Zepto Nox A15

Solid, speedy and stylish

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Zepto Nox A15
  • Zepto Nox A15
  • Zepto Nox A15
  • Zepto Nox A15

Pros

  • Solidly constructed, looks stylish, fast performance, can be used for gaming, 1680x1050 resolution

Cons

  • Tends to get noticeably hot after prolonged use, no FireWire

Bottom Line

A big screen resolution, fast performance and a stylish design make this notebook a fine choice for home and business use — and even for some gaming.

Would you buy this?

With a stack of processing power and an unusual body, Zepto's Nox A15 is a stylish laptop that's been designed for demanding users. It has a glossy 15.4in screen with a native resolution of 1680x1050, so you can easily get two documents lined up side by side, and its matte black body is finished in a rubber-like material that makes it soft and 'grippy' to touch.

A 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 CPU resides in the engine room, and it's flanked by 3GB of DDR2, 800MHz RAM, a 250GB, 7200rpm hard drive, and a GeForce 9600M GT graphics adapter. As you might have guessed already, it's no slouch. It recorded 102 in the WorldBench 6 test suite, which is a swift result that means that it won't be troubled when running the majority of office applications, photo editing and even video editing applications. It's a smooth ride when multitasking, too. Its times of 1min 7sec in our MP3 encoding test and 1min 11sec in the Blender 3D rendering test indicate that it's also a decent machine for designers and video editors who want a portable machine on which to compress files and render work or school projects.

Good for gaming

Gamers also get a look in, as the GeForce 9600M GT card can be used to run old and new games adequately, and its score of 4952 in 3DMark06 indicates as much. But it won't run them smoothly at the native resolution of the screen; you'll have to bump down the resolution two or three notches, especially when playing some of the latest DirectX 10 games, in order to achieve playable frame rates.

It's not a complete entertainment solution, though, as it doesn't ship with a Blu-ray-capable optical drive, but it does have an HDMI port and an integrated digital TV tuner. This is ideal for when you want to use your high-definition TV as your monitor.

For when you want to watch a DVD or downloaded video in the dark, Zepto has included a utility that can switch off the unit's indicator lights. Invoked by pressing the Function and F12 keys, it will switch off the majority of the unit's status lights (except for the hard drive light) so they won't be a distraction or pain to your eyes while you watch the screen. It's a feature that's missing from many of the dedicated entertainment notebooks on the market, and it's welcome on the Zepto. The screen itself is very bright and has good contrast, but its vertical viewing angles are narrow, and the picture loses contrast as you move past 160 degrees left or right.

Physically, the notebook's chassis has clean lines. There isn't a smorgasbord of ports cluttering the left and right edges, and ports from the old days have been retired. You won't find a D-Sub port, nor will you get a built-in 56Kbps modem. Disappointingly, you also don't get FireWire, but this isn't essential unless you want to transfer data from a digital video camera.

Fast, but hot

With a dedicated graphics card, an almost full complement of RAM, and a 7200rpm hard drive (which recorded an expected data transfer rate of 26.5MBps in our tests), the chassis does get warm. All of these components are located on the left side of the laptop, and if you actually do use the unit on your lap, the heat will get uncomfortable. The palmrests also tend to get a little warm. A cooling fan is present, but as the unit's intake vents are on the bottom, it won't get any cool air unless it's sitting on a hard, flat surface.

Away from an outlet, the Nox A15's 6-cell battery won't last very long. It ran out of puff one hour and 16 minutes into our DVD rundown test, which used maximum screen brightness and CPU power, so the optional 9-cell battery should definitely be considered when purchasing this unit.

Navigation is by way of a touchpad, which has the same surface material as the rest of the body, and it is always accurate. The keyboard, too, is very comfortable to type on, with roomy keys providing sharp bounce-back. Our test model had a UK keyboard layout, but the retail units will ship with a US-style keyboard.

The unit's sturdy build and fast performance get a thumbs-up from us, as does its ease of use. It's also one of the most stylish notebooks on the market. The only problem with its rubbery finish is that oily hands will leave a visible mark.

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