Nowadays, the specification of the Advent 8212 doesn't look particularly impressive. Yet three years ago, when I bought one, it was streets ahead of most other laptops in its £500 price bracket. Even today, its performance stands up well and it's a great little workhorse of a laptop and still represents a good solid buy if you can find one second hand. After three years of heavy, daily use, it has proved very reliable and has never once broken down.
Although I have a more powerful laptop, this is the machine I use most and, is the one I take out and about when I want to do computing on the move. At just over 1.8kg, it might not be able to compete with the ultra-portables available, but it's light enough to sling in a bag and carry on your shoulder without breaking your back.
The 8212 comes with a 120GB Hard drive. If you compare this with current laptops, this perhaps looks a little stingy. The reality is it should be more than enough for most users. These days, most of us probably store most of our data on a memory stick, whilst the average user probably only installs a relatively small number of actual programs and the hard disk is big enough for that. After three years' daily usage, mine isn't even half full.
The 2GB RAM supplied is also more than adequate for most tasks and enough to run the supplied Windows Vista (urrgh!) operating system without too many problems. Given what experts and Microsoft have been saying, it should also be more than powerful enough to run Windows 7 once released, although obviously I haven't checked this. Combined with the 1.80 GHz Dual Core processor, you should find it can cope with most standard programs. The downside is that I believe that 2GB is the maximum memory that can be installed, so there is no chance to upgrade if the machine does start to struggle.
Of course, as with any PC, there is noticeable slow-down over time, and I have noticed some degradation in performance since I bought it. The boot-up time in particular is quite lengthy and it can be frustrating having to wait until Windows has properly loaded. Some programs also seem to take a while to boot up, although they work fine once they have done so. That said, this is as much to do with the junk cluttering up the laptop, rather than the machine itself and is something most PCs suffer from sooner or later.
The screen is more than adequate for the task. Colours are crisp and bright and the widescreen 12" TFT screen is excellent - big enough to allow things to be displayed properly, without being too big and compromising the portability. True, it can become difficult to see in bright light or direct sunlight, but again, this is a problem with most TFT screens.
The machine is a good sturdy thing too. It feels well built and has a nice finish to it. There's none of the slightly lightweight, plasticky feel you sometimes get for laptops. Given how much mine has been slung around, the metallic finish has stood up surprisingly well. There are a few scratches to it, but nothing noticeable - and it's been dropped and bashed a fair few times in its existence!
What this machine is no good for is games. The fairly low-spec in-built graphics card struggles with anything which is graphically demanding. I've had a few basic, older games working on it (things like Lemmings and old Windows 95 games), but any game from the last five years will almost certainly be beyond it. Even if the graphics card could cope with it, the 2GB of memory would mean a very sluggish performance.
Things aren't too good sound-wise, either. The speakers are relatively puny things and don't churn out a great deal of volume. They are adequate for internet radio or watching programmes on the iPlayer, but that's about their limit. Even this has to be done in a fairly quiet environment. If there's anything much in the way of background noise, the speakers struggle to make themselves heard.
In terms of other features, the Advent 8212 is well catered for and supports many things that, when released, only higher end laptops provided as standard. 3 USB ports should prove enough for most people, whilst there is also a Firewire port and 4-in-1 card reader built in, to make transferring data from digital cameras or other equipment very straightforward. A built in 1.3 megapixel webcam may not be the greatest in the world, but will be fine for those looking to add images to Skype or instant messaging conversations.
For surfing the web, there's an internal 56k modem (which I've never used, so can't comment on) and the internal wireless card always picks up an excellent signal, in my experience. There is one issue: the front of the laptop contains a switch to turn wireless connectivity on and off (to save on battery power). It's a little too easy to accidentally switch this off by brushing against something, leaving you to wonder why your laptop suddenly won't detect any networks. The first couple of times it happens, it's very disconcerting and it would have made more sense to locate this switch somewhere else.
Speaking of battery life, I find a full charge tends to last around 2-2.5 hours on moderate use, so it should be fine if you want to take it on your travels. Things like watching a DVD are more power hungry, and you'll often find you need to plug it into the mains ifyou're watching a film. It also seems to take a huge amount of time to recharge - particularly if you try and use it at the same time. Switched off, a full charge takes somewhere between 60-90 minutes . Double that if you're trying to use it at the same time.
The fan is also a bit of an issue. This whirrs away in the background almost constantly and is pretty noisy. It doesn't even seem to do its job terribly efficiently as the bottom of the laptop does get very hot quite quickly, so you might want to invest in one of those heat absorbing laptop pads if you plan on putting this on your knee.
If you compare the 8212's specs against today's machines, it obviously comes up wanting; it is, after all, around 3 years old. If you look at it on its own merits, though, it's an excellent, well-built machine. Although mo longer manufactured, if you get the chance to pick one up second hand for a reasonable price I would heartily recommend it.
© Copyright SWSt 2009