ACi – Precedent review

powerful Pentium III desktop replacement notebook
Photo of ACi – Precedent
£1,899 + VAT

The ACI Precedent gets off to a good start by being more or less identical to Dell’s Inspiron 5000, which has received a deservedly good press elsewhere. This particular Precedent does differ in one respect, namely that it has a Pentium III/600 processor, not the SpeedStep PIII/650 used by Dell.

Physically, the Precedent is quite imposing, with a moderately large footprint necessary to accommodate its 15-inch screen. The body of the machine is soundly constructed and doesn’t flex or deform unduly under pressure, and you get the benefit of a magnesium alloy lid as well, ensuring the longevity of the screen. The build quality and the fact that the Precedent is an all-in-one design could have had an unfortunate effect on the weight, but the engineers have actually managed to keep this down to 3.4kg, which isn’t bad for a well-made desktop replacement notebook.

Judging from the spec, this machine is intended to be taken seriously, with 128MB of SDRAM and a 12GB Toshiba hard disk backing up the processor, plus a 6-speed Toshiba DVD-ROM drive in a special bay which can also be used for options like an LS-120 Superdisk or a second battery pack.

The Precedent comes as standard with an internal V.90 Lucent fax modem, so its two Type II PC Card slots remain free for other uses, such as network adapters. The ports at the rear include both USB and an S-video output for use with a television set, giving the machine the potential for use as a DVD movie player. There’s a connector for an optional port replicator or docking station as well.

One of the things that we particularly liked about this notebook was its keyboard, which proved to be large enough to be used in comfort for prolonged periods. It avoided irritants like non-standard function-doubling to save space, and the Enter and Backspace keys were pleasingly large and easy to hit.

Users needing to get serious work done will also appreciate the 15-inch TFT screen, which is large enough to produce a really readable Windows workspace at XGA resolution (1024 x 768). The panel was also reasonably brightly illuminated, which is another point in its favour.

Performance isn’t a problem with this machine, so buyers wanting a business system with some punch shouldn’t be disappointed. The battery life wasn’t outstanding, seeming to average out at a little under the three hour mark, but we’d still class this as acceptable for a power portable. With any luck, ACI will introduce faster versions based on Speedstep processors, and edge the running time up over three hours.

Company: ACi

Contact: 0818 830 1958


Verdict
The Precedent is a decent piece of kit, and for what it is, the price is fair. There are still far too many overpriced PIII notebooks out there, and it's encouraging to find machines like this at a more sensible price. Strong on ergonomics and build quality, it's a powerful, good value system that's worth taking seriously.