October 4, 1995
By Michael Caton
While multimedia notebooks have typically lightened wallets as much as they've weighed down users, NEC Technologies Inc.'s new Versa 4000 series notebooks break away from that mold.
The new Versa 4000D and Versa 4050C, which NEC began shipping early last month, provide the multimedia basics -- 16-bit sound and CD ROM drive in a scant 7-pound package -- and at affordable price points ($3,799 and $4,649, respectively).
In PC Week Labs tests, the 75MHz Pentium-based 4000D proved to be the best buy. The 4000D's 540M-byte hard-disk drive helped it keep pace with the 90MHz Pentium-based 4050C, which has a slower performing 810M-byte drive. At 8M bytes of RAM, the 4000D matched the performance of the 4050C (click here to download or view the Excel 5.0 spreadsheet). Even at 16M bytes, the 4000D was only about 7 percent slower than the 90MHz model.
The two new Versa notebooks continue in the tradition of the modular Versa design. We swapped out the CD ROM drive on both systems for an internal 3.5-inch floppy drive. The systems' VersaBay II, which holds the CD ROM drive, can also accommodate a second battery or second hard-disk drive. Buyers also will like the fact that the systems' original hard-disk drive can be replaced or upgraded.
However, one noticeable difference between these and previous Versa models is that replacing the systems' displays requires some disassembling of the notebooks.
NEC has added a couple of new features to the new Versa models: Each has two infrared ports, one at the front and one at the back of the unit; and each of the systems uses a VersaGlide pointing device -- a touchpad centered below the keyboard in the middle of the palm rest.
On a related point, while pointing devices are a matter of personal preference, we've noticed that trying to use touchpads or trackpoint devices require more patience under Windows 95 than they did with Window 3.1. The most frustrating problem, especially with touchpad devices, comes when trying to navigate nested menus under the Start menu.
Each of the Versa notebooks comes with a 640-by-480-pixel color LCD. The Versa 4000D's 10.4-inch Double Super Twisted Nematic screen displayed a bright, uniform image for a passive-matrix display. The Versa 4050C's 10.1-inch display had a smaller viewable area, but it provided a brighter image since it is an active-matrix thin-film transistor LCD.
For another $150, NEC offers another model of the Versa 4050 (designated the 4050H), which has a 10.4-inch active-matrix LCD that displays at 800-by-600 pixels.
75MHz Pentium version with 8M bytes of RAM offers best price/performance
|at 8M bytes||at 16M bytes||at 8M bytes||at 8M bytes|
|IBM ThinkPad 760 with 90MHz Pentium|
|Dell Latitude XPi with 90MHz Pentium|
|NEC Versa 4050C with 90MHz Pentium|
|NEC Versa 4000D with 75MHz Pentium|
Prices listed are for 8M-byte configurations.
* Results reported using Winstone 95 Version 1.0
** Results reported using PC Bench 9.0
*** Results reported using WinBench 95 Version 1.0
NEC Technologies, of Boxborough, Mass., can be reached at (800) 632-8377.
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