Product Type: other laptops
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A layman's review of a layman's laptop
EI Systems Laptop 3082
Member Name: christianfilm
EI Systems Laptop 3082
Advantages: Cheap, adequate for general use
Disadvantages: Small Harddrive, slow on high level graphics
>>>> Design and Build
Height: 32 mm
Width: 326 mm
Depth: 258 mm
Weight: 2.8 kg
Colour: Silver (lid), black (base)
Whilst you would be right in saying that one laptop predominantly looks like another, there are a fewer finer points concerning the design which can either make the laptop a joy to use or a complete and utter nightmare. First up, the designers have had the foresight to place the speakers at the back of the machine, in between where the keyboard finishes and the screen is connected. I say foresight, as this allows the sound to come out clear and unobstructed, unlike some machines which place them at the front which when using the machine in true laptop sense become muffled by your clothes. But they have made the terrible decision of placing the CD/DVD drive facing the front, not a huge problem when using the laptop on a desk, but when you have it resting on your legs, you occasionally find that you inadvertently hit the eject button, a real problem when you are running software from disk. Another annoyance is that they have decided to include a built in mic, but have placed it just in front of the keyboard, in effect making it redundant as your arm/ wrist basically covers it whenever you are typing.
Whilst the design of the machine has its plus and minus points, the construction of the machine is very good. Made out of the standard plastic, the machine feels amazingly robust and although I have only had the one accident with it, it has not shown any signs of damage or weakening. My only concern over the build is in the mechanism with locks the screen against the base when closed, it does feel very thin and I wouldn't be surprised if at some point the two locking catches snapped. It is also amazingly light, and compared to my old Dell laptop this feels more like a laptop should as it does not crush your legs or weigh heavy on your shoulders when carried in its case.
>>>> External Hardware and Connectivity
Screen Size/Type 14.1" XGA
Optical Drives COMBO DVD CDRW
CD-ROM Read Speed 48 x
CD-ROM Rewrite Speed 24 x
DVD-ROM Read Speed 8 x
Other Interfaces 10/100 LAN Ethernet
Battery Type Li-ion
When it comes to the external hardware on the machine, it is a completely mixed bag. On the positive side, the screen at 14.1 " is sharp, with solid colours and thankfully has so far not suffered from any dead spots. The CD Rewriter/ DVD ROM drive is adequate for every day use, although on newer models they have replaced this with one which is a DVD Rewriter. But unfortunately the positives are outweighed by the negatives, first of which is the keyboard, although very responsive it is very clicky/ noisy and on more than one occasion I have inadvertently lifted a key off it's fitting by catching its edge whilst typing, a real pain in the neck when you are in full flow. The second annoyance comes with the mouse pad which sits, typically in front of the keyboard. Although I tend to use a standard USB mouse, the supplied mouse pad is actually too sensitive, whilst typing away you can inadvertently brush the pad and it unfortunately moves the cursor to another position. Although you can reduce the sensitivity of the mouse pad via the software, it still remains too sensitive even on the lowest settings. Where I am significantly disappointed is in the battery life, although I mainly use the machine running off of the mains, on the occasions I have run the laptop off of battery only it has lasted less than two hours. Of course the speed in which the battery drains relies heavily on what processes you are running at the time, so to try and simplify this, running off of battery whilst surfing the net and word processing you can expect to get around an hour and a half, whilst watching a DVD you can expect the battery to drain within 45 minutes.
Whilst the external hardware has a few plus points and its fair share of negative points, the array of connections is pretty average for most laptops. With a selection of four USB 2.0 sockets, a network socket, phone (modem) connection, external monitor socket and a mouse/keyboard socket I have not had any issues with limited connections. Plus for some strange reason they have included two headphone sockets and two microphone sockets, one of each on the side of the machine and the other two on the rear. Where the machine would let people down would be in the lack of a parallel socket for anyone using an old style printer, the lack of a PCI card slot, for those who still require one and also the lack of a firewire socket.
>>>> Internal Hardware
Processor Type Celeron M 380
Processor speed 1600 mhz
Memory Type DDR333
Memory Size 256 mb
Sound Type AC97 16bit
Graphics Card Type Integrated Graphics
Graphics Memory Up to 64mb shared mb
Hard Drive Capacity 40 Gb
Comparing the above to some machines makes this machine look decidedly inadequate, but then this is what I would class as an entry level, budget machine. When it comes to every day use, which for me mainly features surfing the internet, word processing, a bit of light graphical work, web design and the occasional gaming, this machine handles my demands more than adequately. The only annoyance with this machines pretty low spec comes about when I am using a graphical package such as Adobe Photoshop, as the rendering of images does take slightly longer than I am used to. Of course if I was seriously into graphic design I would have look at buying a more powerful machine to start with, but for day to day minor editing of photos, the slight slowness is not a great pain. To put it simply, I can quite easily have running Outlook, Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer and Messenger (used for VOIP) without noticing any slowness in the response time of any of the software. It is only when I then add Photoshop or a game into the equation do I notice any significant drop in response time.
