On the front edge of the computer, you'll find the WiFi on/off slider switch, stereo 3.5mm headphone jack and 3.5mm mic jack. The DVD drive, two USB 2.0 ports, modem jack and card reader slot are located on the notebook's left side. On the right side you'll find the PC card slot, a USB 2.0 port, an unpowered FireWire IEEE 1394 port, a PS2 port, an RJ45 10/100 Ethernet jack and a vent. The power jack and a standard VGA port live on the uncluttered back side of the Averatec.
The unit has a two button trackpad which works nicely, though tapping and double-tapping directly on the touchpad require a strong thump with the finger. The keyboard is roomy enough but the key travel is too small and the keys feel dead, which means reduced tactile feedback. The Home key is located directly to the right of the only slightly oversized backspace key and I found myself hitting the Home key by accident all too often. The keyboard is the only real complaint we had for this otherwise wonderful, bargain-priced notebook.
Horsepower and Performance
The Averatec 4200 runs the latest generation of Intel Centrino technology (915GM Express Chipset with Intel GMA 900 graphics), utilizing the 1.6 GHz Pentium M 730 processor with 2 megs of level 2 cache and a 533 MHz front side bus. It comes with 512 megs of DDR RAM, uses standard SO DIMMs and can carry a maximum of 2 gigs of RAM. One slot is under the large cover on the bottom of the computer and the other is under the keyboard. The unit comes with an ultra-ATA 80 gig 5400 rpm Western Digital Scorpio 2.5" hard drive with 2 megs of cache and a 12ms average seek time. Centrino is the way to go, unless you're looking for a large, desktop replacement notebook. The Centrino architecture and associated Pentium M processors run faster than desktop Pentium IV's rated at the same clock speed, yet use much less power and generate less heat. They're perfect as a mobile solution, offering enough power for MS Office apps, web surfing, movie playback, light to moderate graphics processing (limited more by the graphics card than the CPU) and even gaming. The Averatec is plenty fast enough unless you want to do lots of video processing (making movies) or play the most demanding games.
Want to burn DVDs or CDs on the go? The Averatec 4200's DVD RW+/- drive can burn to any CD or DVD re-writable media (+ and -), as well as play CDs and DVDs. The drive speeds are: 8X DVD Read, 24X CD read and write, 8x DVD+ write, 4x DVD- write, 2x DVD - RW, 4x DVD +RW. Averatec includes CyberLink PowerDVD, PowerProducer, Power 2Go and CyberLink's integrated launcher for media playback and burning.
Integrated card readers are becoming ever so popular on notebooks these days, and the Averatec 4200 has an SD/MMC/Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro card reader built in.
Screen, Sound and Multimedia
The display is truly lovely on the Averatec 4200. Their AveraBrite display isn't quite as luminous as Sony's XBrite displays, but the Averatec is half the price and stunning enough to garner only praise. Bright, glassy displays are all the rage on widescreen mid to high end notebooks and it's wonderful to see one on a laptop priced under $1,200. The 1280 x 800 resolution is perfect for watching DVD movies, working with Excel spreadsheets and playing games that support widescreen modes. It's bright, very color saturated, clear and sharp and makes photos look all the more striking.
The display is driven by an Intel GMA 900 integrated graphics chipset (a part of the Centrino package) with 96 megs of RAM that's shared with system RAM. That's Intel's latest graphics processor , with a 256 bit graphics core, Up to 8.5 GB/sec memory bandwidth with DDR2 533 MHz RAM, and 3D acceleration with support for 4 pixel pipes. In short, it's pretty darned good for an integrated notebook solution and can handle all but the most demanding current games which require discrete graphics processors well. The machine got an average of 30 fps in Unreal Tournament 2003 at high quality settings and 1024 x 768 resolution — not bad.
The Averatec has two small speakers located on the front edge. Sound quality and volume is mediocre through these built-in stereo speakers, which is true of many notebooks under 6 pounds. For serious multimedia, you'll want to use the standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and a set of headphones instead. The notebook has a mic jack so plug a mic into the standard 3.5mm audio-in jack . The 4200 uses a Realtek AC '97 integrated digital audio controller. Sound out through headphones was excellent for MP3 playback, and the notebook has a dedicated button to launch Windows Media player.
Ports, WiFi and Expandability
The Averatec 4200 has a full compliment of ports, despite the budget price and compact design. It comes with Intel PRO Wireless 2200BG 802.11b/g WiFi, which had very good range and reliability in our tests. You can use Intel's networking utility or Windows to manage WiFi connections. Like most notebooks, it also has integrated10/100 wired Ethernet and a 56k v.92 modem. There are three USB 2.0 ports, an IEEE1394 iLink 4 pin (unpowered) Firewire port , a PS2 port, a standard VGA port and standard audio out and in jacks. The PCMCIA slot supports type I and II cards and CardBus cards. The unit has a card slot that accepts SD, MMC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro media. If you're working with CF cards, you can get a CF to PCMCIA adapter and access the CF card in the PCMCIA slot. How nice to not need an external card reader.
Runtimes were quite good for a small notebook with a 2,000 mAh smart Lithium Ion battery. Averatec claims 4 hours, and we consistently got 3.5 hours with WiFi on, screen brightness set two notches from the top and power management set to notebook/portable. The 6 cell battery is very compact, long, thin affair, so carrying a spare for those very long trips won't be a burden. But for many, the Averatec will offer enough staying power with only the original battery. It can play a full length DVD movie and have power to spare for more work or play. The unit reliably resumed from sleep and hibernation, and the default power management settings are not overbearingly conservative (some notebooks achieve long runtimes by setting CPU speed very low and greatly reducing screen brightness for the default power settings).