Medion Akoya Mini E1312 Inverness
Medion Akoya Mini E1312
Intel's Atom may have ruled the netbook roost for some time now, but while Nvidia's Ion looms menacingly on the horizon, the portable from Medion surprises by opting for a hitherto unseen AMD-ATI double-act.
On the surface, the Akoya Mini E1312 is just another to find itself somewhere between a netbook and a fully-grown ultraportable. Indeed, there's no getting round the fact that the 11.6in display leaves the chassis noticeably chunkier than the average 10in netbook.
But cast aside cynical preconceptions about what constitutes a netbook, and the Medion certainly gets a few things right. For starters, it's a lot lighter than the full-sized competition, weighing in at a portable 1.42kg - that's just 110g heavier than Samsung's 10in NC10, and 90g lighter than the 12in NC20.
Fire up the E1312 and the 11.6in display immediately impresses. The native resolution of 1,366 x 768 comes as a breath of fresh air after the usually cramped netbook displays, and makes surfing the internet and everyday usage far more pleasurable.
Don't expect the last word in image quality, though. Poor viewing angles aren't the greatest of bedfellows for such a glossy, reflective display, and we soon tired of tilting the display back and forth to get the image just so. Subdued colour reproduction also disappoints, but you can bypass these issues via a choice of HDMI and VGA outputs - undeniably impressive at this price.
Make yourself comfortable
You're unlikely to find yourself irresistibly drawn to the Medion because of its looks, but it's merely dull rather than eye-wateringly repugnant. The glossy black lid is emboldened with a Medion Akoya logo, while the interior opts for a matte-black finish with a subtle silver sparkle. It sounds more stylish than it is, however - the overall finish looks decidedly unremarkable.
If you expect dull looks to be a side effect of high build quality, think again. Twisting motions leave the chassis creaking loudly and, on several occasions, the keyboard surround unclipped from the base only to click back into place with a barely reassuring snap.
Insubstantial build causes problems for the keyboard, too. The layout isn't an issue - the interrupted right Shift proved the only mild annoyance - but the large keys feel spongy and give little feedback while typing.
The trackpad, while fine in isolation, strays so close to the spacebar that we often looked up to find that our thumb had sent the cursor to a different part of the document mid-sentence. It's obviously something Medion noticed, as a keyboard shortcut allows the trackpad to be disabled.
Out of the ordinary
So far, so unremarkable, but what makes the Medion unique is the unlikely partnership at its core. AMD's Sempron 210U takes on processor duties, and with a single 1.5GHz core at its disposal it finds itself just a bit behind a 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor in clock speed. Real-world performance, though, is well out in front of the Atom: an overall score of 0.53 is far ahead of most netbooks, and it was almost twice as fast as the Atom in our Microsoft Office benchmark.
Graphics performance is a cut above, too. ATI's Mobility Radeon X1250 might still baulk at the likes of Crysis, but its extra grunt means less demanding games - such as Trackmania Nations Forever - run with surprising fluidity. Using Trackmania's built-in benchmark, set to 1,366 x 768 resolution and normal detail, we clocked the Medion with a just-about-playable average of 19fps.
This improved performance extends to other areas, with streaming video services such as BBC's iPlayer, Vimeo and YouTube all marking a definite improvement on Atom-based hardware. HD content from iPlayer is still too ambitious a request, but YouTube's HD content borders on the watchable, while Vimeo's HD channel is generally smooth and stutter-free.
This performance comes at the expense of battery life, though. AMD's Sempron 210U boasts a modest power drain of just 15W, but that still makes it six times hungrier than an Atom N270, and our light-use test found the Medion expiring after just over three and a half hours. It wasn't helped by the fact that AMD seems to have removed Cool'n'Quiet from the 210U, thus leaving the processor running permanently at 1.5GHz. Given the ample 4,400mAh battery, it's a disappointing result.
Much as that price tag makes us receptive to the Medion's high-resolution display and impressive performance, its poor ergonomics and battery life drag it down too far to be a realistic purchase. Some might be prepared to overlook the weak points, but with Samsung's NC20 putting in a more balanced performance for just a little more cash, we'll stick with that until the E1312's exciting AMD-ATI partnership arrives in a more polished all-round package.
1.5GHz AMD Sempron 210U, 1GB 533MHz DDR2 RAM, 160GB hard disk, ATI Mobility Radeon X1250 graphics, 11.6in 1,366 x 768 TFT, VGA, HDMI, 3 x USB, ExpressCard/34, 802.11bg + Draft-N WLAN, 10/100 Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1, webcam, card reader, Windows XP Home 32-bit, 296 x 210 x 32mm, 1.42kg (1.82kg)
Has a genuinely powerful alternative to the Atom at its core, but the rest of the package disappoints
Author: Sasha Muller