Zepto Znote 6024W Review

by Reads (23,138)

by John Ratsey, England

Overview and Introduction

The 14.1" Zepto Znote 6024W is a sibling of the 8600M GT-enabled 6224W and has the Intel X3100 GPU for those customers who do not need 3D GPU power and prefer more battery run time. Zepto is based in Denmark but are now selling their notebooks in several countries. The company is best known for packing a lot a gaming performance into their notebooks but also offer a wide range of configuration options. The ODM (original design manufacturer) of this notebook is Inventec.


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Reasons for Buying

I was almost content with my Samsung Q35, particularly its ability to run for about 5 hours away from a power socket. However, the 12.1" display is a little small for my old eyes. The Q35 was bought for the occasions when I don’t want to carry the 2.5kg 15.4" Samsung X60plus. I looked at the Samsung Q70 but, while the display was excellent, the battery life was no match for the Q35. I considered the Rizeon S37E but it wasn’t available so, in early July 2007, I ordered the Dell M1330. I was assured at the time of order I would receive by 20th July. When, on 18th July, the M1330’s estimated delivery date was delayed by four weeks (and most likely would have been more than that) I decided to cancel that order and review my requirements and options. I decided that, instead of having two notebooks, one large and one small (with all the associated operation and support issues) it would make sense to get one medium sized notebook. This pointed to 14.1" size.


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The 14.1" Zepto 6024W between the 12.1" Q35 and the 15.4" X60plus. The Zepto is the brightest

I was about to go on a two-week business trip which would be an excellent opportunity to test a new notebook and see whether I could live with it. I didn’t want to permanently forego the extra real estate provided by a big display, so I wanted WXGA+ resolution. I didn’t want 3D graphics power with its associated increased power drain. The Intel X3100 GPU would meet my graphical needs. The combination of 14.1”, WXGA+ and the X3100 resulted in a short shortlist: Dell (Latitude D630 or Vostro 1400) and the Zepto 6024W. I talked to Dell but they couldn’t promise delivery in my required timeframe.  I then contacted Zepto to clarify some aspects and confirm whether the estimated delivery time shown on their website was correct. I was assured that their delivery periods were conservative. I customised my 6024W and placed the order on a Thursday afternoon expecting to see the computer within a week. In fact, it reached me the following Tuesday afternoon. The total value of my order was just over 1,000: buying from Zepto involves a relatively high delivery charge from Denmark to UK ( 35) and a surcharge for paying by credit card.

What’s in the Box?

The box contents comprised:

  • The computer, in a plastic bag and held between two plastic foam spacers
  • The PSU, two mains cables (European plug and UK plug) and battery
  • A Zepto OEM DVD Vista Business
  • A Zepto Znote 6024W Driver CD

Plus extra items I had included in my order:

  • A Zepto notebook sleeve
  • A spare 6 cell battery
  • Nero Express 7 Essentials (a zero-cost option)
  • Cyberlink DVD solution

Hardware Specs: Zepto Znote 6024W

My configuration comprised the following hardware and specifications:

  • CPU: Intel T7300 (2.00Ghz) with Intel 965PM chipset
  • Display: 14.1" WXGA+ "UltraCrisp" matte LCD (CMO 1430)
  • Memory: 2GB (2 x 1024MB) "Zepto" (it is actually A-Data) PC5300 RAM (667MHz)
  • Hard Disc: 120GB 5400rpm SATA HDD (Hitachi HTS541612J9SA00)
  • Graphics: Intel X3100 GPU
  • Optical Drive: Toshiba-Samsung SN-S082H tray loading Super-Multi Dual Layer
  • Network: Broadcom Netlink Gigabit
  • Bluetooth: Cambridge Silicon Radio Bluetooth
  • Modem: Motorola SM56 Data/Fax modem
  • Wireless: Intel 4965 802.11a/g/n wireless
  • Ports: 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x 4 pin Firewire, 1000Mb/s network (RJ45), modem (RJ11), VGA, microphone, headphone / SPDIF, 1 x Express Card 34 / 54mm, infra-red transceiver
  • Media reader: Texas Instruments FlashMedia controller and 3-in-1 media card slot supporting SD, MMC, Sony Memory Stick
  • Audio: Realtek high definition audio with 7.1 digital sound, two ~30mm speakers
  • Touchpad: Synaptics touchpad 60mm x 47mm
  • 6-cell battery (10.8V, 4800mAh = 51.84Whr)
  • Liteon 90W (19V, 4.74A)  power supply with 3-pin connector
  • Dimensions: published:- 341 x 247 x 27mm, actual 341 x 243 x 32~40mm (13.43 x 9.57 x 1.26~1.58" (including feet)
  • Weight (published and actual are the same) : 2.35kg (5.18lb)
  • Travel weight including PSU and cables 2.94kg (6.48lbs)
  • Two-year collect and return warranty
  • Vista Business 32 bit
  • Microsoft Office 2007 trial

