The arrival of Intel's well-received Core 2 Duo chip on a laptop deserves a triumphal fanfare. After all, it's a fast processor with low power requirements and doesn't churn out heat like an exploding volcano. Few people are going to look the other way when a laptop appears sporting this breakthrough CPU.
Yet when we took the Zoostrom out of its box, that jubilant trumpet blast sounded more like a half-hearted squawk on a kazoo. Furnished in plastic gunmetal grey and matt black, it's a laptop that doesn't believe in first impressions counting.
Thankfully, neither do we or else we'd have sent the laptop straight back to Dull Business World, Inc. Once powered up, the device was pleasantly quiet in operation. The keyboard felt firm - there was none of that spongyness that can afflict cheaper laptops.
The price deserves a comment here. At £750 the Zoostrom is setting out its stall from the off. You know that it's neither a swanky desktop replacement, nor a clunky, cheap-as-chips laptop that's only good for email or Word work.
This is a product that can handle heavy-duty business and creativity applications on the move, while putting in a good show when it comes to gaming. Indeed, at this price point it's a realistic alternative to family-friendly desktops.
Making a SYSmark
Backing up this impression are the results from our benchmarking tests. SYSmark 2004 installs a range of office, Internet and visual effects programs, and then assesses how well the PC handles them. Often the documents are large and multiple programs can be running at the same time during a test. The Zoostorm's SYSmark score of 210 proved that it was more than up to the job.
On the excitement scale, integrated graphics rarely rate a raised eyebrow when compared to the latest standalone products from ATI or NVIDIA. Yet the Mobility Radeon X1600 managed to hold its own when running Far Cry, Doom 3 and Star Wars: Empire At War.
Admittedly, the visual settings had to be turned down for each game before they became playable, but this was still an achievement for the Zoostorm.
The official result from the 3DMark 05 test - 3,721 - confirmed that while its not an out-and-out gaming platform, the laptop has been designed to be more than just a business workhorse. DVD playback highlighted one of the few problems with the Zoostorm. The screen didn't demonstrate a uniform viewing experience, with some areas of the display appearing slightly murkier than others.
This, despite us trying a range of viewing angles. It's a subjective issue, of course; we suggest that you try before you buy. Furthermore, the stereo speakers sounded awfully flat when viewing films. For a decent aural experience you'd be better off connecting a decent set of 2.1 speakers to the laptop. Oddly, games on the device sounded top-notch.
Yet even these issues aren't enough to dent our overall opinion of the Zoostorm. The company has put together a great product, based around the Core 2 Duo chip, with enough connectivity options and wireless-g capability to meet most requirements.
Take into account the asking price and the Zoostorm becomes an absolute steal.