The name Packard Bell has long stood for attractive and fairly-priced multimedia devices. With the EasyNote LS11HR-167GE the manufacturer again rightly claims its reputation. The 17-inch all-rounder has powerful and perfectly compatible mid-class components at its command.
Let’s jump right in with the highlight of the notebook: the Radeon HD 7670M is actually only a renamed HD 6670M, but thanks to its good performance, the DirectX 11 graphics card isn’t at all left behind popular Nvidia models like the GeForce GT 630M – quite the opposite.
After that comes a dual-core processor by Intel. The 2.5 to 3.1 GHz speedy Core i5-2450M masters almost every task with bravura. Eight GByte DDR3-RAM and two 500 GByte HDDs aren’t exactly meager, either. A DVD-burner completes the hardware package. In the realm of software Packard Bell puts its confidence in the Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit.
AS10D51 Battery Life
Because of modern switchable graphics and the optimization of energy management, current notebooks, even with their better performance, often consume less power than their predecessors. Packard Bell‘s 17-inch series substantiates this trend especially well. While the LS11HR-050GE outfitted with the Core i5-2410M and a Radeon HD 6650M uses about 14-21 watts in idle (no GPU switch), the LS11HR-167GE allows itself only 9-14 watts. The load usage, however, at 43 / 46 watts (3DMark 06) or 76 / 84 watts (stress test) is similar.
Because Packard Bell picked a relatively weak 6-cell AS10D31 battery (48 Wh), the battery life isn’t about to be continuously exciting. Worst-case scenario (high load and maximum brightness), after an hour the battery is already empty.
The multimedia notebook manages less demanding tasks much longer. With the Radeon graphics card deactivated, our test DVD ran about three hours. Wireless internet surfing was possible for about four hours. The 17-incher could only reach over five hours in idle mode and at the minimum display brightness.
The black case is inobtrusive in various respects. A weight of 3.1 kg and a measurement of 414 x 275 x 37 mm are typical for a 17-inch device. Also in its technical design the EasyNote LS11 makes a modest impression. The shaping orients itself towards the current notebook standard, dark plastic surfaces dominate.
Little details like the patterned (and, because of its piano-finish look, extremely sensitive) notebook lid, however, makes the multimedia device stand out from the conventional crowd. In particular, the silver-gray palm rest brings fresh wind to the look. In terms of quality, the 17-incher is alright. The plastic surfaces are very well manufactured, even down to the transition between the lid and the frame of the screen.
The notebook reveals its weaknesses in the area of stability. As with many other devices, with two hands the monitor can be substantially bent. The top yields itself noticeably, mainly in the area of the battery (rear) and in the area of the DVD drive (right). The bottom, on the other hand, is relatively stable.
In terms of both the hinges, the attribute wobbly would apply. If you shake the base (simulating earthquake tremors), the monitor distinctly rocks back and forth. Still, the screen can be flipped open with one hand. Along with better hinges, in the future we would like to see completely matte surfaces.
Frustrating: Though the (more or less structurally identical) EasyNote LS11HR-050GE that we reviewed a few months ago could offer two USB-2.0 ports and one modern USB-3.0 port, the new LS11HR-167GE has to make do with three USB-2.0 ports.
The rest of the available connections have remained the same. Thus, the left side is equipped with a Kensington Lock, VGA and HDMI output, and two audio connections (headphones + microphone). The front side contains a 5-in-1 card reader, the right side a RJ-45 Gigabit-LAN port and the power input.
The positioning of the connections is something Packard Bell should think over again. Although most of the ports are intuitive and comfortably accessible, when cables are plugged in, the use of a mouse is difficult (there are collisions).
Those who like to surf the internet wirelessly will be happy about the WLAN module (Atheros AR5B97). Bluetooth is not supported.
The matte-black keyboard we’d describe as successful. By virtue of the so-named chiclet design (free-standing keys), you rarely hit the next key over. Despite the spaces in between, the keys are properly dimensioned at 15 x 15 mm. Also in terms of layout, there’s hardly anything anyone would criticize. Further plus points are the dedicated number block and the respectable typing feel (decent pressure point & stroke) / ASUS A32-N55 batteries.
Uncommon: the comfort functions (brightness, volume, etc.) are activated without a simultaneous press of the Fn key. This behavior can be changed in the BIOS settings, however (during the booting process, press F2 / Main / Function Key Behavior). Illumination is missing, unfortunately.
The deactivatable touchpad cuts a fine figure, too. Not least, thanks to the many gestures (scroll, page turning, rotate and zoom with two fingers) the Windows daily routines can be executed effortlessly with your hand. A separate scrolling area is another thing you don’t see every day. Another strength is the smooth surface that you can glide on very comfortably. What’s more, the touchpad usually reacts with precision. With a measurement of 86 x 45 mm, the size is in the mid-range. Unfortunate: the two mouse buttons behave somewhat spongily.
Now we come to the biggest weak point of the EasyNote LS11HR-167GE: the display. Packard Bell uses a 17-inch glare panel, which with 1600 x 900 pixels offers the ideal mixture of lots of work space and lower consumption of resources. Hollywood blockbusters will profit from the 16:9 format. Like most competitors, however, the manufacturer pays far too little attention to the picture quality.
With the Chi Mei N173FGE-L21, our test device contains a terribly inferior panel. Especially at night, dark film and game sequences make a pretty gray impression. The responsibility for that lies on the high black value of about 1.1 cd/m². For a rich black, the value can’t surpass 0.4 cd/m².
