25th November 2004, 02:05 AM #1
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Sharp Actius AL27 Review (pics, specs)
Sharp Actius AL27 Review by Josh Chandler
As a young entrepreneur just getting started with an onsite computer repair business a new laptop was to be my first business tool purchase. I would need a portable for such things as keeping a repair database of completed service, printing receipts onsite at the time of work completion, and keeping track of appointments for more jobs to come.
I chose the Sharp Actius AL27 for my business because it excelled in the features I felt that I needed. These features include: Sufficient hard drive capacity, easy to use keyboard, high performance processor, and an ample amount of memory. Other great features of the AL27 include a super bright LCD (dubbed Double Bright by Sharp) and a technology called DirectHD that allows you to connect to another PC using an included USB cable, which allows the Actius AL27 to act as an external USB hard drive. This makes File transfer between two PCs is as simple as dragging and dropping.
Sharp ACTIUS AL27 Configuration and Specs
- Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition with SP2
- Mobile AMD Athlon 64 2700+
- 512 MB DDR PC-2700 Memory
- VIA/S3 Graphics UniChrome Pro (Integrated in chipset) / Assign up to 64MB shared system memory
- 15" XGA Advanced Super-V TFT LCD
- 60 GB Hard Drive
- DVD +- RW Drive
Link to complete AL27 Datasheet from Sharp: http://www.sharpsystems.com/products/datasheets/AL27.pdf
Appearance and Notebook Construction
First things first on design, the color: it's white! The stark whiteness is the first thing you'll recognize about this laptop and initially I didn't like it much at all. It's very bright appearance at first made me think the construction might be cheap and lacking in durability. But once you get your hands on the Actius AL27 it's a different story. The base is exceptionally well-built; it has what seems to be a very thick gloss coating over the entire notebook. The buttons for the touchpad have a chromed look to them. I'm a little concerned that over time this chrome finish may wear off, but only time will tell for such a thing. Since you are able to enable tapping on the touchpad as a mouse clicking action, I rarely use the mouse buttons so I won't have to worry about such things. The power button has a blue LED that fades in and out when you turn the computer on and off, this is a great futuristic type of effect. The notebook lid which acts as the cover for the back of the LCD seems a bit thin. If you push on the back with the screen turned on you can get a lot of ripple effect and screen color changing. My fear is that a good smack on the back of the LCD could prove fatal. However, concerns aside, the overall design of the laptop is very clean, sophisticated and modern to what might even be called futuristic looking.
Usability and Functionality
The keyboard is very well designed. It is slightly curved for ergonomic purposes and then also tilted for comfortable typing. Some might worry that this unique keyboard setup would take some adjusting, but I had no problem typing from the very first day I started using the notebook. In the lower left corner of the keyboard there's an "Fn" key, generally called a "Function" key. This is seen on many laptop keyboards. It is used in combination with other keys to perform special functions such as turning the integrated wireless on/off, adjusting the volume, switching between LCD and VGA output, and adjusting the LCD brightness between 8 setting levels. The delete key is the only key I have a problem with on the AL27 keyboard. The delete key is tucked in the top right corner and is very small. I usually hit the home key, which resides just under the delete key, by accident when typing and trying to hit delete. This is of course quite aggravating!
The touchpad works great on this notebook and is in fact the best that I've ever used. The driver for the touchpad allows you to assign functions for the corners of the pad to perform any specified action with just one tap. You can make it do anything from open a specific program to act as the back button in your favorite web browser. I haven't gotten the single tapping action it to work with the FireFox browser yet, but that may be fixed with a driver update.
The Actius AL27 has a rather average weight for this type of laptop. At 6.5 lb the AL27 is easy enough to carry around or use in the lap. Although some may crave for a lighter weight, I personally have no problem with 6.5 pounds as I have used notebooks that have more weight and girth to them. However, if you're a road warrior and need to be able to throw a laptop around, the weight might be cumbersome and simply too much for you
The headphone, microphone and fire-wire ports are located on the front of the laptop. Different people like ports in different places, so whether this is good for you depends on your preference and how much you intend to use these ports. The positive view would be that at least the ports are easy to access from this location. Others might prefer to have ports hidden on the sides and not cluttering the front of a notebook. Also along the front edge there are LED indicators for the optical drive, hard drive, Num Lock key, Caps Lock key, and Scroll Lock.
