Evesham Voyager C550SR Inverness
Evesham Voyager C550SR
Evesham's entry-level laptop, the Voyager, comes in two main variants. This one is the pricier of the pair, but still has a modest price tag, at least for a machine with a proper dual-core processor, in this case an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 running at 2GHz. Along with a healthy 2GB of RAM, that enabled the Evesham to score well in our general (2D) benchmark: an overall total of 146% proved the C550 was no slouch, and it showed particularly well in multitasking and video editing. If that's the kind of thing you have in mind, the 160GB hard disk will accommodate a fair quantity of media files.
Windows Vista Home Premium comes installed, and you also get a few useful third party applications. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free anyway, but handy to have, and BullGuard Internet Security and Roxio Media Suite 9XE (both reviewed in this issue, though not in the same versions) are welcome additions. These handy utilities don't clog up your desktop or taskbar too much, or slow down startup, so the Evesham is quick to let you get at your desktop.
Graphically, however, the Voyager is something of a non-event. Despite marketing claims referring optimistically to playing 'the hottest new games', the GeForce 8400M is one of the slower dedicated graphics processors around, and will struggle with modern 3D titles. You could dig through the bargain bin and rediscover some lost classics that would run acceptably, but our Call of Duty 2 benchmark chugged along at a single-figure frame rate, making it unplayable. For a budget laptop, though, it could have been a lot worse.
We were more disappointed by the Voyager's external features. The case is sleek and slim, but just doesn't exude quality. The keyboard feels lightweight, the individual buttons so springy that you fear they could give way at any time. Yet the mouse buttons are too tough, taking some effort to depress. Shortcut keys - for email, web browser and anything else you might want to assign to them - also feel less than convincing, responding with a tacky lightness th at does nothing to reassure. The trackpad, though unspectacular, gave us little trouble, and includes a useful scroll bar.
The 15 inch screen is mostly satisfactory - bright and colourful, with crisp playback for DVDs - as long as you don't mind a glossy display, with the resulting glare and reflections. A webcam is built in above the screen, and speakers below it.
The C550 comes with a fair range of connections: there are three USB ports, Ethernet and VGA (for an external monitor), and audio jacks alongside the Toshiba DVDRW drive. Wireless networking was easy to set up and use thanks to the built-in Intel WiFi controller.
Thus far, if you can put up with the keyboard, the Voyager could be a decent budget buy. At two and a half kilos, it's also very portable - but here we run into a major snag. In our 'light use' test, the battery ran out of steam after just an hour and 11 minutes. By today's standards, that can only be described as poor, and there are few journeys you could contemplate without having to ask yourself if a mains socket will be available en route. You can forget watching movies to pass the time, because the Voyager would barely manage a couple of episodes of your favourite TV show, let alone a film.
Average build quality and short battery life weigh against the positive aspects of the Voyager. A competent processor, generous RAM and sizeable hard disk aren't to be sniffed at, but you'll need to look elsewhere for a truly practical portable.
Hard disk: 160GB
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 (2GHz)
Graphics: nVidia GeForce 8400M G (256MB)
Ports: 3x USB, Ethernet, VGA
Windows Vista Home Premium
1.3 megapixel webcam
Memory card reader
Warranty: 1 year onsite
Author: Mike Jennings