Want all-day battery life without paying through the nose? The energy-efficient Notus A12 has you covered
Zepto isn’t a brand name we’re familiar with, but the European company has an intriguing product in the Notus A12 notebook. It’s the first full-sized laptop we’ve seen that runs Intel’s A110 processor – previously only found on UMPCs like the HTC Shift and Fujitsu LifeBook U110 – and its main claim to fame is an all-day battery life of up to nine hours.
This feat is achieved using a combination of a low-voltage A110 CPU, an ultra-low power consumption of 4.1 watts (most notebooks use between 8-12 watts), an LED back-lit display and a slower-running 4,200rpm hard drive. To get the nine-hour battery life, you’d have to dim the screen all the way down and employ some aggressive power saving techniques; as it was, we achieved four hours and 44 minutes on our DVD run-down test, which amounts to roughly six hours of regular usage, an excellent result for an ultraportable, especially at the Notus’ bargain basement pricetag.
The Notus A12’s design is minimalist, so much so that it doesn’t have any branding on the lid or anywhere else on the casing. It’s still attractive in an understated way, though, with a black magnesium alloy casing that doesn’t attract fingerprints the way a glossy finish does. The wedge-shaped construction actually bears a strong resemblance to the Portege R500, and while the sturdy metal casing makes it heavier at 1.37kg, we feel the trade-off is worth it for the extra durability.
From a system perspective, the Notus is essentially a UMPC dressed in notebook clothing. It runs the Intel A110 processor clocked at 800MHz, with a 400MHz FSB and 512KB of L2 cache, and comes with 1GB of DDR2 667 RAM soldered to the motherboard (non-upgradeable). The 80GB hard drive is also small for a machine this size, but typical for a UMPC.
Performance for everyday tasks is extremely average; as soon as you’ve got two or more tabs open in Internet Explorer, it starts to lag quite noticeably, and moving between windows or even just clicking on a link takes a couple of seconds before the system catches up. The Notus A12 is by no means a snappy machine, and if you’re in the habit of having several windows and applications open at a time, this isn’t a good machine to do it on. In PCMark05, the Notus scored a record low of 562 –worse than the HP Mini-Note 2133’s score of 661. 3DMark06 results were slightly better at 893, which is just enough to run Vista’s Aero interface.
The upside of being housed in a notebook case instead of a UMPC is that it’s got all the standard notebook amenities, namely a 12.1in display, comfortable keyboard and room to fit a decent amount of USB ports and other connectors. It doesn’t have a built-in DVD drive, but you can order the Notus with an optional Samsung burner for a little extra.
The Notus’ keyboard is close to full-sized, but we had a few issues with its layout. Zepto has chosen to put the keyboard right in the middle of the notebook’s lower half, and while it looks nice and symmetrical, it means there’s a lot of wasted space above the keyboard that could’ve been used to make the touchpad and mouse buttons larger. As it is, the latter two are impractically small and squashed up against the keyboard, and the small wrist-rest area means part of your palms have to dangle uncomfortably over the lip of the notebook. Also, the unit we received didn’t have a localised keyboard, so some of the symbols – including the often-used @ – have been relocated to other keys.
With any unfamiliar brand, warranty and service becomes a concern. The Notus A12 comes with a two-year return-to-base warranty as standard, and you can option this up to a two-year pick-up-and-return or three-year warranty when you’re configuring the notebook. Zepto uses United Electrical for servicing, and according to the local rep, it has 300 service centres in Australia and 30-35 in New Zealand.