Zepto 6224W Review

by moon angel Reads (53,061)

by Jessica Gardner

Zepto of Denmark is best known for producing affordable high performance notebooks in the 15.4 and 14.1” form factors, especially the latter as few offer such gaming performance in such a small package. Following on from earlier models, specifically the 6214 with the Geforce go 7600, the 6224W jumps on the latest bandwagons of including Intel’s Santa Rosa processor platform and the latest Nvidia 8000 series graphics cards, famously compatible with DirectX 10. Choices are limited, it’s an 8600M GT or nothing, but few gamers will complain about this.

What consumers might complain about is the rather limited choice of possible configurations. Processors are limited to a 1.8GHz Celeron-M 540, 1.5GHz Core 2 Duo T5250 with 667MHz FSB and just two of the new 800MHz FSB Core 2 Duo T7000 range, the T7100 and T7300 at 1.8 and 2GHz respectively. That said, RAM choice fares much better and the user can choose one, two or four gigabytes in either 667MHz or 800MHz RAM (not available as 4GB). Hard disks range from 80GB to 250GB, 5400rpm and 7200rpm and a rather pointless 32GB SSD option, although it’s good to see it offered even if few will choose it. Batteries are limited to a 6-cell for now, unlike the previous model which could be equipped with a 12-cell, but other options like optical drives and wireless offer the user much to think about.

Zepto notebooks don’t necessarily come with an operating system installed, which is a great option for those of us with a spare XP key sitting unused. Fortunately, unlike many of the new models, Zepto offers the 6224W with Windows XP, which would suggest XP support is still available for those who don’t want to make the switch to Vista yet. How well the new hardware features will work under windows XP is yet to be found out.

System Specs


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The above spec is complemented by an 80GB 7200rpm Hitachi Travelstar hard disk with 8MB buffer.

Build and Design

The initial impression that is given by the 6224W is that of a classy, sleek and uncomplicated design. While it’s not the best looking notebook on the market it’s certainly no pig. The mix of straight lines, flat surfaces and matte and shiny plastic make it feel uncluttered and unimposing.


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The screen may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s mounted high up in the lid with the speakers underneath. I find this gives the notebook a feel of being unbalanced. A more centrally mounted screen could reduce the footprint of the notebook but this might create issues with fitting all this hardware into such a small space. It certainly feels smaller and lighter than 15” laptops, the surprisingly thin chassis doing itself no favors with some rather gargantuan rear feet, making it appear much thicker than is the case. In fact, the chassis is barely thicker than the DVD re-writer at the sides. Build seems of good quality at first but the base of the laptop does succumb to some overall flex when twisted which is a feature more indicative of budget machines. The DVD drive is not flush with the side of the machine and sits slightly in from the top edge of the base. This coupled with a fiddly DVD drive eject button means that one usually has to peer to the side of the laptop when opening the DVD rather than doing it by touch as on most other machines. This also makes it awkward to close the drive without slamming it shut.


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The Zepto is designed with a mind for having very few external working parts that can go wrong. Is this just fluidity of design or a pointer towards uncompetitive build quality? As a mobile gaming solution this appears to be a good choice, but for mobility in general the laptop seems slightly lacking against competitors with a large footprint for a 14” machine and a heavy weight. The gaming prowess unfortunately adds to the weight, which is similar to that of a 15” machine.

Screen

The screen in this review unit is an anti-glare (matte) finish at 1400×900 resolution. First impressions are that it’s slightly grainy and one would prefer something with a much sharper picture for such an expensive machine. When light from a small source (in this case a light emitting mouse) is cast onto the screen one can really see how grainy the surface is. The screen fares no better than other recent matte offerings on other laptops at dispersing light so the name ‘anti-glare’ just means matte and little else. Where a matte screen would be useful this choice is OK but a glossy screen would certainly give better image quality and probably color too, which would benefit a notebook designed primarily for gaming. The position does seem strange at first but after use seems to have been a good thought. Such a small machine might make the user look down when the laptop is placed on a desk, but the high mounted screen means your eye level is at a more comfortable position.


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For what the screen lacks in surface it makes up for in brightness and color. Few matte screens can match it in either of these aspects, both being much more like a glossy than a matte screen, with an overall brightness greater than that of competitors and a pleasing color neutrality which isn’t often seen on matte screens: colors being pure and bright unlike others which often have a slight yellow tint.

Sound and Speakers

The speakers offer impressive performance for such a small machine and the reason behind their position becomes quite clear. They are not tinny in the extreme like many notebook speakers and have impressive volume and definition. However, the lack of bass can make the extreme of treble somewhat annoying.

Performance

With a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB of ram and an 8600M GT no one could call the Zepto slow. Day-to-day performance is sprightly even with Vista Home Premium, which feels rather sluggish at first but then perks up a bit. Needless to say with an 8600M GT this is a gaming machine so the performance tests will be done with this in mind.

