Philips – Freevents X56 review

surprisingly good ultra-portable laptop
Photo of Philips – Freevents X56

There’s a tendency among some laptop reviewers to judge products by their price. In some cases this is justified, since market forces dictate that cheaper products are usually cheaper for a reason: they may use cheaper components or have fewer features than their more expensive counterparts. But sometimes laptops – like many other things in life – are cheaper because they are from an unknown brand.

Not that the electronics giant Philips is unknown, of course, but it isn’t exactly an established laptop brand like Toshiba, HP or Sony. So when people started talking about the Philips Freevents X56 and how good it was, we thought we’d take a look.

First, the design. This is a good looking laptop that weighs a little under 2kg and fits snugly around its 12.1-inch widescreen display, whose native resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels is a good match for the exceedingly bright and clear screen. The overall style is contemporary without being flash; certainly you won’t be embarrassed in the company of other laptop users.

The keyboard is excellent: full size apart from the function and arrow keys, with a good, positive action and the right amount of travel. The trackpad works well and the wrist rest is a good depth, with LEDs along the front showing WiFi (there’s a switch to turn it off), power, hard drive or DVD access, num-lock, caps lock and battery. Also along the front are microphone and headphone sockets, plus a card reader that will handle SD, MS Pro, MMC and MS.

Internally, it’s based around an Intel Core 2 Duo T5600 (1.83GHz) and the Intel i915GM chipset, with 1GB of DDR2 memory. The graphics adapter is an integrated, shared-memory Intel 950: it works well enough, but don’t expect to be doing much in the way of gaming. It even stuttered slightly when playing a DVD in the Media Center software, although this may have been a glitch, as changing to one of the other DVD playing software packages installed – Cyberlink PowerDVD – eliminated the problem. Certainly the drive itself isn’t to blame, as the Dual Layer DVD±RW unit performed perfectly well in our tests.

What’s to fault? Well, the screen lid is a bit flimsy and affects the display when you move it, and we’d have liked to see Bluetooth built-in, but really that’s the extent of our quibbles. The 80GB SATA hard drive is generous, the power supply brick is suitably small and the 3,800mAh battery seems to last about three hours in normal use; not outstanding, but adequate.

The 802.11a/b/g WiFi adapter has quite a range, too. You also get a 56Kbps modem, wired 10/100Mbps LAN, integrated FireWire and three USB 2.0 ports, as well as an ExpressCard 34/54 slot.

All in all it’s an excellent package and comes pre-installed with Windows XP Media Center Edition and Microsoft Works 8. If you’re a Linux devotee, though, walk away. We tried Ubuntu, Puppy, DSL and Knoppix on it, but there’s something here that halts the boot process every time, though we haven’t yet worked out what it is.

Company: Philips

Contact: 08702 420444

A genuinely excellent budget laptop that looks good, performs well, feels solid and has a good specification and features list. At the price it's a bargain.