Packard Bell EasyNote TX86-JO-045UK £699
26th Aug 2010 | 14:00
A solidly built and highly usable laptop, with strong performance for the price
Packard Bell EasyNote: Overview
Packard Bell has really impressed us lately with a number of solid entries in its consumer EasyNote laptop range. The latest addition is the premium EasyNote X-Series, which comes in two flavours - the 14-inch EasyNote NX, and the 15.6-inch EasyNote TX.
The EasyNote TX86-JO-045UK is one of the 15.6-inch models and packs a surprising amount of power into a slick and slim metallic chassis, while adding a few unique design touches.
A premium metallic build has been used throughout the Packard Bell EasyNote TX86, from the brushed aluminium finish of the lid, to the firm keyboard. The chassis is reassuringly solid in all areas, yet also just 30mm thick and 2.5kg in weight.
Simplification has been Packard Bell's motto of late, and the number of shortcut buttons provided on this and other recent models demonstrates this.
A quick-and-easy backup button was introduced in last year's EasyNote models, and one addition to Packard Bell's EasyNote X-Series is the Social key, which launches the new Social Networks application.
This program acts as a social hub by streaming content from your Facebook, YouTube and Flickr accounts, so you don't have to separately log onto each site. You're currently restricted to using those three websites, but we're hoping Packard Bell will expand the software to other social media sites in the near future.
Even better would be the option to add any social website of your choosing, although this may be going beyond Packard Bell's simplification mantra.
For further ease of use, a row of touch-sensitive media buttons can be found above the Packard Bell EasyNote TX86's keyboard. These allow you to quickly pause or skip through songs and movies, or eject the DVD drive.
There are also two shortcut buttons in the top left corner of the EasyNote TX86's chassis. One of these can be configured to launch the application of your choice, while the other toggles Wi-Fi on and off.
Packard Bell EasyNote: Specifications
The fantastic build quality of the Packard Bell EasyNote TX86 translates into great usability, with a well-sized keyboard proving the highlight.
Packard Bell was acquired by Acer in 2007 and since then has used the same keyboard design as the Acer Aspire laptops, with perfectly flat keys sitting slightly raised from the chassis.
A lack of key definition may put some users off, but we had no trouble touch-typing at speed, and spreadsheet lovers can rejoice as there's even room for a dedicated numeric keypad.
The EasyNote TX86's touchpad is a generous size and nicely responsive, although Packard Bell has integrated the left and right mouse buttons into the pad itself.
Usually this causes problems, as resting your thumb on the buttons causes the cursor to jump erratically, and even pressing the buttons can jerk the cursor, causing you to select the wrong menu option.
This was a big problem on the HP TouchSmart tm2, as well as netbooks such as the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, and greatly hampered usability in those models. Thankfully these issues have been ironed out and we had no such issues with the EasyNote TX86's touchpad.
The buttons themselves aren't sensitive to touch, so you can run your fingers across their surface and the cursor won't budge. The cursor also thankfully remains static when the buttons are pushed, and not once did we launch into a tirade of abuse because of incorrect menu selections.
Packard Bell has even added a playful flourish to the EasyNote TX86's touchpad, with the entire pad emitting a mysterious glow whenever the integrated buttons are pressed.
It's a feature that admittedly has limited use but is undeniably appealing, especially when hunched over the laptop for a late night web browsing session.
Anyone who remains unimpressed by the eerie pulsing can simply turn it off through the Windows program menu.
Packard Bell has fitted a 15.6-inch widescreen display into the EasyNote TX86. Photographs and movies appear vibrant and lifelike thanks to the glossy Super-TFT coating, although reflectivity is greatly increased as a result, which hampers use outdoors.
The true widescreen aspect ratio is common for modern laptops, and is perfect for working on documents side-by-side. Movies don't suffer from huge black bars above and beneath the picture, while images are suitably sharp and bright.
The display's hinges are just as solid as the rest of the laptop, and the screen tilts all the way back for a comfortable viewing angle when the EasyNote TX86 is sat on your lap.
Storage is comprehensive, with a 500GB hard drive providing plenty of space for your applications and files, even if you have a sizeable music or movie collection.
There are also plenty of ports lining the EasyNote TX86's sides, with four USB connections for attaching peripherals and a 5-in-1 memory card reader so you can immediately access your holiday snaps.
VGA and HDMI ports are available for connecting an external display when at home, and there's enough room left over for a DVD drive.
