[ Go to August 1997 Table of Contents ]|
-- by John M. Cummings
EPS Technologies offers up a new weapon in the arsenal of the traveling salesperson: the Apex M200. This notebook's 13.3-inch screen is ideal for making presentations on the road. EPS also includes just about every accessory possible to make traveling with it easy, including a carrying case and a power adapter for your vehicle's cigarette lighter.
The APEX M200 features a 200MHz Pentium processor with Intel's MMX technology. It also comes standard with a whopping 48MB of EDO RAM, a 2.1GB hard disk, a removable 10X CD-ROM drive and 16-bit stereo sound with integrated speakers. The notebook is equipped with a 33.6Kb-per-second PCMCIA fax modem, 2MB of EDO RAM for video, two Type II PCMCIA slots (which support Zoomed Video) and a video-in jack. It has the usual complement of ports, including IrDA.
The APEX M200's 13.3-inch active-matrix screen grabs your attention; the viewing area is nearly as big as a typical 15-inch CRT. It's like having a desktop system that you can cradle on your lap.
This machine comes with two lithium ion batteries and a portable charger that lets you swap out one and charge the other using either an AC or car lighter outlet. It's a good thing, too: We managed only 1 hour and 16 minutes of battery life under our stringent battery rundown test. Three main items contribute to the battery's short life span: the big display; that 200MHz MMX processor, which is a chip intended for a desktop computer, not a low-power mobile one (Intel won't introduce a low-power 200MHz P55C for notebooks until later this year); and the small, noiseless fan that keeps the machine cool.
The notebook measures 1.8 by 11 by 9.6 inches and weighs a hefty 7.9 pounds. The 87-key keyboard has Windows 95-specific keys. It is one of the best we've used, with exceptional tactile response. The trackpad and two activator buttons are in the center front. Even without a wrist rest, this machine is comfortable to use for extended periods. The small twin speakers produced quite acceptable sound, even when playing audio CDs; the sound is sufficient for presentations around a conference room table.
Performance was mixed and slower in some respects than the 166MHz Dell Latitude LM M166ST on our WinList. Our Wintune benchmarks showed average scores of 372MIPS, 1.4MB-per-second uncached hard disk throughput and 22Mpixel-per-second video throughput. On average, our application macros were executed in 25.33 seconds for Word and 15.67 seconds for Excel. Compare this to the Dell's 323MIPS, 3.8MBps hard disk throughput, 23Mpixel-per-second video, and application macro times of 16.67 seconds for Word and 13.33 seconds for Excel.
These performance scores don't tell the entire story, however. We base our comparisons for systems on 800x600 pixel resolution at a color depth of 16 bits (65,000 colors). The native resolution for the Apex M200, though, is 1024x768. At 800x600 resolution, the notebook has a broad black band around its screen. When viewed full screen (1024x768) at a color depth of 16 bits, performance slowed considerably for video and applications: 7.33Mpixel-per-second video throughput, and average times of 63.67 and 21 seconds, respectively, to execute our Word and Excel macros.
MMX performance results, interestingly, are roughly the same for both machines at all color depths: for the APEX M200, 21.03 minutes at 800x600 and 16 bits, and 22.03 for 1024x768 and 16 bits; for the Dell, 22.78 minutes at 800x600 and 16 bits.
In addition to Windows 95, software includes Lotus Organizer, Quicken Deluxe and Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition (Word, Excel and MS Publisher)
If you're considering the purchase of a notebook like the EPS Apex M200, there are definitely some trade-offs to think about-large screen vs. short battery life, full functionality vs. a carrying weight that's a bit hefty, high-resolution display vs. lackluster performance.
We found the compromises reasonable, given the overall caliber of this machine. EPS has mitigated these few disappointments by throwing in the second battery and the recharger. The result is a notebook that deserves consideration for a place in the road warrior's arsenal, and it earns a spot on our WinList for its excellent presentation potential.