The spread of Skype-certified products shows no sign of slowing down. First it was VoIP handsets and now we have a laptop with integrated webcam and preloaded Skype software.
Skype is unlikely to be the major selling point for any laptop - after all, it's a free application - yet the marketing people at Packard Bell saw fit to release a product with the Skype brand firmly at its electronic heart. Thankfully, a neat webcam that launches Skype directly when the button next to it is pressed isn't the only attractive feature of this communications-focused laptop.
First impressions count and the Packard Bell EasyNote Skype gets off to a good start. The attractive black and silver finish is accompanied by a pleasing chassis; finally, a laptop that not only looks good but feels good, too. The 14.1-inch Super-TFT screen is large enough for practical, day-to-day computing tasks, but also remains small enough to make mobility a breeze. It also weighs just 2.4kg and feels even lighter.
Simplicity is also central to the EasyNote Skype and only the essentials are visable to keep it as sleek as possible. Present on the laptop's surface are just two extra features: the Wi-Fi and economy mode buttons. To save space near the touchpad the display lights (for power, hard disk and connectivity) are located on the front of the laptop, at 90 degrees, next to the card reader and audio jacks.
Portable computing is at the heart of the EasyNote Skype and it's a compact solution with a battery life that'll see you through nearly four hours of computing.
With Intel 945GM onboard graphics the EasyNote Skype isn't for gaming, but its performance managed a respectable 528 in 3DMark tests, which is what we'd expect from a laptop without dedicated graphics. What's even more encouraging is the performance of the Core 2 Duo T5200 CPU.
This runs at just 1.66GHz and clocked up 2,677 under PCMark tests. For £700 the 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive is generous and is double the capacity of others in the same price bracket. Yet it's the webcam that this notebook is sold on and the performance of the 1.3 megapixel BisonCam camera is admirable, reproducing colours faithfully and minimising blur during movement. The camera is integrated neatly into the laptop lid and the Skype launch button and microphone complement it well.
The downsides to the EasyNote Skype are few, but unfortunately significant. The touchpad is small and level with the rest of the area around it, so it's all too easy to slide your fingers off it and even straight on to the keyboard.
The keyboard itself is comfortable, but flexes considerably when typing. This makes it feel flimsy, particularly on the right-hand side. The laptop lid is sturdy but also remains prone to some flexing, most notably at the sides.
With good battery life and a processor that won't buckle under the load of normal, on-the-road use, the Packard Bell EasyNote Skype is a good buy, especially considering the large disk space. However, build quality could have been better in fundamental areas such as the keyboard and laptop lid.