With a contrast of a scarce 240:1, a cheap display is just as suggested. For comparison: high-quality models reach a contrast of over 700:1 (see, for example, the Asus N75SF-V2G-TZ117V). Due to the shiny surface, the colors are still useful. The monitor performs well only in terms of brightness: 243 cd/m² moves it over the notebook average.
Despite its irreproachable brightness, the EasyNote LS11HR-167BE is not convincing for outdoor use. As expected, the glossy surface causes strong and unpleasant reflection. If you’re unlucky, you might also be confronted with reflections in interior spaces in the daytime. A matte screen would make the user’s choice of location considerably easier.
The 17-incher has to pocket more criticism for the small viewing angle. Even if you’re sitting in an optimal position in front of the monitor, in some picture areas changes in brightness appear. Thus while watching a film, for instance, the top sections appear darker than the bottom ones.
All in all the picture quality is disappointing on a broad level. For games or videos, it would be better to hook up an external monitor. Good displays under the price range of 1000 Euros are few and far between (the Schenker XMG A501 is one of the few exceptions).
If you take all the elements and put them together, you see really very good system performance. PCMark Vantage strengthens this claim: 7082 points is definitely above average, many multimedia devices would have to be content with a few 100 or even 1000 points less. The 14-inch brother EasyNote NX69HR-127GE (Core i5-2410M & GeForce GT 540M) only managed 6430 points. That’s a deficit of about 10%.
In the new PCMark 7 the EasyNote LS11HR-167GE received a respectable 1991 points. Costly entertainers like the Asus N55SF-S1124V (Core i7-2630QM & GeForce GT 555M) don’t necessarily get much better results.
The Radeon HD 7670M often makes it into modern PC publications. Current hot sellers like the Anno 2070 or Skyrim jerk considerably at the maximum graphics options. More than 1366 x 768 pixels (the panel interpolates rather miserably) and the EasyNote LS11HR-167GE doesn’t manage the mid detail level. Less demanding titles like Fifa 12 or Call of Duty: Black Ops, however, are rendered fluidly in their native resolution with high detail and multiple anti-aliasing (DELL J408P adapters).
While casual gamers may grab this device, passionate gamers need to look for a more powerful alternative (the high-end range starts with the GeForce GTX 560M). Judged against Nvidia the Radeon HD 7670M is very well constructed, the GeForce GT 550M performs at a similar level.
In terms of system noise, the multimedia notebook delivers a good presentation. In contrast with most of the competition, the fans don’t turn on excessively during gaming operation. Games can be adequately enjoyed even without headphones or a high volume setting. The rotation speed does alternate the fans sometimes, but that didn’t really bother us. Even under a full load, from a distance of 15 cm we could only measure a maximum of 40 dB(A) (some notebooks reach up to 50 dB(A)).
While idle you hear primarily the constant whirring of the hard drive, which every few seconds becomes a quiet clicking. Less convincing is the optical disk drive, which rotates audibly during DVD play. Packard Bell should perhaps think over implementing another model here.
To determine the maximum temperature of the components, we busied the notebook with the tools Furmark and Prime for a while. Result: According to the CPUID Hardware Monitor, Intel’s dual-core swings up to a reasonable 80° C. Around 70°C in the location of the graphics card is also just fine. Throttling, i.e. a temperature-conditional idling, was not observed – super (BT.00606.008 batterie).
However, in high load, the case surfaces became warmer than on an average device. A maximum of 42°C in the WASD area became somewhat uncomfortable after a while. At almost exactly 40°C, the palm rest also reaches a rather high temperature. In idle mode the state of affairs is considerably more relaxed. At around 28°C, the top and bottom sides remain partway cool.
To some extent, the sound quality of an Asus N75SF or Dell XPS 17 is not something Packard Bell can reach. The two speakers (above the keyboard and beneath a fine grid) gave us an impression of dullness and powerlessness. The low capacity, the weak bass and the frayed tuning are only some of the negative attributes. In addition the volume is disappointing.
Thus: For frequent media use headphones or external equipment is suggested. Packard Bell could have at least integrated Dolby technology, like the parent company Acer uses in some of its devices.
The EasyNote LS11HR-167GE scores above all with a great price-performance relationship. For just 700 Euro the buyer is offered not only eight GByte RAM and two 500 GByte hard drives, but also potent mid-class hardware (GATEWAY NV49C batteries).
Intel’s dual-core Sandy Bridge processor (Core i5-2450M) runs without a problem for most uses. The DirectX 11-capable graphics card by AMD (Radeon HD 7670M) complements the dual-core optimally – for a variety of users few wishes could be left unfulfilled. People with noise-sensitive natures will be happy about the mostly comfortably quiet fans. In terms of input devices and battery life there are equally few grounds for criticism.
But there is once again a lack of picture and sound quality. Such a reflective panel with weak contrast and extreme viewing-angle dependency doesn’t even belong in a cheap device. The two speakers don’t exactly call for shouts of celebration, either. A meager selection of ports joins the list. In the year 2012 we can expect a USB 3.0 port, can’t we? The Windows installation stuffed full of bloatware makes us even more unsympathetic.
But if you’re looking for an attractive and high-performing multimedia notebook, you can definitely give the EasyNote LS11HR-167GE a chance. Higher quality 17-inchers like the HP Pavilion dv7-6b02eg cost at least a few 100 Euros more.