At a Glance
Avoid the unusable touchpad with an external mouse and you’re cooking with a fully-equipped widescreen.
I wanted to like the WinBook A710. Notebooks with 17-inch wide-screen displays and $1100 price tags don't grow on trees, at least not yet. And they certainly don't come with a DVD burner, a DVI port, a four-in-one memory card reader, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications capabilities plus six USB ports--especially at such an affordable price.
The laptop's sound is not bad considering the huge screen, its weight is a pleasing 7.8 pounds, and the 2.2-hour battery life is fine for a larger portable. Speed is decent; using a 1.8-GHz Mobile Athlon 64 3000+ processor and 512MB of RAM, the A710 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 71. So what's my beef?
After three days of using the keyboard, I wanted to scream, mostly at the stiff one-piece rocker-style mouse buttons. Getting it to respond long enough to highlight text was reason for celebration. The lack of dedicated <Home>, <End>, <Page Up>, and <Page Down> keys on a keyboard this size was another annoyance. Using <Page Up>, for instance, requires combining the <Fn> key with an arrow key located under the <Shift> key. Using the numerical keypad--there is one, to the A710's credit--means tripping over the arrow key there.
Finally, the general position of the keyboard in relation to the touchpad and other elements is out of whack. My left hand obscured a number of useful status LEDs. My right palm almost completely covered the touchpad, resulting in the cursor being repositioned every time I typed anything at all. Disabling scrolling helped a lot, but for complete relief I had to abandon ship altogether. That's one solution.
With a my own optical mouse I could learn to love this notebook, even without the Audio DJ, a button that allows music CDs to play without booting Windows. Unfortunately, that feature isn't available in entry-level WinBook A710 models like this one.
If you don't mind replacing this notebook's unusable touchpad and mouse-button rocker with an external mouse, it's a great deal--a fully decked-out 17-inch wide-screen portable for $1100.
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