With the exception of the standard Vista Quick Start Guide, no paper documentation was provided with the computer. A simple 69-page User Guide is provided as a PDF file on the driver CD. I was disappointed that Zepto provide a 90W PSU for this notebook. A 65W PSU should be sufficient for the integrated GPU and would reduce the travel bulk and weight. Zepto has followed many other notebook manufacturers and quoted the minimum thickness (at the front) and excluded the feet.

Design and Build


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Top view of the 6024W with the Zepto logo

The 604W’s colour scheme is matte black (or perhaps it is a very dark grey, depending on the lighting) with the exception of the silver edging to the keyboard / palm rest area. The display back / cover is also matte black. Styling is not high on Zepto’s list of priorities. The beauty has to be considered to be internal. The silver edging has icons for the indicator lights and the microphones. It would have been very useful to have icons on the edging to indicate the locations of all the ports around the sides and this would give the edging more purpose in life. A very distinctive feature of the design is the loudspeakers being mounted below the LCD panel.


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The speakers below the LCD panel

The chassis is primarily plastic but has some metal (aluminium?) reinforcement. It is possible to pick up and carry the open computer by holding one front corner without any significant flex. A further indication of the good rigidity is that any slight unevenness on a desk and the computer will wobble slightly – it is too rigid to flex and sit comfortably. The display back is very rigid and it is difficult (but not impossible) to cause any rippling by pressing on the back.  The display looks to be quite thick (it is 9mm) but the apparent thickness is caused by the square edges without any rounding or tapering.  In reality, the display thickness is average. The hinges are firm with a hint of wobble. During travel the display is held closed by two catches operated by a single sliding latch. The front of the palm rest is a reasonably low 20mm above the table level.


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Underside of the 6024W: left = covers on, right = covers off to expose the HDD and RAM

The bottom of the computer is slightly stepped, with small protruding feet about 3mm (1/8" long). These feet help provide airflow under the computer although part of the underside is very close to the table surface. The bottom of the 6024W has two removable covers. The screws for the RAM slot, the keyboard and the optical drive are labelled. The RAM slot also contains the backup battery for the CMOS (removing the battery will reset the CMOS in the event of a user locking themselves out of their computer).  The HDD is wrapped in metal foil. This is the first time I have seen such an arrangement and I was told it was for screening. The foil does help reduce the noise from the Hitachi hard disk! There are also two air vents on the underside as can be seen in the photos and two more air vents on the front edge. The standard 6-cell battery fits flush at the back of the computer and is held securely by two latches, one of which is spring-loaded to facilitate one-handed removal. There is an optional 12-cell battery which protrudes from the back.


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The 6 cell battery and the battery bay

The Keyboard

The front edge of the palm rest is a reasonably low 21mm from the table surface. The keyboard on the 6024W has an almost standard layout. The Fn key occupies the front left corner which suits me fine but will cause other people to run away. There are 88 keys which have very clear, large white markings on a black background. There are dedicated navigation keys along the right side, which I like. As always, there is scope to improve the layout. For example, I am used to the Insert key being near to delete and not next to the space bar. There are two Windows keys. The right hand one could be more usefully replaced by another Ctrl key (which can be done by remapping software).


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The 6024W’s keyboard

The key travel is good but the keys have to be pressed hard to register. I am used to keyboards which accept a lighter touch so I keep getting words with missing characters. One well-discussed feature of the keyboard is that the right side is poorly secured and tends to bounce. The cause is the absence of any fixing screws because the optical drive is underneath. I did a DIY fix for this by removing the keyboard and putting some loops of adhesive tape underneath. The Fn keys include the usual options for brightness and volume controls. Fn+F6 toggles the touchpad while Fn+F10 toggles Bluetooth.

The touchpad is almost square, which is an unusual arrangement for a widescreen notebook. There is plenty of space for a wider touchpad. An unusual feature is that the surface of the touchpad is flush with the palm rest with only a small groove to delineate the touchpad area. I needed to set the motion sensitivity to maximum in order to get acceptable cursor movement. As far as I can see, the palmrest is a self-coloured plastic so there is no paint to wear off. There were no stickers cluttering the palmrest.


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The flush touchpad

There are five indicator lights on the edge at the front left of the palm rest so they are visible from above and from the front. The lights are very bright but are normally hidden under my left wrist. From left to right the lights are: Wireless (blue) / Bluetooth (orange) / both (purple); power on; battery power (blue) / battery charging (orange); hard disk activity (blue); and memory card in slot (blue). The memory card light is an unusual feature.


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Five bright indicator lights, plus microphone

There are three further indicator lights near the power button (which itself has a blue light when the computer is on), for Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Num Lock. These are also blue.  To the left of the power button are four other buttons. Two are pre-set to internet and email and two are user-definable. It would have been useful to have one of the keys pre-set to eject the optical drive (it’s on my list of things to set up).


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The keyboard indicator lights, power button and quick start buttons

A Tour of the Sides

Overall, the ports are quite well laid out. There is a total of four USB ports, one on each side and two on the back (an unusual feature is that these ports have power whenever the computer is plugged into mains power, even when off). The fan exhaust is at the back of the left side where the hot air is least likely to cause a problem and the optical drive is on the right. So far, the worst port location seems to be the power socket, also near the back on the left side, because the power plug is straight and the cable is doing a U-turn round the back of the computer. The tray loading optical drive is very close to the table surface and the slot loading option is easier to use. Let’s have a tour of the sockets, clockwise starting at the front.


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The front has little to offer except the infra red port


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Left side from back to front: Power socket, modem, fan exhaust, wireless switch, USB 2.0, Firewire, ExpressCard socket with 3-in-1 media card socket below


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Back from left to right: 2 x USB 2.0,VGS, S-video, network, battery


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Right side from front to back: Audio ports (including optical out), USB 2.0, optical drive, security slot

The upper photo shows a tray loading optical drive and the lower photo shows a slot loader

The Engine Room

The CPU, GPU and cooling system for the 6024W are located under the keyboard. This is less convenient than having a cover on the bottom of the notebook when the time comes to clear the dirt out of the cooling system. Also under the keyboard are two mini PCIe slots. One is occupied by the wireless card and the other is available for other cards such as Turbo Memory (which is now standard on one of the 6024W configurations). Looking under the keyboard explains two of the 6024W’s features: (a) Having only a thin keyboard between the fan and the user makes the fan noise more audible than on most notebooks; (b) the right side of the keyboard rests on a thin metal housing for the optical drive so it is difficult to fix and the keyboard base bouncing on the housing makes the keyboard noisier (as already noted, some adhesive tape will fix this).


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Under the keyboard: cooling system, two mini PCIe slots and the optical drive bay

The Display

The display is 1440 x 900 (WXGA+) “Ultracrisp”matte LCD.  The device ID is CMO 1430 although the Zepto datasheet indicates that they normally use Samsung. It is brighter than the Samsung notebooks I have used and has excellent contrast with no serious light bleed. I was concerned about having a matte display after nearly 3 years of using glossy screens. Initially the display appeared to be slightly grainy but I soon concluded that this was the dispersion caused by the anti-glare coating.


