Evesham – Voyager X5 PM17 review

Intel 'Dothan' powered wide-screen laptop
Photo of Evesham – Voyager X5 PM17
£1,106 + VAT

Evesham’s new Voyager X5 gains instant cachet by having one of Intel’s new breed of Pentium M (‘Dothan’) processors, but as we were to find out, it has more to offer than a fast CPU. And fast it is, primarily because of its enlarged on-die Level 2 cache, now standing at 2MB; double the size of that of the previous Pentium M. The 1.7GHz chip in the Evesham delivers solid performance across the board, so the Voyager will cope with most things without staggering under the load.

This is important as it seems to be aimed at the consumer and not the business user, so it is likely to see service as a games platform, a DVD player, possibly an image- or video-editing tool, and no doubt other things besides.

Of course the CPU doesn’t do all this on its own, which is where another of the Voyager’s strengths becomes apparent. The core specification is relatively generous: 512MB of PC2700 (333MHz) DDR SDRAM; 60GB of storage on a fast 7,200rpm Hitachi hard disk and, best of all, 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics.

This is a sizzler of a GPU, and turns the Voyager into a games platform that really works. Only the most recent and most graphically complex titles are going to slow it down; everything else will fly along. It also makes light work of DVD playback, so films run smoothly and cleanly.

Movie playback gets a further visual boost from the Voyager’s wide-format 15.4-inch diagonal screen. This has a native resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, which means you see a large, wide-screen image with much less of a letterbox effect than with conventional screens. The panel is also bright and offers a reasonably wide range of viewing angles, so the machine really does quite well on the visuals front.

By the standards of notebook audio it manages pretty well, too. The integrated speakers provide a well-defined stereo picture, and the woofer set into the base adds a fraction more bottom end. External speakers are still a must for anything serious, but you can at least live with the inboard ones when you need them. Movie lovers note: there’s a SPDIF digital audio output for hooking up to a 5.1-channel speaker array for proper digital surround effects.

The optical drive provides a combination of CD-R/RW (16x/8x) and DVD-R/RW (2x/1X), but doesn’t do DVD+RW, so you can’t do things like multi-session backups onto a single disc. The drive itself is one of those tray-less affairs, so you just slip the disk into the side of the machine and it disappears, which is actually an improvement over the conventional type.

The Voyager has all the comms hardware you’d expect – 56Kbps modem, 10/100Mbps LAN – and some that’s still a bonus, like 54Mbps 802.11b/g wireless and a 3-in-1 flash card reader. When it comes to ports, it’s a modernist, with three USB 2.0 connectors for the major stuff, but no parallel, serial or PS/2 ports. You do get VGA, S-video TV-out and Firewire, though, not to mention a Type II PC Card slot for expansion.

Wide-screen notebooks aren’t really made for carrying around, but it has to be said that the Voyager is lighter and more compact than many. It has a 35.5cm x 25.2cm (W x D) footprint, measures a modest 32mm thick, and weighs 2.8kg. You’d still be better off looking at a sub-2kg, small-format machine if travel is what you have in mind, though.

Build quality is good, resulting in a machine that feels solid in the hands. The lid surface is plastic rather than alloy, but at least it’s reasonably pressure-resistant, and you can’t have everything, not for this price. We were happy enough with the keyboard, which was comfortable enough and didn’t bounce too horribly during typing, and the large touch-pad is a plus point.

Battery life from the 4,400mAh Li-ION pack is so-so: a little over 2 hours of continuous use, less if you are doing something power-hungry like watching a DVD. Ideally, we’d like to see enough staying power to get you through a 2.5-hour film on DVD in a single sitting, and the Voyager doesn’t quite make the grade, but this is its only real shortcoming, and may not matter much if you are using it around the house anyway.

What with the screen, the excellent ATI 3D graphics, the DVD burner and the Dothan CPU (not to mention 802.11g wireless), the Voyager is a package to be reckoned with. Throw in a copy of Microsoft Works and a three-year warranty (year 1 on-site, years 2 and 3 return to base), and you have worthwhile added value. Slap on a £1,299 VAT-inclusive price tag, and it’s a bargain.

Company: Evesham

Contact: 0870 160 9500

This is an ideal desktop replacement/alternative for the home user, with strong multimedia features, good all-round performance and a decent specification for the money.