ViewSonic ViewBook VNB120 notebook

A 12in ViewSonic laptop that's worth considering instead of a netbook

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Viewsonic ViewBook VNB120 notebook
  • Viewsonic ViewBook VNB120 notebook
  • Viewsonic ViewBook VNB120 notebook
  • Viewsonic ViewBook VNB120 notebook

Pros

  • Relatively good performance, good value for money

Cons

  • Touchpad is not well designed, period and comma keys are too small, keyboard feels clunky to use, USB ports are upside down

Bottom Line

The 12in ViewBook VNB120 is a much better proposition than a 10in notebook: it's bigger, faster and therefore easier to use. However, we don't like its keyboard, which could use softer keys and full-sized period and comma keys, nor its touchpad design, which blends into the palm rest. The upside down USB ports are also a bit of a pain.

Would you buy this?

ViewSonic's ViewBook VNB120 is an ultra-low voltage ultraportable notebook with a 12.1in screen and a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 dual-core CPU. It weighs 1.6kg, runs Windows 7 Starter and it performs very smoothly when undertaking everyday tasks, but it feels very clunky to use.

ViewBook VNB120 design

The ViewSonic ViewBook VNB120's keyboard is too stiff, which makes the keys a chore to press; and while the majority of the keys are of a normal size, the comma and period keys are frustratingly half-sized. As such, typing can be a stop-start affair if you miss-hit those keys and have to go back and correct yourself. The reason for these keys being undersized is so the arrow keys can fit into the bottom-right corner — these are half-sized, too.

The comma and period keys are too small.

The touchpad is responsive, but its design is poor. While on the drawing board it may have been cool to have a touchpad that seamlessly blends in with the palm rest, in reality it can be a pain. Oftentimes you will move your finger and wonder why the pointer isn't moving — it's because your finger has moved off the left or top sides of the touchpad and onto the palm rest; there is no way to feel yourself back onto the touchpad. The right side of the touchpad at least has a faint border that keeps you within the touchpad’s boundary — we can't understand why this border doesn't go all the way around.

In terms of looks, the ViewSonic ViewBook VNB120 doesn't have any particular traits that make it attractive. It's all white except for a silver mesh below the screen, which houses the speakers. It also feels a little cheap when you pick it up and use it — the screen feels like it’s dragging something as it opens, its hinges are very stiff and the lid can be flexed very easily, which results in puddles on the screen.

A strange design quirk that we noticed when plugging in USB keys is that the USB ports are upside down. For those of us that have spent our lives plugging in devices the right way up, this will take a lot of getting used to. Furthermore, if you have USB devices with indicators on the top, such as 3G dongles, then this will be a problem.

The USB ports are installed upside down, so all your USB keys will have to be plugged in upside down, too.

ViewBook VNB120 specs and performance

The configuration of the ViewBook VNB120 is simple and effective. It's not a notebook that's designed for hardcore computing, but instead for running office applications, browsing the Web and watching videos. You get an Intel Celeron U2300 CPU, which runs at 1.2GHz and has two cores. It took 3min 22sec to complete our workload in Blender 3D, which is just over twice as fast as typical netbook with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom CPU, such as the HP Mini 210. You also get 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM and a 250GB, 5400rpm hard drive. The hard drive achieved a transfer speed of 22.19 megabytes per second in our tests which is about 2.2MBps better than a typical 10in netbook, and it's fast enough for tasks such as compressing or copying files.

Basically, the VNB120 offers plenty of performance for everyday tasks and it will be much easier to use than a netbook — even with its poor touchpad and keyboard. The screen has a native resolution of 1280x800; it will let you line up two windows side by side using Windows 7's Aero Snap feature, but you might find the windows to be too narrow. The screen isn't great; it has narrow viewing angles and could stand to be a little more vibrant; we found it to be a little dull.

When using the VNB120 on your lap you'll block the air vents, so you’ll notice that the base and palm rest get warm after a while. You won't want to use it on your lap for too long because of this: the heat will become very noticeable, especially in warm weather. There is an extraction fan on the left side, and this will be audible in quiet environments. We like the fact that you can remove the bottom panel using a small Philips-head screwdriver to quickly access the memory and hard drive compartments.

ViewBook VNB120 battery life

The battery doesn't form part of the notebook's spine, but instead it plugs in to the base. It's a six-cell battery and it sticks out to give the notebook a slanted profile when it's sitting on a desk. It lasted 2hr 54min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video. This is a fair time for a 12.1in notebook, but a little short for our liking. You can get more time out of it if you employ a power management profile and close the screen to put the notebook to sleep when you know you won't use it for a while.

Conclusion

If you can overlook the clunky keyboard, poor touchpad design and upside down USB ports, then the ViewSonic ViewBook VNB120 is a great alternative to a 10in netbook. At $799, the VNB120 is approximately $200 more than the most recent 10in netbooks, but it offers a larger screen, better screen resolution, more RAM, and of course, much better application performance.

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