The 14.1-inch Versa E6200 series is the first from NEC to follow an industrial design concept. The brainchild of Jun Katsunuma, manager and expert designer at NEC Universal Design Center, the texture of the corporate-oriented Versa bears a striking resemblance to the leather-clad ASUS S6, though as we'll see later the body is made from another unique material. The Versa E6200 has a black chassis and uses an integrated graphics chipset, while the E6210 bumps up the eye candy with an Nvidia GeForce Go 7300 under its brown hood. Both possess a dedicate Skype button next to the integrated Webcam which, though unique, could have been better utilised.
The Versa E6200 is quite minimalist in its lack of common multimedia controls. However, what it does include are buttons that are rarely seen on other notebooks -- Skype and Eco (economy mode) keys. The rounded contours reduce the dimensions somewhat, though it is rather thick at 37.1 mm, with a footprint of 337 x 245 mm. Weighing 2.3kg, it may not be as light as the BenQ JoyBook S73, but is still portable nevertheless.
The top cover is textured like leather, but is actually machined from the same tough plastic material found on Aston Martin dashboards. We like the low-maintenance chassis, which not only repels fingerprints but also possesses a high degree of scratch resistance. During the Singaporean launch, the NEC country manager even drew across the surface with a key, yet no apparent disfigurement could be seen.
The integrated Webcam sits at the top of the display, which required the use of a latchless design to hold the notebook closed, based on the tightness of the hinge. Though this makes one-hand opening a breeze, some may prefer the security of a physical latch to keep the unit closed in the event of an unintentional drop.
Every serious business portable must have strong security features, and this Versa achieves that with a combination of a fingerprint biometric sensor, Trusted Platform Module security chip and hard-disk password protection.
As battery life is paramount for the traveller, the Eco button steps down the processor and reduces screen brightness to conserve as much juice as possible. The keyboard has a comfortable pitch and the touchpad is responsive enough to work on for long periods.
With the increasing popularity of VoIP and video-conferencing tools, an integrated Webcam and dedicated Skype button launch the program or allow you to answer incoming Skype calls. Unfortunately for some, the current software does not allow the button to be mapped on another instant messaging application, which limits its functionality for non-Skype subscribers. Though sufficient for video-conferencing needs, we would have liked a 1.3-megapixel Webcam, which allows for higher-quality impromptu snapshots.
Though it's supposed to be a corporate machine, the inclusion of a mini-remote control allows the user to sneak in some movie time after hours.
The 14.1-inch transflective widescreen offers more screen real estate than the standard aspect display. The 1,280 x 800-pixel resolution is driven by the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics processor, which pulls up to 256MB of system memory for video rendering. An internal DVD Super Multi writer can be used for movie viewing or high-capacity optical backup. Unfortunately, it is not swappable and hence options such as an extended battery or second harddisk are not possible. The Versa's audio quality is on par with most notebook speakers.
The usual ports and connectivity options are present. Other than hooking up to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks, it also hitches up to wired Ethernet and modem connections. However, those in corporations that are wired with the faster Gigabit network will find themselves slowed down by the 10/100 Ethernet port. External peripherals can be hooked up using any of the four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire or ExpressCard slots. Larger displays can be utilised via the VGA or S-video port, while an integrated memory card reader is compatible with SD/MMC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro formats.
Performance And Battery Life
The NEC Versa E6200 series is the first in the Japanese company's lineup to use the latest Core 2 Duo processor, though initial models will still be based on the Core Duo chip. The series comes in two flavours: the E6200 uses an integrated graphics solution, while the more expensive E6210 is based on the discrete Nvidia GeForce Go 7300 video card with 512MB of TurboCache RAM (which uses a mix of dedicated and system memory for graphics rendering). We tested the former with a Core Duo 1.73GHz chip, 512MB RAM and 60GB which retails for a reasonable AU$1799.
On the office productivity benchmark--MobileMark 2005--the Versa whipped up a score of 209, which sits almost shoulder to shoulder with the Compaq Presario V3000 despite its faster processor. In fact, the LG R1 Express with a discrete graphics card and faster Core 2 Duo performed slightly under the E6200.
Service And Support
The Versa comes with a standard one-year local warranty, with options at point of purchase to upgrade to international on-site coverage for more comprehensive protection. NEC laptops are supported via its service center, Web site, email and telephone helpline. On its Web site, you can register your warranty online as well as download drivers and patches for the notebook. Simple troubleshooting can be done through the support email or phone. For more detailed diagnosis and repairs, the unit has to be brought to the service center for technical assistance.