We’ll be evaluating this netbook’s performance according to our impressions from using the machine for a period of two weeks. This will be supplemented by a number of hardware benchmarks, which will seek to quantitatively define the machine’s performance in comparison to its fellows.
PCMark 7 is a Windows 7 performance benchmark that examines CPU, RAM, graphical and disk performance. The Dot S scored 685 PCMarks, which is on the lower end of netbooks – typically, we see results between 500 and 1000 PCMarks. Still, it’s a definite improvement on netbooks you may have used from a few years back and as long as you don’t try anything too taxing you’ll be fine.
In our web-browsing battery test, at 66% brightness the battery lasted for eight hours, 32 minutes. That’s a stellar result and one that really speaks to the one greatest strength of the netbook, as you could easily use this for a full day of work without recharging.
Boot / Resume Time
While you’re not expecting great results with a slow mechanical hard drive, boot and resume time is still important to measure. Here are the results:
- Boot from shutdown: 74 seconds
- Resume from sleep time: < 1 second
- Resume from hibernate time: 24 seconds
Overall, fairly decent for the netbook class but nowhere near an SSD.
Writing, Web Browsing
The Packard Bell Dot S served me well in my real-world testing. As a travel companion it excels, with its relatively low weight and small profile allowing it to fit easily in a cramped backpack or tiny train tray table (say that four times fast). The battery life was excellent, lasting the whole of the working day at very reasonable brightness settings. Even under direct sunlight, the display’s full brightness was more than enough to deliver extremely legible text. Writing on the Dot S was honestly better than expected; while I wasn’t able to write as quickly as on my favourite mechanical keyboard, I was still able to punch out a good 2000 words on my train to work. Anything that required more punctuation (like programming) was a bit of a nightmare though, thanks to the non-standard key layout and very small punctuation keys. On the other hand, web browsing wasn’t quite as good. While the processor kept up even with media-rich sites like The Verge, the small display resolution made reading articles and navigating around complex sites difficult.
I’m a gamer through and through, and I was hoping to find a modern title that would work on the netbook. I pinned my hopes on the brilliant spaceship combat roguelike-like FTL: Faster Than Light, but sadly I couldn’t quite make it work. The game requires a minimum of a 1280 x 720 display, and even by modifying Windows to support higher (albeit stretched) resolutions than the default 1024 x 600, the game didn’t quite fit. I had similar problems running an old version of Football Manager on my Samsung NC10. Even when I got into the game, the portion that I could see had graphical artifacts that rather spoiled the look. So: this is not a gaming machine, not even in a pinch. You may be able to run 2D titles or Gameboy Color emulators, but anything graphical appears to be too much. I guess that’s why they call the GPU a “graphics media accelerator”; this thing is for making videos work and not much else.
As a media machine, the Dot S performed excellently. The media accelerator on board provided more than enough grunt to chew through the 1080p video files we tried it with, and YouTube was only sometimes laggy on 1080p. Given the netbook’s HDMI port, this could be a brilliant media machine to keep next to your TV!
The Packard Bell Dot S is a solid if unremarkable netbook. It doesn’t disappoint along the traditional strengths of the netbook platform with excellent battery life and a low price point, but does little to impress elsewhere. The new Cedar Trail architecture is a nice upgrade of the Intel Atom platform with the extra core coming in handy to ensure a relatively smooth experience in 2D applications, but the low resolution display and middling keyboard keep this netbook from competing with the best.
- Excellent battery life
- Quick Cedar Trail era CPU
- Excellent connectivity
- Interesting aesthetic
- Low resolution display
- Middling keyboard