Averatec 2100 Series Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (53,758)

by Chim Chan

Overview and Introduction


The Averatec AV2150-EH1 is a 12.1-inch widescreen notebook, it is basically a rebadged MS-1013 from MSI. The thin-and-light AV2150-EH1 is targeted to those who have basic computing needs on the go, although true mobility is limited by the subpar battery life. The AV2150-EH1 is configured as followed,

  • AMD Turion 64 MT-28 (1.6 GHz/512 KB L2 cache)
  • 512 MB DDR333 (PC2700) system RAM (2 X 256)
  • ATI Radeon Xpress 200M graphics: ATI RS482M chipset NorthBridge and ATI SB400 SouthBridge
  • 80GB hard drive
  • 12.1-inch widescreen WXGA LCD with AveraBrite (1280 X 800)
  • Mini MSI wireless LAN (802.11b/g compliant)
  • Built-in DVD +/- RW with dual layer capability
  • 4 cell, 2200 mAH standard battery
  • Windows XP Home Edition with SP2
  • Dimensions: 11.9″ (W) X 8.86″ (D) X 1.2″ (H)
  • Weight: 4.4 lb with standard battery
  • Limited 1-year warranty on parts and labor; limited 6-month warranty on battery

Averatec 2100 series 12.1″ screen notebook

Reasons for Buying

As a college student, I found myself spending increasingly more time in the library. I have a decent desktop which my friend helped me build last year, but I needed a laptop so I could start doing my homework away from my apartment and all the distractions. I wanted a basic, portable notebook with which I could write essays, do spreadsheets, make presentations, check e-mails, and surf the web. My maximum budget was $1000 although I would like one as cheap as possible, considering that I didn’t plan to play games or do video editing. Based on size and weight, my original choices were Dell Inspiron 710M, XPS M140, and the Compaq V2000Z series. I had briefly used the Dell 710M from a friend and it was perfect for my needs, but was a bit out of my price range. Between the Dell XPS M140 and the Compaq V2000Z, it was a really close call but I chose Compaq because it was slightly cheaper. I was seconds away from pulling the trigger until I came across the Averatec AV2150-EH1 in my email from buy.com. The Averatec looked like a fusion of the Dell 710M and the Compaq V2000Z series, and was cheaper than my three original choices, so I decided to give it a try.

Where and How Purchased

I purchased this notebook from Buy.com on April 16. At the time, it was on sale for $820 with a $50 rebate from Averatec, which I considered to be a really sweet deal for a thin-and-light notebook. I chose free shipping, which would normally take seven to nine business days, but my package arrived in just three days. That was an amazing job by Buy.com and I wouldn’t hesitate to shop there again or recommend it to other people.

Build and Design

The build and design of the AV2150-EH1 is essentially the same as the MSI 1057 reviewed by Zeros earlier, but here is my take on it. Like many other budget notebooks in this class, the case of AV2150-EH1 is built entirely out of plastic. Although it is not strengthened by fancy carbon fiber or magnesium alloy, the notebook feels fairly solid. I did not see any rippling when pressure was applied to the lid. The screen does not wobble because of the metal hinges under the plastic cover. Twisting is definitely possible, but I don’t see how I will even attempt to twist my screen under daily uses, so no big deal there. The two latches used to keep the lid closed are made from plastic and are very fragile, although the “stronger” metal hinges should keep the lid closed even without the latches. Overall, the AV2150-EH1 isn’t bullet-proof like the IBM ThinkPads or the Panasonic ToughBooks, but it should withstand some minor bumps.


Lid view of Averatec 2150

Much to my liking, the all-white exterior finish is very minimalist. There are no bells and whistles on the lid, just the word “Averatec” in silver trim. Many of my friends thought I had gotten a Mac when they first saw the white notebook, and they all complimented after they learned that it’s just a regular PC. The only major design flaw I see is the location of the square vent at the bottom of the notebook. When I use the notebook in my lap, this vent is almost completely covered by my right thigh. While it doesn’t overheat the system, I think the vent should be positioned where the intake of cooler air cannot be blocked.


Underside view of Averatec 2100 where cooling vents can be seen (view large image)

At 4.4 lbs with the standard battery, this notebook is definitely a joy to carry around campus. I just put it in my backpack and it feels like I’m just carrying an extra hard-cover textbook. It’s also fairly thin at 1.2″ so I don’t need to carry it in a separate laptop bag. The AC adaptor is also very small and light (0.7 lb), which is handy because of the notebook’s short battery life (more on that later).

