Zepto has been around for over 20 years supplying components for notebooks but are little known for their own product range. Based in Denmark and Sweden, Zepto operates a business very similar to that of Dell, using a build to order model.
One of the key elements that make Zepto such an attractive offer is the very competitive prices and specifications they are offering. The 6625wd model that I have been testing for the past few weeks starts at £775 featuring an impressive 1680 x 1050 resolution 15-inch widescreen display, 8600M GT graphics and Core 2 Duo processor.
With a whole host of options available, you can configure this machine to be an absolute power house bringing the bill to over, £1100. So depending on your needs, there is a great deal of flexibility available to you. The machine I’ve been reviewing contained the following ingredients:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz processor
2GB RAM 667MHz
NVIDIA Geforce 8600M GT 512MB
160GB hard drive
Vista Home Premium
As always with a mobile product, design and build are very important factors to its success. Zepto have gone for a very simple look combining blue LEDs with a silver trim on a black plastic chassis. There is a feel of robustness with the Zepto but it lacks that quality feel and I think that’s down to the plastic they’ve used.
The weight of the machine is in line with other 15-inch notebooks at 2.9kg and offers similar dimensions. Using curved corners, the design reminds me of the Acer Aspire Gemstone, but similarities stop there, however the looks and feel of compactness has been achieved.
What I have been struggling to find in other notebooks is a screen resolution of over 1440 x 900 with many notebooks in the 15-inch range still using 1280 x 800 panels. So when I first booted up this machine, I was pleasantly surprised to find such a high resolution display. One problem of having high resolution displays on smaller screens (since 1680 x 1050 is typically reserved for 20-inch and above) is that text can become difficult to read with size and clarity. Fortunately, the Zepto didn’t experience this problem with good contrast and good detail. Reading black on white text was comfortable and made using the Vista graphics a better experience.
Zepto have used a glossy display panel on the 6625wd which allows for rich colour reproduction and a stunning black level that helps boost the overall contrast when viewing images and video. Whilst the glossy displays are good for this it does normally introduce the problem of reflection, but I actually didn’t notice this to be much of an issue on the Zepto.
Port wise, the 6625wd offers a standard set of ports. With four USB 2 connections, mini-Firewire, Ethernet, Optical audio, VGA out, line-in, line-out, S-Video and oddly enough a 56k-modem.
A number of shortcut keys are built in to the front outer edge of the notebook where you will also find the microphone, infra-red port and wireless switch. Above the F keys on the keyboard you will have access to the power button, four shortcut keys (two programmable) and a dedicated camera button. The trackpad includes quick-access scroll navigation and the right and left buttons. The design of the mouse buttons are somewhat odd to use because they have a dip which I guess is meant to help you locate your finger on the button. However, I found it quite awkward and odd to use. Something about them didn’t feel quite right. What was a nice part of the design is how the trackpad is integrated in to the main chassis so there’s no gap around the trackpad for dirt and dust to accumulate.
One gripe I had with the chassis is the placement and design of the volume keys. They used an up and down key and whenever you wanted to move the volume up or down quickly it would take forever with continuous presses. What would have been more ideal is using a shortcut Fn key that was software controlled or a scrolling dial on the side of the unit.
Whilst the initial set up of Vista took forever and a day, this is hardly the hardware manufacturers fault, but it would have been nice to be able to switch on the machine for the first time and have it ready for me to set up my credentials rather than wait another 30 minutes for it to finish its install.
Vista set up issues aside, the Zepto packs impressive performance featuring the Core 2 Duo, today’s best mobile processor, which has so far been a runaway success in the notebook and desktop market. At this level of performance, the Zepto is capable of achieving an overall score of 4.5 on the Vista benchmarking system where scores reach a maximum of 5.9. Whilst none of the criteria reaches 5.9, the CPU, graphics and hard disk do reach scores of 5.1 and 5.2. This is thanks to the NVIDIA Geforce 8600M GT packed with a massive 512MB of dedicated memory and the 7200RPM 160GB hard drive, which helps to really drive throughput rates.
Expect nippy performance with the 2GB of RAM, although if you want to get the best performance out of the Core 2 Duo processor, opt for the 800MHz RAM rather than the slower 667MHz type that my review unit received. This will eliminate any processor to memory performance bottlenecks but will add a little extra to the cost.
The keyboard has a logical layout that places the keys in the appropriate places without over-cramming like you get on some Toshiba models. In terms of its feel, it’s very generic so nothing special to report back. If you’ve typed on a budget laptop keyboard before, then you’ll feel right at home with the Zepto, but at least they got the layout right.
Gaming benchmarks showed that whilst the 6625wd configuration I had was capable of playing Bioshock on Medium settings with good frame rates at 1680 x 1050 it wasn’t capable of performing at all on Crysis. Even when using low settings I wasn’t able to achieve any decent frame rates, which is unfortunate because I would have thought the DX10 card in the 6625wd and the Core 2 Duo processor would have been able to work some magic.
Games like the latest iteration of Command and Conquer delivered smooth frame rates even at the screens native resolution and with the graphics quality setting on maximum.
So what have I determined as I come to a close with the review? The 6625wd from Zepto won’t be shifting the alignment of the moon anytime soon, but it’s ideal if you’re looking for a mid-level gaming notebook without the excess or cost of a desktop replacement machine. There’s a sense that Zepto are striving to build a quality product with a rigid chassis that doesn’t creek and is actually quite slim and lightweight to lug around with you.
If Zepto want to generate more excitement and buzz around their notebooks, they’re going to have to do something a bit more special than what they’re throwing out right now. The 6625wd is an example of a product that could have been great had it just made a few other parts of the package right. But at the moment it just screams too much that it’s a generic product re-branded by an OEM, and whilst that’s where Zepto’s roots lie, if it ever wants to compete for real, it’s going to need to do something special and something different than everyone else.