The sound quality although not brilliant, is acceptable for day to day use; the only real annoyance comes from when using this laptop to watch DVDs as the quality is rather thin and quite tinny. The problems with the sound is not helped by the fact that the designers have incorporated a cooling fan behind the right speaker which can lead to some strange sounds, similar to pitch changes, coming when ever you listen to music. Although this is annoying, the positioning of the fan and in fact the whole cooling system is excellent. Whilst you definitely feel the machine warming up over a period of time, it never gets to the point where you feel it will over heat and the actual noise of the fan running is not overly loud. This is quite an important factor for me, as my last Laptop, a Dell, suffered massively from heat issues which in fact resulted in its sudden death.
Of course an obvious issue when looking at the specs is the 40 Gb hard drive, which in this day and age is relatively small. Whilst I have so far only managed to use around 2/3 of this, I can see that anyone who wanted to use this machine for storing music, pictures or videos would have a huge issue with the limited space available, but then of course you can always opt to have a larger hard drive fitted, or use an external hard drive which are now becoming very affordable.
>>>> Included Software
Windows XP Home
Microsoft Works 8.5
InterVideo Win DVD
NTI CD & DVD Maker/ Back Up Now
Miscellaneous trial software and subscription software
Most importantly the machine comes with just the option of Windows XP Home, and with the release of Windows Vista may seem to be already outdated. Personally I am more than happy using XP until the majority of the bugs which will no doubt arise from the new Windows Vista have been fixed. Of course there are limitations which come from only having XP Home, most notably in the number of network connections, but as I personally use this machine on a small home network I do not have any of the issues attributed to running it on a bigger network. On top of Windows XP you get the pretty much standard Microsoft Works, in this case version 8.5. Whilst there is nothing really wrong with Works, I immediately installed Office 2003 purely because it is what I am used to.
The InterVideo Win DVD software is adequate for watching the majority of DVD's, but it does come with a significant limitation. You can only change the region of what DVD you are watching 5 times before it gets permanently set to whatever the region was of the last DVD you watched. As to the NTI CD/ DVD software, again this adequate and whilst I was unable to say how well it works at creating DVDs, it worked reasonably well at creating CDs. My only complaint was that compared to the likes of Nero, it is rather slow.
Also included are a 30 day trial version Of Norton security, as well as a trial subscription to AOL and again a trial subscription to Napster. Which to be honest I removed all three from the machine immediately.
NB: All the software comes preinstalled but the laptop also comes with copies of them on CD, so that if you ever need to re-install any, you have them to hand.
>>>> Ease of set up
The set up was remarkably easy, as it was just a case of removing the laptop from the box, inserting the battery, plugging the power supply in and away you go. Once you had booted the machine up, there was a guide which went through all the software which came with the machine along with tips on how to look after your machine. In a nice touch, the Windows XP had already been registered which meant there was no need to worry about locating the registration number (on the underside of the machine) and registering online. Whilst the machine is amazingly easy to set up, and the online guide is of use, the laptop does not come with any paper versions of the manuals which would be of obvious use if the machine ever fails to start up.
>>>> Ease of upgrading
Of course the easiest way to upgrade the machine is by plugging extra components in via the array of connections, such as an external Hard Drive or a Wireless Network Dongle. But if you fancy actually upgrading some of the actual components then this machine is one of the easiest. Access to both the Hard Drive and the DDR Memory is easily achieved via two unscrew able panels underneath the base. Although upgrading these components is pretty easy, and I have on one occasion changed the hard drive to extract data from an old one, I would not recommend it to anyone who is not over familiar with the process and the risks involved. Sadly, upgrading the sound and the graphics is not possible due to them being integrated and whilst you could upgrade the processor, I strongly advise against it, due to the huge risks involved. On a positive note, the CD/DVD Drive is upgradeable as it just slots into the machine and clips into place via a locking mechanism on the underside.
>>>> Price & Availability
As I previously mentioned, the EI System 3082 has now been superseded by newer models which are still amazingly affordable at around the £349.99 price mark and can be found predominantly in pcworld. Although the EI System 3082 can still be found via other retailers on the internet and I have found them being on sale for as low as £200.
Having used this machine for several months now I have very few complaints. Yes it may not be as fast as some laptops, and it certainly lacks some of the hardware options which are available on more expensive machines, but for the price this would be excellent as a first laptop or for use in a home office set up. Despite my few niggles with a couple of design issues, and the poor sound quality I thoroughly like this machine and would definitely recommend it to anyone, as long as they can live with the poor battery life.
© Christianfilm August 2007
Summary: Basic laptop for basic needs
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