Screen


Averatec 2150 glossy screen (view large image)

The AV2150-EH1 features a glossy widescreen WXGA (1280 X 800) screen. It is simply delightful. The backlight is even with no leakage or dead pixels. The screen is fairly bright because of the glossy finish, but the trade-off is that texts can sometimes be unreadable due to glare. The color and contrast are good, but at maximum brightness, it seems a bit washed out to me, so I keep my brightness at 3 or 4 (out of 8). I’ve played a couple of videos from the web and I didn’t see any ghosting. I don’t play games so I can’t guarantee that there is no ghosting with FPS games.

Speakers

The speakers are located right below the screen, and as expected, they are very weak in terms of depth and volume. External speakers or headphones are highly recommended in this case. Volume is controlled by the Fn keys, and with no sounds in the background, I can hear some static from the speakers. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the settings of the sound card since I can also hear the static with my headphone.

Processor and Performance

The AV2150-EH1 comes with the Turion 64 MT-28 processor (1.6 GHz/512 KB L2 cache), 512 MB DDR333 (PC2700) RAM, and ATI Radeon Xpress 200M graphics. By factory default, 64 MB of the system memory is dedicated to the integrated graphic card, but I lowered that to 32 MB in BIOS to better suit my needs. To my surprise, the 80 GB hard drive is of the 5400 RPM (with 8 MB cache) variety from Western Digital, instead of the 4200 RPM drives often seen with laptops at this price range. It takes about 45 seconds to boot to the Windows logon screen. I’m very satisfied with the performance of the notebook; it feels quite snappy as long as I avoid massive or heavy multi-tasking.

Apparently Averatec does not want users to upgrade the laptop components, evident by the warranty sticker that reads “Void if tampered”. The fact that both memory slots are used further discourages average users to upgrade, even though the maximum is set at 2 GB.

Benchmarks

Super Pi

The Averatec 2150 took 2m 11s to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy.  Here’s a comparison to other notebooks:

Notebook Time
 Averatec AV2150-EH1 (AMD Turion 64 1.6GHz)  2m 11s
 Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Intel T2500)  1m 12s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 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
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)  1m 46s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s


PCMark05

Below are detailed output results generated from running PCMark05 on the Averatec:

System Test Suite

HDD – XP Startup

6.0 MB/s

Physics and 3D

48.83 FPS

Transparent Windows

169.24 Windows/s

3D – Pixel Shader

6.85 FPS

Web Page Rendering

1.79 Pages/s

File Decryption

27.23 MB/s

Graphics Memory – 64 Lines

258.76 FPS

HDD – General Usage

4.02 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression

N/A

Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding

Test failed

Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit

48.38 Pages/s

Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression

8.51 MPixels/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression

1.59 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption

8.11 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD – Virus Scan

9.85 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency – Random 16 MB

8.41 MAccesses/s

 

3DMark05 results:

Obviously the Averatec 2150 is not a gaming notebook, but nonetheless here are the results from running 3DMark05 on the Averatec just to prove that fact:

 

Notebook 3DMark 05 Results
Averatec AV2150-EH1 (AMD Turion 64 1.6GHz, ATI Xpress 200M)  442 3DMarks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB  2866 3D Marks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)  7,078 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Intel T2500, ATI X1400)  1,791 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2,530 3D Marks
 Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)  2,273 3DMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2,536 3D Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4,157 3DMarks

 

Heat and Noise

While the AV2150-EH1 uses the lower-powered MT version of the Turion processor, under normal uses, it does get warm in the palm rest areas, more so on the right side than on the left. The bottom also gets warm but it is not uncomfortable to use in my lap, although the position of the vent (mentioned above) is not ideal.

The fan comes on periodically for a few seconds. It is not loud but the low droning hum is definitely audible in a quiet room. Under heavy uses such as running benchmarks, the fan stays on and churns out a healthy amount of hot air from the vent on the right side, but the system remains stable. Both the hard drive and the Philips DVD burner are fairly quiet, at or just above the level of the fan.

Keyboard and Touchpad


Averatec 2100 keyboard (view large image)

There is some flex to the keyboard when I type, but the key travel is good. Most of the keys are of pretty good size except for those on the right side of the keyboard. It looks as though they have to be slimmed down to fit into the laptop. Often I miss the right Shift and the arrow keys without actually looking at my fingers, hopefully I’ll get used to them with time. Above the keyboard are five buttons. At the center is the power button, flanked on the left by two quick launch buttons for e-mail and internet browser. To the right of the power button are on/off switch for Wi-Fi and button for search function in Windows. There is no media play function on this notebook however, so I need to boot the Windows OS to play CDs and DVDs.

