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NEC Versa UltraLite - Extensive Review

NEC Versa UltraLite - Extensive Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: The NEC Versa UltraLite is positively sleek, and amazingly slim, measuring in at a mere 1.06" thick
 92% Rating:   
Filed under: Notebooks Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: NEC Sep 04 2001   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Notebooks > NEC Versa UltraLite

Features of the UltraLite

NEC Versa UltraLite Subnotebook

Right Side Features

1. Audio Jacks: Audio jacks for a pair of headphones and an external microphone. The headphone jack can also output to a pair of external speakers, or act as an audio output to an amplifier. When a pair of headphones are plugged in, the built-in 1 Watt mono speaker is disabled. A built-in microphone is located just adjacent to the two jacks and is cleverly hidden from sight.

2. Power: Sliding power on/off button. Will bring the notebook back to life if it has entered sleep mode. Sleep is not 'off', and before the system can be shut down from the sleep mode it must be turned on and shut down from the start menu. We experienced an unresponsive system once while the UltraLite was in sleep mode. The power override (hold for four seconds) let us shut down the system in that instance.

3. PCMCIA Port: The one PCMCIA slot on the UltraLite accepts a type II card. The little lever on the left-hand side flips out so that cards like a wireless LAN interface, for example, can be ejected. There is no protective flap to fully stop dust from entering the bay, just a dummy spacer like the one shown above.

4. USB Port No.1: All of the IO ports on the UltraLite are hidden behind flip-down covers that conceal and protect the connectors inside. This USB port is one of two on the notebook, and can be used to attach the external floppy drive or CDROM for example. If a USB hub is attached, up to 127 USB devices can potentially be connected to the UltraLite. Data transfer rates for USB sits at about 12Mbps.

5. Kensington Slot: This hole is for the Kensington security lock that if used, can protect this very portable notebook from 'walking' away from a desk.

Left Side Features

1. DC Power: DC input from the AC-Adapter powerpack. The adapter is 100V-240V, 50-60Hz compatible so it can be used just about anywhere in the world provided the appropriate plug adapters are on hand. Be careful when using the notebook on the lap while the adapter is plugged in - depending on how the notebook is resting, it may be putting bending stress on the jack, which sticks out perpendicularly ~30mm.

2. Cooling Vent: The only cooling solution on the UltraLite is this very silent vent. A fine protective screen behind the casing prevents stray paperclips from entering the grills. Additional venting on the base of the notebook acts as the intake for the convection cooling which takes place. If the UltraLite is being used on a soft surface the bottom vents can be blocked, raising the overall temperature of the notebook. In our tests, the highest temperature we experienced was 39.2C, lower than the temperatures reached on the reference PIII notebook.

3. Video Port: The external video port allows a standard monitor to be attached by a 15-pin D-Sub analog connector. Behind the protective flap is a miniature connector where a small adapter cable connects. The adapter cable connects to the monitor and a maximum resolution of 1024x768 pixels is supported. The notebooks LCD display and the external monitor can be run simultaneously.

4. Modem port: An embedded RJ-11 phone jack makes hooking up the internal 56K flex Xircom modem simple. The modem supports V.90 data/V.17 fax protocols. The RJ-11 jack is protected, and hidden, by a rubber flap.

5. USB Port No.2: The second USB port on the UltraLite is useful for connecting the external CDROM/floppy, or perhaps an optical mouse. Windows 2000 is hot pluggable so the external devices can be connected, and removed while the system is still in operation (a real benefit if you happen to be using multiple USB devices and lack a hub).

6. LAN Port: Rather than including an embedded RJ-45 port, an external adapter cable similar to that of the video cable is used for the Ethernet attachment. Personally, I would have preferred to plug the CAT-5 cable directly into the UltraLite - as this means one less adapter to loose. In any case, the onboard NIC supports 10/100Mbps transfer rates via 10Base-T or 100Base-TX protocols.

Front Side

1. Ir Window: The infrared port allows users with other infrared equipped devices to transfer data through line-of-site connections at speeds of ~9.6Kbit/sec - 4Mbit/sec. The distances between Ir devices should be less than 36". The UltraLite ships with this port disabled by default.

2. Status LED: The power indicator LED's will light up green or orange depending on the system variables.

3. Latch: This is the LCD panel latch, and as the notebook is so light, and the tension in the display panel joints so stiff, the notebook must be opened with two hands. This is not a fault, it just happens that the bottom half of the UltraLite is not heavy enough to open the notebook up without it lifting off the table.

4. HDD Cover: The hard drive cover can be removed for access to the 2.5" 20GB HDD by undoing two small screws.

Rear Side

1. Removable Battery: There are two batteries on the UltraLite and this is the second one. The built-in 1800mAH Advanced Lithium Polymer battery behind the LCD panel is not removable. The removable battery pack is a three cell Lithium-ion battery that delivers 2500mAH for between 5-8 hours of use. The batteries require approximately 4.5 hours to fully charge.

Bottom Side

1. Battery: The removable battery pack clips in to the UltraLite and is locked securely in place. Unlike standard notebooks, there are no I/O ports on the rear of the Versa.

2. HDD: Remove the cover and the UltraLite's hard drive can be upgraded to a larger 2.5" HDD.

3. Memory: One SO-DIMM slot is available behind this panel. the UltraLite ships standard with a 64MB of onboard memory, and with the available SO-DIMM, can be upgraded to a maximum of 192MB. Adjacent to memory socket is a small set of DIP switches for configuring the keyboard, and a few other system related features on the UltraLite. The keyboard will support 86-key US, or 86-key European standards.

4. Processor: At the heart of the UltraLite is a 600MHz TM5600 Crusoe processor. The TM5600 is a 474 BGA chip with integrated northbridge, 128Kb L1 cache, 512KB L2 cache and can provide deep-sleep power modes of as low as 60mW.

We didn't really cut a hole in the base of this sleek little notebook, so relax. :)

What isn't supported?

Well like most subnotebooks, legacy devices have been abandoned to meet the desperately small space requirements. As you've noticed, flipping to the back of notebook reveals nothing but a battery. Since all the ports are located on the side of the computer, legacy devices like the parallel and serial ports just don't fit in. In fact, if you really want to weigh in what isn't on the UltraLite to what would be on your typical notebook the following items would have to be counted as no-shows: docking station, PS/2 ports, parallel and serial ports.

If we go past the "what no parallel port!" notion for a second and consider things level-headed you will see that none of this is a real loss. Printers and scanners can be connected by either one of the dual USB ports, and a docking station is somewhat of a silly notion for a highly portable notebook in this class. Video output is supported via an adapter cable, and while a PS/2 port would have been a nice addition, mice can be connected via the USB ports if the UltraLite ever finds itself confined to desk duty. The only real port which could be considered forgotten is the serial port, but that's the price you pay for a notebook measuring 1.06" thick.

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Contents of Article: NEC Versa UltraLite
 Pg 1.  NEC Versa UltraLite - Extensive Review
 Pg 2.  First, what is a subnotebook?
 Pg 3.  The Size Difference
 Pg 4.  — Features of the UltraLite
 Pg 5.  External CDROM and Floppy Drive
 Pg 6.  Powered by the Crusoe Processor
 Pg 7.  Benchmarks: Battery Life
 Pg 8.  Benchmarks: Productivity
 Pg 9.  UltraLite Conclusions

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