NEC Generation A Inverness
NEC Generation A
The Generation A is a laptop for students and has some clever features designed to deter thieves. That will be music to the ears of any parent faced with sending a child off to school carrying hundreds of pounds worth of electronics.
NEC's Generation laptops are easily identified by the large, conspicuous Generation logo on the lid. This cannot be easily removed and a unique ID makes a stolen laptop easy to identify. There's also an inset panel with an international freephone number and an email address to report a recovered laptop. Removing this panel reveals the word 'Stolen' stained into the lid beneath.
The contact details are for the Oxygen Cubed service, which also communicates directly with software pre-installed on the laptop. If a thief connects a stolen Generation laptop to the internet, the software reports back to the service and can then be traced. Tech-savvy thieves will reformat the hard drive before taking a laptop anywhere near the internet, of course, but this feature is certainly better than nothing. The laptop is also protected by a fingerprint reader, McAfee VirusScan and a three-year theft insurance policy.
However, all those security features mean less money for hardware. An Intel 1.5GHz Celeron M 370 processor means this isn't a powerful laptop (especially when dual-core models are available in this price range) and it scored 58% in our 2D tests, but that's more than enough to cope with typical school duties. Storage space is also minimal by current standards and the 40GB hard drive is a bit meagre. For Â£148 more though, there's a faster 1.73GHz Pentium M 740-powered version with a 60GB hard disk. A light-use battery life of just over three-and-a-half hours isn't bad, but it isn't enough to last for a school day, so you'll need to carry the mains adapter wth you.
On the up
Elsewhere, the laptop is better specified, with 512MB of RAM and a DVD burner that will handle dual-layer discs. For cable connections, there's a Gigabit Ethernet port and Wi-Fi. The memory card reader is useful for digital cameras owners and there are four USB2 ports too.
We particularly liked the Generation A's 14in screen, which is large for a laptop. Viewing angles aren't great, but the widescreen aspect ratio means it's good for watching films. Build quality is important for a laptop that goes to school each day and with a good, tough, lid, the Generation should stand up to being bumped about in a bag full of books. But other aspects of build-quality weren't always convincing. The keyboard feels rattley, the speakers tinny and the fan kept revving up and down, which will soon become tiresome in a quiet room.
With a better keyboard and stronger case this could be an award winner, but it's still an impressive laptop if you're looking for something to use in an unsecure environment. There are laptops with better performance for the same price, but they don't have the Generation A's impressive security features.