Networking is yet another strength for the EasyNote TX, with the fastest standards for both wireless and wired communications built in. 802.11n Wi-Fi allows you to connect to your wireless network at home or available Wi-Fi hotspots when on the move, while Gigabit Ethernet allows you to physically plug the EasyNote TX into a router.
Packard Bell EasyNote: Performance
The EasyNote TX86 may be a good looking machine on the outside, but Packard Bell hasn't neglected the laptop's insides. A powerful dual-core Intel Core i5 430M processor is on board, running with a clock speed of 2.26GHz.
Intel's mid-range Core i5 processor sits between the entry-level Core i3 and über-powerful Core i7 in terms of performance, and provides ample power for multi-tasking with intensive applications, thanks to its capacity for hyper-threading.
Aided by 4096MB of speedy DDR3 memory, the EasyNote TX86 can comfortably handle any office tasks thrown at it. We didn't witness any slowdown, even with several packages open at one time, which would have seriously impacted older Core 2 Duo laptops.
A dedicated nVidia GeForce 310M graphics card with 512MB of video memory is also in place, and the EasyNote TX86's multimedia performance is reasonably solid as a result. This isn't a gaming machine by any means, and the latest titles will struggle even with detail levels turned right down. But older games run without a hitch.
Design packages also run well, and anyone hoping to do some photo editing or light video editing will be satisfied by the performance the EasyNote TX86 delivers. Packard Bell has generously included a copy of PhotoShop Elements 8, for tinkering with your treasured family photos.
This strong performance is all the more impressive given the EasyNote TX86's thin and reasonably light chassis, which is suitable for carrying even on regular commutes. Portability is further enhanced by the excellent 302-minute battery life, which exceeds most laptops at this level.
However, if the thought of lugging a 2.5kg machine around is too much, and your budget can stretch a little further, there are excellent ultraportables with similar levels of performance to be had.
For instance, the Fujitsu Lifebook P770 packs plenty of power into a 1.5kg chassis and still manages 427-minutes of battery life – although the £1441 price tag is a considerable step up from the EasyNote TX's asking price.
Packard Bell EasyNote: Conclusion
The Packard Bell EasyNote TX86 is a 15.6-inch entry in the new EasyNote X-Series range, a premium set of laptops available at a highly affordable price. With an emphasis on simplification, Packard Bell is helping consumers to get the most out of its latest series of portables through slick design and easy-to-access shortcut buttons.
The EasyNote TX86 features a solid metal chassis that is surprisingly thin and light, weighing just 2.5kg and measuring 30mm at its thickest point. Performance is also assured, thanks to the inclusion of one of Intel's latest dual-core processors and a dedicated nVidia graphics card.
That solid chassis is one of the toughest we've seen outside of rugged laptops such as the Panasonic Toughbooks, and can take a bit of punishment when you're on the move. At 2.5kg it won't weigh you down much either, while the five-hour battery life further boosts portability.
Performance doesn't suffer as a result, with the EasyNote TX86's Intel Core i5 processor providing more than enough power for multitasking with various office applications. The nVidia GeForce GPU is good enough for basic multimedia tasks.
We're also impressed by the features Packard Bell has packed into the EasyNote TX86's slimline chassis, with plenty of storage space and a good range of ports on offer. Networking is speedy, both wired and wireless.
Last but not least is the glorious glowing touchpad. Pointless it may be, but we're just relieved the built-in mouse buttons don't cause the cursor to go crazy when pressed. The EasyNote TX86 also has a firm and responsive keyboard, which is a joy to tap away on for extended periods.
To be honest, any complaints we have with the Packard Bell EasyNote TX86 are nitpicky at best. The reflective screen is a hindrance to outdoor use, and liable to give you a migraine if you attempt to do so, but this is true of most Super-TFT displays.
The Social Networks application is also highly limited in its current state, with no support for the likes of Twitter, and we feel that few people will make regular use of it. There's still potential for expansion, however.
If portability is a priority, there are lighter laptops available with much longer battery life, although you'll pay a premium for one with as much power as the EasyNote TX86.
Packard Bell has smashed the ball clean out of the proverbial park with the EasyNote TX86, an excellent all-round machine that pulls off power and style with panache.
A solid yet portable chassis is merely surface material, as the Intel Core i5 CPU and nVidia graphics card provide excellent performance at this price.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview