* Prices may differ from that shown
This was my mum's laptop back in 2007, which I borrowed from time to time for coursework and Internet research during my degree. I also used it for instant messaging, games and of course writing the odd review! Mum downloaded an awful lot of applications and also pictures on it, but otherwise her main uses were surveys and creating documents and presentations for work. Alan Titchmarsh had the odd appearance on her screen, too.
Physical characteristics, appearance
It is large, with a good screen size, but heavy and not really as portable as the name might imply. It holds well to the table so can't be pushed or easily knocked over. Due to its weight and size, it is pretty much a sit at the desk type of laptop, whereas cosy me likes sometimes to do my work on the couch or sat up in bed and it's not suitable for that in my opinion. It does not get as heated as some computers I have used and the fan noise is not too overwhelming.
Of all the computers I have used, I have found the keyboard on this one the most awkward. I can't seem to get used to it, which for me is annoying as I usually type quite fast and therefore now make loads of mistakes. I often find that something I press causes the cursor to jump, and for the life of me I cannot work out why! The 'mouse' sensor works fine and is very easy to use, but I am not really a mouse person, so this depends on the individual. You will be happier with this if you are a mouse person and don't care for keyboard shortcuts or lots of typing.
The sound is not brilliant quality and the volume range is fair but not too high. I would not have used this computer to watch films with friends unless we had a spare set of speakers floating about. Unless you are planning to invest in speakers anyway, it is not worth buying for the purpose of DVD/movie viewing, especially where more than one person are watching at a time.
Whilst the sound isn't that great, the computer has a slightly wide screen and still a fairly up-to-date look about it. In terms of the screen, I would have thought this was ideal for watching movies, and I know mum watched a lot of gardening programmes from the BBCiPlayer on this computer happily! The screen wasn't too bad for viewing at different angles, but colour does get distorted when you are at quite an acute angle to it.
I would point out that I've noticed the surface gets scratched easily, but on the other hand it is light silver-coloured and markings do not show up as obviously as on a black screen. The computer stays clean easily, no grease marks on the cover and it just takes a little wipe to get rid of dust now and then. Never allow dust to clog the machine as this can damage it and even contribute to slowness and force the fan to work harder than necessary.
Power and power saving facilities
The battery used to be acceptable, but it is hard to say as there were clearly issues with mum's machine. The power cord itself had a terrible connection to the computer, where eventually it would simply keep getting disconnected by the tiniest movement. I don't know if mum damaged the wire itself from using the computer at night when sat up in bed, but even when we replaced it with a new cable, the battery struggled. Within a couple of years of use, the battery life was dramatically reduced to a matter of minutes without the cable. Finally we insisted that it is not worth spending on a new battery especially if it also has a short lifespan (there were also other problems) and so this computer has had to be replaced.
There are quite a few options for power management (found by right-clicking the battery icon when using the battery). These include the amount of time before the screen switches off - rather than just having a 'screensaver' that does not actually save power, often known as a 'sleep mode' and also hibernation settings, where the computer switches off but keeps a memory of where you left off. I don't think my mum actually used the hibernation setting much and at some point after I got my own computer she must have had the settings not to go into hibernation automatically when the battery is low. At least as far as I know, the computer would just switch off completely and she often told us she had lost a survey, email or piece of work she was doing. It is definitely worthwhile checking your power settings even after you have used the computer for a while. Usage patterns do change, after all.
Speed and memory
At the time we were using this computer (2007), 40GB was more than enough for a hard drive. These days I would still argue that it does not matter too much about hard drive because there are so many other options for information storage and really large amounts of data ought to be backed up elsewhere. For a small amount of music, pictures and documents, this size should be okay, but probably you will eventually want to invest in an external hard drive.
The RAM is certainly not that great by today's standards, but may be sufficient depending on what you want to use your computer for. The computer has never been slow to start up in spite of a ridiculous number of applications downloaded and set to start automatically (for example, instant messengers). That said, I would avoid opening too many windows as this will risk crashing. I suspect with newer software, the memory will not be enough.
If you buy this computer second-hand, take the potential cost of memory upgrades and external hardware into account, even if you do not immediately need them. You may get a good deal, but if the asking price is too high you might well be better off buying a newer machine.
This computer had Windows XP (although this may not necessarily be the only OS available for the computer) and I imagine that had a lot to do with why I was happy using her computer. I hated Vista, which to me felt like a step back in comparison to some of the rather nice and more gradual advancements that had been made in Windows. For me this is still the best (although I am about to try out Windows 7 so watch this space!) and it does not slow down your computer too much, even if it does not have all the frills of Vista that you think you need but never missed before you had them!
I can now assess this computer in terms of its useful life, since mum finally admitted that its death warrant had to be signed. I'm not too sure where it has been laid to rest! The computer must have had viruses and overload and so eventually crashed and for a while could not even be switched on. Basic repairs were made by an engineer we know, but only to retrieve the information that mother had not backed up. Again, I must reiterate, PLEASE BACK UP ALL INFORMATION YOU DON'T WANT TO LOSE EXTERNALLY. It could have cost around £100 just to retrieve her documents had we not been fortunate enough to know someone who could do this. I don't think the risk of crashing is specific to this computer, and it is becoming general practice in our household to replace computers after a couple of years maximum. Not good for the wallet, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the same for most regular laptop users today. During its lifespan, the computer was durable, smart and heavy. I would not pay more than about £100 for a computer of this standard today, but all things considered it was not a bad computer.