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Mecer creates stylish low-cost notebook

The South African computer manufacturer shows off its latest entry-level laptop. BRYAN TURNER tries out the Xpression Z140C.

Click below to read the review.

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It’s easy to think about international brands when considering a laptop that’s strictly for office tasks or university work. But Mecer’s Xpression Z140C offers some tough competition to international brands in the entry-level “cloudbook” space.

The unit we reviewed was all-white, with a white keyboard and white trackpad. It houses an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 CPU, Intel HD graphics, and 32GB eMMC storage.  

The overall design deviates from other manufacturers with an all-plastic body. The left side of the laptop features a USB 2 port, a headphone jack and a micro-SD card slot. On the right side, there is a USB 3 port, micro HDMI, and a proprietary charging port.

When opened, the computer is matte finished on the trackpad, the keyboard, the screen, and chassis plastic. This makes it a little more ideal to work outside, with less glare from the sun.

The hard plastic chassis is a really good indicator of the laptop’s high resilience to bending and drops. This makes the computer a little more life-proof when compared to the more delicate models in this price range. 

Even though this laptop is rugged, it remains light at 1.4kg, around the weight of the latest Apple MacBook Air.

The keyboard has decent travel and responsiveness, making it great for typing out long documents. The trackpad, on the other hand, needs some work. We experienced some phantom cursor movement and inconsistent glide, which was fixed by connecting an external mouse.

The 14” IPS display redeems this oversight by showing thoughtful screen design, mostly thanks to its matte display that’s just the right amount of matte. It features a 1366×768 resolution, which is standard for units in this range. The viewing angle may be a bit awkward when two users want to see the panel at the same time, as colours tend to get washed out when one doesn’t look directly at the screen.

It comes preloaded with Windows 10 Pro, which is snappy for the most part. For better performance, we used a light version of Ubuntu Linux.

Intel’s Atom processors are not the most popular because they’re known for sluggish performance. That said, this computer exceeded our Atom expectations, mostly thanks to the fast access speeds of the eMMC storage. For light work, like word processing, working spreadsheet and browsing the web, it does well. It becomes slower on the more intensive multitasking like running four or more programs at the same time.

When working on the lighter applications indoors, we found the 10,000mAh battery delivered around 8 hours from Windows and 9 hours from Ubuntu. This makes it an ideal computer for note-taking in lectures and working on projects in an electric socket-limited library.

Overall, this computer offers basic features one would expect from a computer in this price range. At a retail price of R2,999, not many cloudbooks come close.

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