Following the success of the Asus Eee PC, the past few months have seen the so-called netbook, or mini-laptop, market flooded with models of varying quality.
Making sure not to miss out on this popular trend, PC world has released the 4211 netbook (£280 including VAT) under its in-house Advent brand.
Essentially a re-branded version of the MSI Wind, the Advent is a 10in Windows XP-based laptop. While it is marketed as a Netbook, intended primarily for basic web use on the move, it in fact provides far more power and usability, and can easily be used as your main laptop when out and about.
Measuring 260 x 167 x 36mm, the compact black and silver chassis is one of the smallest we've seen. The quoted weight is 1.2kg, but we found it was slightly lighter, weighing in at an ultraportable 1.1kg.
Build quality is excellent and the affordable price tag hasn't resulted in a cheap design. All areas of the main chassis are tough enough for frequent travel use, and even the screen panel is thick and resilient. However, the lack of a screen latch means the panel can open in your bag, which could potentially lead to damage.
While its 3-cell battery carries less charge than the 6-cell variants seen in rival netbooks, it still provides adequate mobility. Under test conditions, we recorded a battery life of 169 minutes, which is more than enough to keep you working during the day between meetings or on short journeys.
Built around a processor from Intel's Atom range, performance is intended for basic use. The N270 chip runs at 1.6GHz and uses 45nm architecture to allow it to run effectively inside this type of compact chassis. In day-to-day use, we found it not only met, but even exceeded its intended criteria.
With the CPU supported by 1024MB of DDR2 memory, we could smoothly browse the Internet, write emails and word documents, and even watch videos with ease. The low voltage processor also allows the chassis to stay cool at all times, and the cooling fan on the chassis' left side runs quietly and efficiently.
Watch and move
While the processor is a cutting-edge mobile chip, the graphics chip is an older variant. The Intel GMA 950 shares 64MB of main system memory, and provides enough power to watch videos and even play the most basic games, such as Solitaire and Chess, for a little entertainment on the move.
The 10-inch screen is excellent and image quality is impressive. It's not quite as bright as we'd expected, but is still highly visible even in bright conditions. Colour reproduction is strong, so photos and videos look great. The matte finish also eliminates reflections, so you can comfortably work outside whenever you want.
A key selling point is the fantastic keyboard. It spans the entire width of the chassis, and all the keys are large enough to comfortably type for long periods. The keys are also extremely well fixed, with no flex, giving the keyboard a far higher quality feel than we expected to find at this low price.
The tiny touchpad is less functional but suits basic use. Measuring just 51 x 40mm, it's much smaller than we'd have liked, as is the single dual-click mouse button. When at home or in the office, you'll benefit from using an external mouse, but the interface proved adequately comfortable when out and about.
Storage is also excellent for such a small laptop. The 80GB hard drive provides far more storage space than the Solid State Disks (SSD) found in many rival netbooks, without adding much to the overall weight. A flash storage card reader is also fitted, but as with all netbooks, there is no built-in optical drive.
An integrated webcam is built into the screen panel, and can be used to take snapshots and even record video. If used with an external mobile broadband modem, this means the Advent could easily be used as your main business laptop, for video conferencing and Skype use when on the move.
Windows fans will also appreciate the Windows XP operating system, as all your existing software will be compatible with this laptop. To help first-time buyers get up and running, Microsoft Works SE 9.0 is also included, to provide you with a range of entry-level home office applications.
Despite the fact the Advent 4211 is a re-packaged version of the MSI Wind, its lower price and immediate high street availability put it a notch above the MSI model. As the netbook market continues to flourish, PC World has taken a confident step into the fray, and we can heartily recommend the 4211 as one of the best and most affordable netbooks we've seen so far.
Plenty of storage
No screen latch
4 out of 5