With laptops taking over ever bigger chunks of the PC market, it comes as no great shock to find them in market segments which were, until recently, the sole domain of the desktop. First it was gaming and now it’s the media centre PC’s turn to feel the heat of stiff competition.
Elonex’s MediaStar 1541 is a high performance, stylish notebook, which offers a good balance between being a media centre PC and an everyday workhorse. Weighing just 3kg it’s also portable at a pinch, but it’s not without its problems.
Its good performance is due to the combination of a 2GHz Pentium M processor, Intel’s feature-rich 915 chipset and a gigabyte of PC2700 (DDR333) memory, all of which gives it a SysMark04 SE score of 160, which is very good for a laptop.
One of the problems that faces the MediaStar 1541, though, is the size of the standard hard drive; just 80GB. This may sound huge for a notebook, but just you wait until you start recording programmes from the TV; you will soon be crying out for more space.
But to be fair to Elonex, it does provide a 120GB drive as an alternative for an additional £85 and you do get a dual layer, dual format DVD burner so that you can archive off your favourite media files.
The 15.4-inch screen with its 1,280 x 800 native resolution is ideal for watching movies but its viewing angles are quite restrictive. If this becomes a problem you can use the S-video output to connect to a TV, or if your TV has SCART you can get an S-Video to SCART converter for around a tenner.
Graphics are controlled by a 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X700 which won’t be giving any true gamers much of a quiver, but at least it’s a lot better than integrated graphics, and it will play the latest games at a reasonable frame rate as long as you back the detail settings right off.
Another of the disappointments is the inclusion of just a single TV tuner which is analogue and not digital. So not only can you not get the Freeview service, you can’t get the best out of the screen either. Dual tuners which allow you to record two programmes at once or record one channel while watching another would have been nice to see.
The MediaStar 1541 comes with Gigabit Ethernet and there’s also wireless support which offers 802.11a as well as the more common b and g standards. Although the supplied remote control is a lot smaller than normal desktop ones, it is surprisingly easy to use.
The battery life of the MediaStar 1541 is disappointing; MobileMark 05 DVD Playback test produced a score of 140 minutes and just 130 for the Productivity test, but maybe you shouldn’t read too much into that, as this is one laptop that will probably spend most of its life plugged into the mains.
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