At a Glance
Well-priced and lightweight notebook has snazzy design but problematic keyboard and short battery life.
The Z33Ae--whose exterior bears a snazzy tri-tone black, gray, and silver design--weighs 3.4 pounds including an integrated DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination optical drive. But this unit ran out of gas after 2.3 hours on one battery charge, and some keyboard quirks got in the way of my typing. I had the most trouble with the right <Shift> key, which is no bigger than an alphanumeric key, but the four arrow keys are way too small, as well. This is a shame because the keyboard is otherwise very nice. It's paired with a rimless touchpad and even a dedicated button for toggling among predefined power-saving settings.
Our test unit's best features were a FireWire port and a card slot that accepts Memory Sticks and SD Cards; otherwise, connections were typical. The Z33Ae comes preloaded with basic video-editing and slide-show-creation software, but it lacks the stand-alone playback feature of some other ultraportables. DVD movies looked fine on the bright, crisp 12.1-inch screen.
The Z33Ae is user-upgradable, although replacing memory in this ruggedized design is tricky. Instead of following the standard process of popping the module out of a spring-loaded slot, you must remove two security screws (carefully, so they don't fall into the case) and then gingerly pry the module out. The hard drive is much easier to remove.
Performance scores were near the front of the pack among currently tested ultraportables. Our test unit, with 512MB of RAM and a 1.86-GHz Pentium M 750 processor, earned a WorldBench 5 score of 84.
An important note for comparison shoppers: ChemUSA rebrands this notebook as the $1479 ChemBook 2333, which I also reviewed for the February 2006 issue of PC World.
A keyboard that compromises and a short battery life prevent us from recommending this otherwise attractive ultraportable.