Protax G551 Centrino, and the UltraNote 375C

We review Protax's G551 Centrino, and the UltraNote 375C

Protac G551 Centrino

Protac supplied us this month with a powerful new Centrino notebook — the G551 — with a spec list that makes for some enjoyable reading.

The venerable Intel 1.6GHz Pentium-M CPU on the Intel 855PM chipset forms the heart of the machine and this is backed up by 512MB DDR-SDRAM. As we discovered in “Laptop era dawns”, our desktop replacement roundup in the November issue, the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics chipset is rather popular with notebook manufacturers and the 64MB version found here provides plenty of oomph for gamers and other demanding graphical applications. This is displayed on a nice 15-inch XGA screen, although the top resolution of 1024x768 feels somewhat constrictive on such a decent-sized LCD. Other vital statistics include a 40GB Fujitsu hard drive, USB 2.0, FireWire, modem, LAN, PCMCIA (Type II) and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.

Benchmark results proved fruitful for the G551, with scores across the board (including a record PCWB4 score of 130) that would have seen it among the frontrunners in our desktop replacement feature. MobileMark 2002 application tests yielded a score of 201 with a long-lasting 162 minutes of battery life, and 3DMark03 Pro turned in an above-average score (for a notebook) of 1074. Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby tests saw 63fps and Botmatch saw 47fps.

Overall performance was excellent and when coupled with fine build quality and design, the Protac Centrino G551 shouldn’t be overlooked.

UltraNote 375C

Widescreen notebooks continue to infiltrate the marketplace, with their sexy 16:9 screens not only providing valuable extra screen real estate for work but also making widescreen DVD watching and gaming that little bit more appealing. The UltraNote 375C is once such device, with a 15.4-inch WXGA TFT screen. It’s also the little brother to the massive 17-inch version we looked at in last month’s roundup.

Besides having a smaller screen, the UltraNote 375C also tones down the grunt, with processing duties now looked after by an Intel 1.6GHz Pentium-M CPU (as opposed to a full-blown 3.06GHz P4). 512MB of DDR-SDRAM (max 1GB) was installed in our test unit, of which 32MB was allocated to the Intel integrated graphics chipset. While this choice of graphics processor helps cut down on cost, it remains woefully underpowered for any type of 3D application. Still, if games aren’t for you, this shortcoming will remain well below your radar as the UltraNote 375C is more than capable of handling 2D work and DVD movie playback. A 60GB Hitachi hard drive was fitted along with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, USB 2.0, FireWire, modem, LAN, 802.11b wireless, PCMCIA (Type II) and Bluetooth connectivity.

As is to be expected of the Intel graphics chipset, some of the benchmark scores were less than flattering. Unreal Tournament 2003 framerates were so low the game was far from playable and the UltraNote was incapable of running three out of four 3DMark03 Pro tests.

But focusing on these scores gives an unfair impression of what is actually quite a powerful system as our application-based benchmarks prove. PCWB4 testing produced a good score of 119 and 140 in MobileMark 2002. Battery life was also good under MobileMark 2002 with a score of 171 minutes. Although a large notebook, it certainly didn’t feel bulky which is testament to high build quality.

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Scott Bartley

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