Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Zepto Notus A12


Zepto’s Notus A12 weighs only 1.37 kg and is therewith certainly lighter than many other notebooks. It is also well equipped, with Bluetooth 2.0, Draft-N-WLAN up to 300MBit/s, 6.5 millimeter thin 12.1″ display with LED back light, TPM module for encryption, flat magnesium case and a battery that keeps it running for quite a while.
The Zepto Notus A12 integrates core components like processor and chipset of the UMPC class and thus offers the relatively low performance of a UMPC. However, it also inherited the very low energy consumption of computer dwarfs. On the other hand, the Zepto Notus A12 is regarding seize, weight and display definitely a very light subnotebook, the displays of UMPCs’ are smaller by far.
Note that the Zepto Notus A12 is a notebook that is based on the Getac 8212 barebone made by the specialist for industry notebooks Getac (Mitac). According to Getac, the Zepto Notus A12 is a “durable notebook”, which means it is durable and resistant against environmental impacts. Depending on the configuration, it is thus comparable with the Rock Pegasus 210.
The Zepto Notus A12 deserves the title subnotebook. With a size of 29.5 x 21.0 x 3.4 centimeter it fits into every briefcase. An expensive, but very robust magnesium alloy is used for the outer parts, which saves space, reduces weight, and at the same time improves stability. The result is a feather light but very durable subnotebook with 1.37 kilogram.
If the display lid is shut it lies neatly on the base unit and doesen’t need an extra transport hooks. The hinges do that job and keep the lid safely shut. In this state the notebook looks like it could be carried around like a folded newspaper. We can easily open the only 6.5 millimeter thin notebook lid with our small finger.
Comforting for travelers: Keyboard, touch pad and other sensitive components like the hard disk are protected against splash water, vibrations, falling, and shocks. The workmanship of Zepto’s Notus A12 can only be described as outstanding.

The interface equipment of the Zepto Notus A12 consists only of essential ports and connections, like earphone and microphone ports, three USB 2.0 ports and an analog VGA connection. Even stereo speakers are not included for weight reasons, every gram counts for subnotebooks. A tiny mono speaker has to be sufficient for sound output. At least a PCMCIA card slot for PC expansion cards and a 4-in-1 card reader (MMC, MS, MS Pro, SD) are included.

In order to satisfy people who travel a lot, the Notus A12 integrates the fastest cable and wireless network standards available. Gigabit Ethernet and WLAN (802.11a/b/g/Draft-N) with up to 300MBit/s, as well as fast Bluetooth 2.0+EDR should be enough for the most demanding user. An analog 56K modem is also built-in. A connection for a docking station and fast internet via UMTS/HSDPA would have been nice too, but are not included.

Fingerprint scanner, Smartcard reader on the flat front side, and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) make the life of data thieves harder. Typical Zepto, the customer can select any operating system, and is not restricted to a specific one. An external USB-DVD burner is also available for 91 Euro. Drivers for the Notus A12 are at the time of this writing only available for Windows Vista 32 Bit on Zepto’s support site.

Two hot keys facilitates controlling Zepto’s Notus A12 a bit. The left P1 key can be set to any function the user desires, while the right Eco key switches to energy saving, or back to normal mode. Keyboard, power switch and hot keys are protected against splash water to keep the damage from accidents with liquids as low as possible. According to Zepto, the Notus A12 should be appropriately protected against infiltrating liquids.

A keyboard with 83 keys is integrated into the Zepto Notus A12. The main keys are with 1.2 to 1.3 x 1.4 centimeter effective size surprisingly large for a subnotebook. But the space key shrunk to 6 centimeter. Despite this, the keys of the Notus A12 are satisfactory. The notebook keyboard works relatively quiet and typing feels good. Nevertheless, we mistyped at the beginning, because the left Fn key was moved. Pressure point and stroke are clear and short, and there is no noticeable bending of the keyboard.

The touch pad is easy to use too, and its workmanship can keep up with the keyboard without problems. Its size of 6.1 x 3.4 centimeter seems pretty large for a subnotebook, but the actual touch sensitive area is with 5.0 x 2.8 centimeter much smaller than expected. Especially on the sides one frequently hits the inactive border area, without moving the mouse arrow at all. Supporting haptics, for example a noticeable border, would have been helpful. The two touch pad keys are responsive and appear optically as well as mechanically reliable and work quietly.

The only 6.5 millimeter thin 12.1″ WXGA LCD display of the Zepto Notus A12 is outstanding. Toshiba produced the panel LTD121EW6S and used an energy saving LED back light . The resolution of the glossy display is with 1280 x 800 pixel “good” for a subnotebook. Unfortunately it is not very bright, with only 135.7cd/m2. On the other hand, it becomes obvious that LCDs with LED back light have better overall illumination the lower their maximum brightness. Our Notus A12 achieved a “very good” 88.7 percent illumination. This means that the brightest spot in the upper center of the 12.1″ screen with 142.1cd/m2 is only 13% brighter than the darkest area in the left upper corner with 126.0cd/m2. The glossy display manages with a black value of 0.8cd/m2 a contrast ratio of 176:1, which is not really impressive. Additionally, the otherwise colourful picture looks a little bit hazy.

The overall performance of the Notus is significantly below Core 2 Duo level. This doesen’t come as a surprise, since the Notus A12 uses energy saving hardware components of mini computers. Intel introduced the Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007, with the code name “McCaslin” for MIDs (internet capable mini computers) and UMPCs, at the IDF in 2007. One of the main advantages of components based on that platform is the extremely low energy consumption during typical UMPC usage of less than 10 watt. Usual notebooks need far more, but also offer far more performance.

Zepto’s Notus A12 is powered by a ULV 945GU-express chipset (codename “Little River”) and a A110 single core processor (codename “Stealey”). The A110 is a Pentium M (”Dothan”) based on outdated 90nm technology with a small 512KByte L2-cache and a clock rate of up to 800MHz, as well as a front side bus of 400MHz. It is obvious that low energy consumption of less than 2 watt were more important than performance. Our Notus A12 also contained 1024MByte DDR2 RAM , which is already the maximum possible amount and certainly not too much for Vista.

Instead of the small flash memory UMPCs usually use, the Zepto Notus A12 contains a 80GByte hard disk in 1.8″ format. The MK-8009GAH made by Toshiba is a 4200r/min hard disk and manages an average transfer rate of19.4MB/s . Not very much, but again: Less is more when it comes to energy consumption and weight. The MK-8009GAH is only 59 gram light and draws between 0.07 to 1.8 watt. An optical drive is not included with the Zepto Notus A12, but an external burner can be ordered for 91 Euro together with the Notus A12.