The common super pi benchmarking tool has now been superseded by wPrime, which being multi-threaded can test performance of dual core CPUs as well as single in a more realistic way.


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CPU benchmark: wPrime 32 million digits of pi

Laptop Time
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 2GHz) 45.788s
Lenovo T60P (Core 2 Duo T7600 2.33GHz) 38.200s
Toshiba P105 (Core 2 Duo T7200 2GHz) 42.428s
Helwett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 2GHz) 45.703s
Apple iMac (Core 2 Duo T5600 1.83GHz) 47.046s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5500 1.66GHz) 50.264s

One would expect the T7300 with its higher FSB to fare better than the T7200 but this Zepto would not post a time better than the one above. Benchmarks are not 100% reliable but one might expect slightly better. What it is that limits this notebook is anyone’s guess.

CPU real life test: DVD shrink

DVD shrink is an application that can backup film DVDs to smaller 4.7GB discs. To do this however requires a lot of CPU power over an extended period of time. My own personal machine that is powered by a Dothan Celeron-M 380 (1.6GHz) completes this task in around 40-60 minutes depending on the content of the DVD.

The Zepto encoded a DVD with 2 hours of video and a small menu in 25 minutes. This is quick enough to be less of an annoyance than older processors, which will take longer. Also, with the dual cores one can do other tasks on the laptop while it is encoding, something one cannot do effectively on a single core processor unless you are OK with the encoding time being increased.

No limitations are found graphics wise. The 512MB Nvidia 8600MGT is the most powerful mobile 8000 series card available at the moment and it shows. The 3DMark06 score for the new card is far in advance of the previous 7600 model, gaining a staggering 1000 points or about 30 percent over the previous Zepto model, although the previous model had a Core Duo processor rather than Core 2. The best results for the Geforce go 7600 are around 2800 in 3DMark06, and the 8600M GT eclipses this by around 500 points or 15 percent.

Graphics benchmark test: 3DMark06

Laptop Points
Zepto Znote 6224W (Nvidia Geforce 8600M GT 512MB) 3273
Dell Inspiron E1520 (Nvidia Geforce 8600M GT 256MB) 2984
Samsung R70 (Nvidia Geforce 8600M GS) 2782
Dell Inspiron 9400 (Nvidia Geforce 7900GS 256MB) 3603
Asus Z96JM (Ati Mobility Radeon X1600 256MB) 2067
Zepto Znote 6214W (Nvidia Geforce go 7600 512MB) 2203


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Again, 3DMark06 is not 100 percent reliable in terms of judging real world performance. Those who have experienced the 8000 series Nvidia cards suggest their 3DMark scores are high compared to their real in-game performance. This test is next for the 6224W.

Graphics real life game test: FEAR combat, Battlefield 2

At full settings and native resolution of 1440×900 FEAR combat achieved 23-28fps on online play. With the settings turned down one may expect better but there was no lag at all and the FPS during play were pretty constant.


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Battlefield 2 is older and less complex graphically than FEAR, yet still a formidable graphics test purely in the realm of dedicated graphics cards. On full settings Battlefield 2 achieved between 60 and 90 frames per second during online play. This I found very impressive for a mobile card.


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Graphically the Zepto is not lacking in any power. The move to the 8600 series from the 7600 does seem justified due to the increase in performance in regular DX9 games. How it will fare in full on DX10 games is yet to be seen.

During games the grainy screen seems to be a lot less of an issue. The image is sharper and better defined during gaming than on the Windows desktop and the screen doesn’t detract much from the gaming experience.

Windows Experience Index

The 6224W scores a total of 4.6 on the Windows Vista Experience. See the rundown below.


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Noise

The fan at its loudest setting is rather intrusive. After receiving the machine I had to go into the BIOS and restore factory settings to allow the fan to go to anything other than full speed. Even with the fan on variable speeds it is still rather loud. At idle the fan seems to be always on at a lower speed, even this eclipsing the fan noise of the two laptops I own which have been situated on the same desk. The fan is usually at full speed during games and at this speed is clearly audible over the brute of a fan that cools the Athlon 64 in my own Mitac. It would seem the trade off for high performance in a small size such as this is noise. However when using external speakers or headphones during games this is not going to be much of an issue. Where it becomes a problem is the constant noise during more basic tasks.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The touchpad takes some getting used to. Unlike many laptops today the Zepto’s touchpad is not in a slight recess but is flush with the case and is made from the same slightly course plastic. I found this to be a mild annoyance as the result is that the user has to apply slightly more pressure than is normal on other machines. This coupled with the slightly grainy plastic results in a rather tired and worn finger after a couple of hours use. The pad does feel solid however and the buttons are well made and placed, however the scroll function could be better defined and is the source of much of the above problems. I would certainly recommend an external mouse with this laptop.


