The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.
Medion Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) Windows 8 Ultrabook
Medion's latest Akoya features a modular drive bay and great specs, but is let down by poor input devices
- Good CPU performance
- Modular drive bay
- Long battery life
- Sluggish hard drive
While the Medion Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) is an interesting Ultrabook, to be sure, the overall build quality is very much on par with the price point. It just doesn't feel solid and the culprit here is the keyboard, which bounces very noticeably as its keys are hit. That said, if you value specs and features more than input devices, then the Akoya is a champ.
Price$ 749.00 (AUD)
Medion has released a conventional 14in Ultrabook running Windows 8, which will be sold through Aldi supermarkets (from Saturday 24 November). The Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) is very much a bang-for-your-buck model. It offers an impressive list of features and performance for its $749 price tag, and while it's an enticing model for bargain hunters, laptop enthusiasts might also want to check it out, too. However, the low price and large feature-set means other areas have had to be sacrificed, such as the keyboard and touchpad, which are basically bad.
Specs and performance
The performance of the Akoya S4216 is zippy thanks to its Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, which has two cores, Hyper-Threading, a standard clock speed of 1.7GHz, and it also handles the graphics (Intel HD 4000). It's surrounded by 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM (via two slots with 4GB each), and there is a 500GB, 5400rpm hard drive as well as a 32GB solid state drive.
You can use this Ultrabook for office work, watching videos, displaying photos and listening to music, but it's also good enough to handle slightly tougher tasks such as media encoding, file conversions and content creation. In our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the Medion recorded times of 49sec and 1min 1sec, respectively, while in 3DMark06, it recorded 5246.
These results are similar to those obtained by other Ultrabooks that use the same CPU, such as the Toshiba Satellite Z930. However, the Akoya's hard drive is the weak link in the configuration, as it recorded slow read and write rates of 80.68 megabytes per second (MBps) and 73.36MBps, respectively, in CrystalDiskMark. It got only 30.28MBps in our own file duplication tests. Luckily, it is a standard-sized drive bay that allows you to easily upgrade the storage down the line.
You can play games that are downloaded from the Microsoft store comfortably, and we had a lot of fun playing "Riptide GP", with its very smooth graphics and reactive gameplay. If you want to play more demanding games with this laptop, you will have to adjust the resolution and detail settings in order to get the fastest frame rates, but be aware that this isn't a laptop that's designed for running the latest 3D shooters and the like. It will run simpler games just fine.
Cold booting took 12sec before the Windows 8 Start screen showed up and we could take control, while resume time from sleep was about 3sec. The Medion supports Intel technologies such as Rapid Start (it uses a solid state drive to improve system resume times), Anti-Theft (which requires you to purchase a product from McAfee or another vendor in order to take advantage of tracking and remote wiping in case you ever lose your laptop) and Smart Connect (which periodically checks for email and other information while the computer sleeps so that it's up to date when you wake it up).
Modular bay and battery life
What's really impressive about the Medion's configuration though, is that it features a modular drive bay. It has a DVD burner installed by default, and this is great for those of us who still like to pop in discs now and then. It's also worth noting that Medion supplies third party software so that you can watch DVDs under Windows 8. Medion also supplies a secondary battery. The optical drive can slide out of the chassis once the screw holding it in has been removed, and the extra battery can then be inserted and screwed in place. It's a small battery of only 25 Watt-hours; it supplements the 37 Watt-hour battery in the spine. When the two batteries are used together, they offer a combined runtime that is impressive for this price point.
In our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the Akoya lasted 5hr 4min. This is almost 1.5 hours more than single-battery 14in Ultrabooks such as the HP Envy Spectre XT, for example. With its single battery, the Medion lasted 3hr 7min. The extra battery doesn't add too much to the overall weight of the unit either. With the optical drive installed, the Akoya weighs 1.8kg, while with the second battery installed it weighs 1.85kg.
Ports, screen quality and usability
The edges of the unit contain separate headphone and microphone ports, three USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), VGA, HDMI, an SD card slot and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The Ethernet port gets a fancy little spring-loaded door, which will probably get annoying if you need to regularly connect and disconnect the network cable. The laptop also comes with Bluetooth, a webcam and 802.11n wireless networking in the form of an Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 adapter.
Unlike most of the other laptops at this price point, the Medion ships with a screen that has a matte finish rather than gloss, so reflections won't be a problem. The screen has a native resolution of 1366x768 and it's fine if you don't want a machine for colour-critical and high-detail work. It looked a little too pale in our tests, and the vertical angles it possesses aren't great. Some tilting will be required to fix contrast issues if you move around a lot while using the laptop. If you sit straight on and don't move, then the screen won't need to be moved either.
While the specs, battery and features of this laptop are all good stuff and worthy of consideration alone, the same can't be said of the keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard in particular feels too loose as it jumps around horribly while keys are being hit. It's the laptop's major weakness and if you're a typist, you will hate it. If you need to do more than compose short emails, you will hate it. The keys rattle and move up and down too much, which leads to typos and miss-hit characters. We got tired using the keyboard after a couple of paragraphs and had to continue writing this review on a desktop PC.
The touchpad isn't great either. It has a texture that isn't consistent. Even after we cleaned it, it was harder to move our finger across the middle portion of the pad than the edges. We would have liked a smoother surface. Its left and right buttons are also almost impossible to work with; they are very stiff and too hard to press for common tasks such as right-click-and-drag operations. The pad supports Windows 8 swipe-in gestures, but the top-edge swipe didn't work consistently.
The touchpad and the keyboard definitely tarnish what is otherwise a good value laptop. It's not a case of getting used to these parts, and we certainly gave them a chance to get better as we used the laptop. If you want to type with this laptop, plug in a keyboard. If you want to do some extensive file management with drag-and-drop operations, plug in a mouse.
The overall performance of the laptop is good though and its specifications are strong. We particularly like the idea of the modular drive bay at this price point and think it's a great idea that a second battery is included with the package. The Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) goes on sale at Aldi stores on Saturday 24 November.
If you want to find out more about Windows 8's new features before buying an Ultrabook that's pre-loaded with it, be sure to check out our beginner's guide to Windows 8. Among other things, it will show you how to make use of gestures, even if your laptop doesn't have a touchscreen.
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