Tiny Computers – MediaBook 1000 review

a fast desktop chip in a notebook
Photo of Tiny Computers – MediaBook 1000
£1,399

Notebook PCs have always packed rather less punch than their desktop box counterparts, due mainly to the restrictions of space and the cost of miniaturisation. But Tiny – incidentally the UK’s largest indigenous PC company – has come up with a notebook PC, the MediaBook 1000, that appears to narrow the gap considerably.

The MediaBook 1000′s main headline-grabber is its 1,000MHz, or 1GHz, Pentium III CPU. But you can also add to that a Trident CyberBlade i1 3D graphics chipset for fully hardware-accelerated 3D graphics, and an 8-speed DVD ROM drive, which complements the CyberBlade’s built in hardware DVD-assist for glitch-free movie watching using the supplied software. Always nice for long (i.e. all) train journeys.

There’s also a 20GB UDMA33 hard disk, 128MB of system memory of which 8MB is shared with the graphics system, a 14.1-inch active matrix screen, plus a Lithium Ion battery rated for 3 hours typical life between charges. On the software side you get Microsoft Windows 98 ME, plus Works 2001. Importantly, this includes Word 2000 and you also get Autoroute 2000, among other things. Tiny targets less technically savvy customers and bundles some handy Windows tutorial software.

At the time of writing, the fastest low voltage SpeedStep Mobile Pentium III CPU available from Intel was rated at 850MHz. Tiny has managed to hit that magic 1,000MHz figure by using a desktop version of the Pentium III mated to a VIA chipset instead of Intel’s more familiar MX solution.

This is an old trick from some notebook makers that keeps costs down, but has usually been at the cost of battery life. Excessive heat has also been a problem with some models in the past. Happily, we can report that the MediaBook 1000 is a relatively cool operator thanks to its generous cooling vents and fan. The only downside is that when triggered, the fan can be quite noisy. We couldn’t match Tiny’s claims for 3 hour battery life, but our experience of just over 2 hours isn’t too bad.

While the MediaBook 1000 has an impressive hardware specification up to a point, it doesn’t have an extended range of features to classify it as a premium notebook. There is no optional port-replicator or docking station option. The DVD and floppy drives are not part of an interchangeable parts arrangement, so you can’t double-up the batteries, for example. There is no wireless IrDA port, no integrated LAN port, nor an IEEE1394 Firewire port. However, an S-video out port for connection to a TV, maybe for presentations, and a V.90 data/fax modem are provided.

The styling of the MediaBook 1000 is pleasant, with a combination of dark grey and silver. The keyboard is good, although the positioning of the Del key is not ideal. The 1024 x 768 screen is bright, but illumination into the bottom corners isn’t even. At 3.2kg, this isn’t a featherweight laptop, but neither is it a back-breaker.

Performance-wise, the MediaBook 1000 was slightly disappointing. Our benchmarks indicated that hard disk and overall system performance was significantly below that of typical desktop systems touting a similar specification. In fact we’d expect some better examples of Intel MX/Mobile Pentium 850MHz based notebooks to marginally out-perform the MediaBook 1000 in an overall system benchmark. But for all that, the MediaBook is fast by general comparative notebook standards and you can watch DVDs and even play 3D games satisfactorily.

Company: Tiny Computers

Contact: 0800 783 9812


Verdict
In the end you have to evaluate a product like the MediaBook 1000 on its price as well as performance. It's a well-packaged and very good value all-rounder that's unlikely to be rendered useless through obsolescence as quickly as some less powerful alternatives.