Hi-Grade – Ultinote AS8300 review

compact, lightweight notebook
Photo of Hi-Grade – Ultinote AS8300
£1,499 + VAT

The Ultinote AS8300 certainly crams a lot into a small space. Although not quite a sub-notebook, it’s nowhere near as large as a full-sized notebook either; when closed it’s a little over an inch thick. Its weight is also lower than average at 2.4kg, something which really will make a difference when lugging the unit around. Few things have been sacrificed to bring the AS8300 into a smaller size. Although you only get one PC Card slot, one USB and one serial port, some clever design features are employed to let you connect as much as possible to the machine.

For example, although there’s just a single drive bay to hold either the floppy or CDROM drive, a cable plugging into a special port at the back of the machine enables you to use the floppy even if the CDROM drive is in place. If you want to travel without either, a special blanking plate is supplied to fill the drive bay, thus reducing weight. Elsewhere, another special cable plugs into the back and allows both modem and 10/100Mbps Ethernet connections. Again, all this provides maximum usage from the machine but doesn’t sacrifice weight or size.

Another surprise is the 13.3-inch TFT screen, which stretches to the corners of the lid. This panel is larger than average for a unit of this size, and proved very bright indeed in our tests. We were quite surprised to find a note in the box warning the user again placing anything heavier than 1.5kg on the closed lid, for fear of damaging the screen. As the note points out, 1.5kg is around the weight of three thick magazines. This is an interesting move on behalf of Hi-Grade, because virtually all notebook lids are very sensitive to damage.

However, such an admission was barely necessary with this notebook because the lid resisted pressure very well in our tests. This is thanks to a case that’s constructed entirely from magnesium alloy, meaning that the notebook has a stunningly well-built feel. The screen opens and shuts with a firm and reassuring pressure, for example, and the whole thing has a road-ready appeal.

Inside the machine is a Pentium III 500MHz processor alongside 128MB of RAM and a 11GB hard disk. These components gave rise to a good turn of speed which will certainly not disappoint now or in the near future. Battery life was very impressive and we managed just under three and a half hours in our tests. This is around a third more than the average, and is something to be commended.

So what’s to criticise? Well, the keyboard had little depth depression, making for what we felt was a disappointing typing experience. The touchpad was also a little too far to the left of the machine for our liking, causing us to accidentally touch it with our palm whilst typing thus sending the mouse wild. A certain degree of care needs to be adopted when typing. But in most other respects, there’s nothing to complain about.

Company: Hi-Grade

Contact: 0800 0740 402

Perhaps the worst concession to the shrunken down size of this notebook is the single PC Card slot, but in all other respects it's an outstanding piece of kit. The price is by no means cheap, but this is a quality and reliable notebook through and through. If you have the money we reckon you'll have trouble finding a better machine for working on the move.