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The keyboard fares much better. It has a pleasant action and is perfectly good for fast typing. That said there is a noticeable flex of the keyboard even under normal use and it does not feel solid. The layout has been compromised over a regular 15.4” laptop keyboard with a small size enter key and the # key has been moved to the row above normal, which might be infuriating for programmers. I feel the design could have been slightly better. The common kink at the bottom right accommodating the arrow keys is not present and would have afforded more room. Also the presence of the home, end, pgup and pgdn keys in their full glory is strange considering the compromises made elsewhere in the layout. I would have preferred such keys to be left as functions of other keys so a full size enter key and otherwise normal layout could have been achieved. The function keys are easy to find and use but no verification of actions such as volume and screen brightness appear on the screen.

The buttons above the keyboard (power, internet and email quick keys and ‘P1’ and ‘P2’ are a pleasure to use with a pleasing action and stylish blue and orange lights within to denote status (blue power on, orange standby etc.).

Input and Output Ports

The 6224W has all the ports of a fully laden 15.4” laptop. Conveniently none of these are located on the front, a personal preference of mine as I find it can get in the way. The only port at the front is the (obviously non-wired) bluetooth receiver.


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The left hand side features a modem port to the rear of the fan vent. On the near side of the vent are a wireless on/off switch, one of the four USB ports, firewire and the card reader. There is also a space for what looks like an optional PCMCIA or ExpressCard slot which was not installed on the review machine and was blocked off.


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On the right side is the DVD drive to the rear with the headphone and microphone ports to the front, split by another USB port.


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The rear is typically conservative for laptops these days with the two remaining USB ports, wired Ethernet, s-video and VGA clumped together at one side, the battery taking up the rest of the rear edge.


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There are all the ports one would expect on a gaming laptop here, but the lack of a PCMIA or ExpressCard is slightly strange. One might presume this is for possible further expansion to offering these ports but there are no options for these I can find on the Zepto website.

Wireless

The Intel 4965AGN wireless distinguishes itself by giving little to comment on. The connection is strong, does not drop and provides excellent speed for downloads and games alike.

Battery

The Battery for now is just a 6-cell. Zepto will gladly sell you a spare but this lacks the flexibility of the previous 6214, which was available with a 12-cell option. The 6 cell will power the Zepto for just over two hours on power saving mode doing basic tasks such as browsing the internet, office and instant messaging. More demanding tasks start to sap the battery with a full film (around 2 hours) not being possible on one charge. Also gaming drastically reduces the battery life and should not really be attempted without the machine being plugged in.

Operating System and Software

With Zepto the operating system is purely your choice. This is an excellent feature not forcing the user to shell out for a copy of Windows when they already have one spare they could use. Options are Vista Home Basic, Premium, Business and Ultimate and also XP Home and Pro. There are drivers on the Zepto website for XP and this is one of the few machines released exclusively for Santa Rosa and DX10 which does support XP fully. Not forcing the user to upgrade and even allowing XP support is a fantastic move by Zepto.

This machine came with Vista home premium installed. As with any laptop the initial boot took ages, around half an hour with the laptop not being usable until the second boot. It handles vista very well, with the OS feeling as lithe as XP would on most modern machines. This is likely due to the 2GB of ram and the top end CPU. Also pleasing is Zepto’s complete lack of bloatware. There is nothing installed like Norton free trials, AOL, not even manufacturer programs or utilities. As with most things, software is optional and there are limited options on the website for useful software such as antivirus, Microsoft office 2007 and DVD playback and writing software.

Conclusion

As one 14" laptop to rule them all the Zepto 6224W has little competition. For the gamer wanting a reasonably portable machine it makes a lot of sense. It is majestically powerful and offers staggering performance in even the latest games. As a gaming machine has simply no competition in the same form factor. I do not know of a 14.1” laptop with such power available.

As a gaming machine the Zepto 6224W makes great sense. However, for other applications there are offerings from other manufacturers that would win over this machine. The grainy screen is the biggest annoyance for me and the build quality does not lend itself to being chucked around and abused the way that a Lenovo might. There are no specific areas in the overall structure that present worry, but a few pieces that lend themselves more to style than to function … such as the keyboard and touchpad.

Overall gaming is the name of the game. For this use the Zepto is pretty much tops, with only the screen letting it down. For other uses, look elsewhere.

Pros:

  • Only 14.1” laptop with 8600M GT 512MB graphics
  • Great resolution for such a small laptop
  • Looks fantastic
  • Wonderfully powerful in all aspects
  • Great customization options

Cons:

  • Matte screen is grainy
  • Keyboard feels cheap
  • Touchpad can be tiresome with extended use
  • A few minor design issues (such as the lip over the DVD drive)
  • Noisy

 

Additional Pictures


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