Measured as a portable business computer the R1 is very good.
But if LG wants to bring a true 14" multimedia powerhouse to market, they will have to keep trying. Putting my imaginary Product Manager hat on, what would I do different on the R1?
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