I find the touchpad to be on the small size, but the surface is smooth and feels significantly different from the plastic case surface. The touchpad is not overly sensitive, but sometimes I do inadvertently highlight the whole text when I only want to move the cursor. The touchpad allows vertical but not horizontal scrolling. Tapping the touchpad simultaneously with two fingers lets you vertically scroll through long documents or web pages. Below the touchpad are the mouse buttons, but they are more like cut-outs from the plastic case than real buttons, so they are rather stiff and noisy.

Input and Output Ports

The total number of ports provided by the AV2150-EH1 is pretty good for a thin-and-light notebook at this price range,

  • Three high speed USB 2.0 ports
  • IEEE 1394 FireWire port
  • 15-pin standard external display output port
  • Type II PCMCIA/Cardbus slot
  • 4-in-1 memory card reader (MS/MS Pro/MMC/SD)


Left side view of Averatec 2150 (view large image)

On the left side are the fixed DVD burner, a USB port, a PCMCIA (PC card) slot, and a 4-in-1 memory card reader.


Front side view of Averatec 2150 (view large image)

On the front there are a 4-pin FireWire port, the audio ports, and a set of status LED (from left to right, numbers lock, caps lock, scroll lock, hard drive activity, power, battery status, and wireless LAN).


Right side view of Averatec 2150 (view large image)

On the right side are two more USB ports, an RJ-11 (modem) port, and RJ-45 port, a vent, a VGA port, and the power connector to the AC adapter.


Back side view of Averatec 2150 (view large image)

Wireless

The AV2150-EH1 comes with a mini wireless LAN from MSI, supporting B and G bands. It has pretty decent range, and is able to pick up signal from other apartments nearby. I’m using a wireless G router and the speed is consistent. I have no clue as to where the wireless card is physically.

There is no built-in Bluetooth, so those who want to connect their wireless devices (e.g. mobile phones, mouse, etc.) will need to purchase a separate Bluetooth adapter. There is no infrared port either, but that’s expected with basic notebooks not geared toward multimedia entertainment.

Battery

The battery life is the major weakness of this notebook. On a full charge, with Wi-Fi on and the screen brightness set at 3 (out of 8), I get about 1 hour 36 minutes before the notebook goes into standby mode with 10% battery life remaining. With Wi-Fi off, I get only a few more minutes out of the battery, so that seems to suggest the notebook is pretty much optimized for general performance and battery life. At least Averatec is truthful, the battery is estimated to last for 1 hour 45 minutes, which is what I generally get. The small 4-cell battery (2200 mAH) is most likely the culprit, although there is an optional 8-cell extended battery (4400 mAH) that should double the battery life.

The consolation for the short battery life is a very small and light AC adapter (0.7 lb). The desks in my school library have a power outlet, so it isn’t much a hassle to use the notebook with the adapter plugged in. I’ve been wondering about the longevity of the battery though, since I’m forced to charge it more often as a result of the short battery life, and the fact that Li-ion batteries have a finite number (300 to 500) of charge-discharge cycles.

Operating System and Software

The AV2150-EH1 comes with Windows Home Edition. As part of the cost-cutting measures, no operating system CD or system recovery CD is included. Instead, a hidden partition in the hard drive contains the Phoenix FirstWare Recover Pro software that restores the hard drive back to the original factory settings. As the hidden partition only takes up about 4 GB of space, it doesn’t bother me too much. To be “environmentally friendly”, the user manual is a PDF file preloaded on the desktop (another cost-cutting move!).

The notebook has only a few trial software, Norton Antivirus 2005 (30-day trial), Netzero, and First Backup, so I just uninstalled them. The Cyberlink DVD Solution is simple and intuitive to use, and the suite does provide the basic multimedia functions.

Customer Support

I have only very limited experience here. When I first received the notebook, I played around with the Windows Power Options in an attempt to maximize battery life. Running on battery alone, the notebook would constantly lock up if the option “Minimal Power Management” was selected. Worried about a defective unit, I sent an e-mail to tech support and within a few hours I received a reply from a technician. He gave a couple of suggestions but also provided information for RMA in case I had to send the notebook back for repair. Fortunately changing the power option back to “Portable/Laptop” seemed to have solved the problem. Overall I am pretty satisfied with the prompt response from customer service, but again my experience is very limited.

Conclusion

Although Averatec does cut a few corners to keep the cost down, the AV2150-EH1 is a good and very inexpensive choice for people who need a portable notebook for basic uses.

Pros:

  • An efficient processor with decent integrated graphics
  • Beautiful widescreen glossy LCD
  • Sturdy build, minimalist design
  • Built-in DVD burner and memory card reader

Cons:

  • Short battery life
  • No Bluetooth or IR
  • Older PCMCIA slot instead of the new ExpressCard slot
  • Difficult to upgrade



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