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This BIOS setup screen shows relatively uniform lighting

The minimum brightness is too dark to use but a brightness of 3/8 is usable although full brightness is the default setting on mains power. My eyes are happy with the default size of text and graphics which is a fractionally bigger than on the notebooks this is replacing. Viewing angles are typical for displays of this type. The horizontal viewing angle range is good and the vertical range moderate for text work. However, colour images are best viewed at 90 . They become darker when the top of the screen is pushed back and lighter if it is pulled forward.


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The display viewed from left, centre, right, above and below

The benefit of the matte screen is a much reduced problem of annoying reflections. However, one does not see this benefit unless the computer is put alongside another computer with a glossy screen.


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On the left, Samsung R20 with glossy screen, on the right the 6024W with matte screen

Audio Quality

The two ~30mm speakers below the display give adequate audio quality but bass response is lacking. I wonder whether some breather holes in the display panel to allow free movement of air behind the speaker diaphragms would improve the quality. The Realtek HD Audio Manager has plenty of options but selection of anything with significant bass boost results in painful distortion once the audio volume is increased. “Living Room” environment and “Dance” equalisation is the best configuration I could find for the internal speakers. Fortunately, the digital audio out has a separate set of equalisation options.


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The Realtek HD Audio Manager

Processor and Performance

This version of the 6024W came with the Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 CPU (2.0GHz) and 2GB of DDR2-533 RAM.


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CPU-Z reports for the 6024W CPU in four operating modes, mainboard and memory.

This T7300 CPU has a normal voltage range of 1.0V at 6x to 1.25V at 10X. In addition there is the Super Low Frequency Mode (800MHz) 8x at 0.90V and the Dynamic Acceleration Mode of 11x at 1.275V (for one core only when the other is idle). However, seeing the dynamic acceleration in action requires patience.

The GPU

The GPU is the Intel X3100 and can use between 8MB and 358MB of system RAM. At the moment no power management options are enabled, although I hope that this may be changed by a BIOS update. There is said to be hardware features in this GPU which are not enabled by the driver I am using (I tried using driver 15.6 but 3DMark05 crashed so I rolled back).


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Information for the Intel GPU

Hard Disk

The supplied hard disk is a Hitachi HTS541612J9SA00 (120GB 5400RPM SATA). The performance is average for the current generation of 5400RPM 2.5” HDDs with a maximum transfer rate of  40MB/s dropping down to 20MB/s. HD Tune’s results for this disk are below. The CPU usage is relatively low and the maximum burst transfer rate is little over half the theoretical interface capacity of 150MB/s. I find the Hitachi HDDs to be slightly noisy, but this can be reduced using the Feature Tool software. I had actually ordered a relatively small HDD because I already had a bigger HDD – the 250GB Western Digital WD2500BEVS. The HD Tune result for that is also provided for comparison.


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Optical Drive

Zepto offer two options for the optical drive: The Toshiba-Samsung SN-S082H tray loader and the SN-T082 slot-in burner.  I opted for the tray loader because I wanted 8cm disc compatibility.

The BIOS

Somewhere I need to mention the Zepto BIOS. This notebook uses a Phoenix BIOS which contains innumerable options. Unfortunately, there is no documentation except for simple descriptions for some of the BIOS options.  F9 resets the defaults if anything goes wrong. An undocumented feature is that pressing F10 when the Zepto splash screen is displayed will bring up a menu of boot devices.

As supplied, the BIOS in the 6024W was lacking support for various CPU features such as the C3 sleep state and the new features included in the Santa Rosa chipset. I contacted Zepto about these omissions. They checked and agreed that these features were absent and, after a few weeks, an updated BIOS was published which included these features and had other minor improvements and bug fixes.

 

Continued on Page 2 of Zepto 6024W Review (Benchmarks, Support, Conclusion) >>


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