Sharp ACTIUS AL27 (front view)
The LCD Screen
The Actius AL27 sports one fine 15" XGA LCD. It has 8 different levels of brightness settings, so if you want to crank down the brightness to conserve on battery life or even to save your eyes in a dark room (yes, it's really that bright) then you can go ahead and set the screen level to what suits your eyes best. At the top level of brightness the LCD is even brighter then my 19" KDS CRT I use for my desktop computer, and that's impressive! The LCD has "Double Bright" technology and a clear LCD finish which gives it much deeper, richer, more saturated color then other typical matte finished LCDs. I tested DVD playback with the movie The Matrix 3 and was very impressed with that. During the action there was no lag or ghosting from slow refresh rate. The LCD alone was enough to tempt me into buying this laptop and offered the initial hook to reel me in, but of course after I saw the rest the laptop had to offer, it was mine.
4 USB 2.0 ports provide plenty of options for connectivity to high-speed devices such as pen drives, external hard drives, printers, and the list goes on forever. One Firewire port provides just as many options as the USBs for connecting to external peripherals, Digital Camcorders often use a Firewire interface for transferring data so having this port is good for such devices. The Actius 27 has one Modem RJ-11 port and One RJ-45 10/100 Mbit Ethernet port for dial-up or broadband internet connection. One Headphone out and One MIC input provides audio options for basic needs. There's one PCMCIA Type II slot for expansion devices and one VGA out for connecting to a external display device. Finally you of course have an AC port for charging on the right side.
Sharp ACTIUS AL27 (back view)
Sharp ACTIUS AL27 (left side)
Sharp ACTIUS AL27 (right side)
Sound / Noise
The speakers are very petite and have incredibly imprecise quality at moderate to high volume. This seems to be a common trend in notebook computers though. If you want good sound quality you will need to invest in some headphones or external speakers. The speakers do turn up to a listenable volume though, unlike other laptops I've seen that you can't hear at all.
The noise of the laptop, such as fans, noisy optical drives or hard drives is not a problem at all. The fan is very quiet and doesn't need to run much anyway. The DVD-RW drive is also very quiet, much quieter then my desktop's drive. The hard drive, or wait, what hard drive? I've never heard the hard drive make noise once, it is extremely quiet!
The laptop holds a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. In my usage it holds approximately 2.10 hours of life. I normally use my laptop for such things as multitasking with FireFox, Microsoft Word, and sometimes Photoshop while having the screen set to full brightness. This amount of battery life is acceptable to me but may fall short of requirements for others as it isn't the greatest. I have also tested the battery under stress free conditions such as only browsing the internet and adjusting the brightness to the lowest setting, which appears to add approximately 30 minuets of life. Charge time appears to be about 4 hours while using the computer at the same time. I have not tested charge time when the computer is not in use, but obviously it would be under 4 hours.
Sharp ACTIUS AL27 (right side, lid open)
Multitasking example on the Sharp Actius AL27
Yeah finally the good stuff right? Here are some of the benchmark results I got by running a few benchmark type of programs on the Actius AL27:
Super PI results (2M calculation)fficeffice" />
Sharp Actius AL27
Athlon 64 2700+
Pentium M 1.6Ghz
Athlon XP 2800+
lace>Batterylace> Powered > >Other Program results: >>
Sharp Actius AL27
Athlon 64 2700+
I think the results speak for themselves. This is a powerful laptop. I can say one thing though. You won't be playing many games on full resolution. The integrated graphics controller isn't one to brag about. If you try to play a real game like Farcry / Need For Speed Underground / Doom 3 you will not win. I would predict a frame rate of about 3 on any of these games. However, you can still surprisingly play some older titles such as Medal of Honor (and all expansions) / Half life (and all expansions) / Quake 3 / and Command and Conquer! I have personally tested this laptop with these three games and they ran great with the proper tweaking. 1024 x 768, bilinear filtering, high detail, and 16bit color makes for a great gaming experience. The estimated frame rate average for these games is 20-50 FPS, and that is very playable. With the quick refresh rate that I mentioned above the games looked great and played well.
Conclusion and Overall Opinion
If you are going places, doing business, and using your laptop daily then this might be the laptop for you. Priced at $1277.95, the cost is reasonable for all the features and performance that you get. Plenty of hard drive space, a very bright screen, comfortable keyboard, durable case, and sleek look make this laptop an awesome choice. Personally I love it and I and think many of you out there would too. If you want to game on this machine with the latest and greatest releases, well, it's not going to happen, you'll need to spend another $800 minimum for more memory and a better video card and possibly a faster hard drive. But if you're like me and leave the gaming to the desktop computer with the big screen, then you won't need to worry about such things! Whatever notebook you choose good luck with your decision and hopefully I have given you another option and something to think about with this review of the Sharp Actius AL27.
Pricing and Availability