'Unusual' is the first word that springs to mind when you consider the Medion Akoya E3211. It's an ultra-portable computer which uses Intel's CULV technology, usually found in the thinnest, lightest laptops that are currently making waves. However, despite including a DVD drive, it isn't yet a rival for the smallest laptops. However, a matte screen also helps it stand out from the crowd.
Handling, design and build
Relatively restrained in its appearance, the E3211 has a grey frame around the keyboard, while the rest of the exterior is finished in matte black. The border around the screen has a glossy finish, which attracts dust and greasy fingerprints. The laptop is well-made, and although the design is far from revolutionary, we're pleased to say that it feels solid.
The keyboard is big and has a good range of full-sized keys which are fairly soft to the touch. The Fn and Ctrl keys have changed places, which really isn't very useful.
There's a reasonably-sized touchpad, and its grainy surface is easy to slide your finger across. Still, we could have done with something a little more smooth. The two buttons are hard to reach as they're separated by a small bar from the rest of the touchpad.
The webcam is very average, with some areas very quickly becoming overexposed. It lacks detail and contrast. That said, the colours are reasonably accurate.
When you use it for office work, then the E3211 is relatively quiet, so it's a shame that the fan whirs up as soon as you ask it to do anything more challenging. It starts with a very loud fan that kicks in for a few seconds to cool the laptop, rather than a gradual ramping up of the cooling, which would have been much more discreet in the majority of circumstances.
All of the connectivity options are found along the side of the machine, with an ExpressCard 54 slot on the left underneath a memory card reader. They're joined by an Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 port and the power. On the right are the DVD writer, the headphone and microphone jacks and two more USB 2.0 ports.
Unfortunately, you can't get at any of the component parts underneath the laptop.
|Power port, VGA, USB, RJ45, ExpressCard slot and card reader||Touchpad and LEDs
|The mirror effect of the black glossy case
||DVD writer, headphone and microphone jacks, 2 USB ports, anti-theft lock
Vista index: 5,0. Details: CPU 5.0 - Memory 5.9 - Graphics 5.1 – Gaming graphics 5.3 – Main hard drive 5.2.
Medion has decided to fit this laptop with a single-core CPU. It's a disappointing decision because that limits the kinds of things you can do with it as well as the overall quality of the user experience. The Intel Pentium ULV SU27000 doesn't exactly put in a stunning performance. Compared to our reference laptop, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650, which has an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 and is indexed at 100, the Medio Akoya E3211 reaches only 31 for its processor and 37 overall. That's only 50% better than a netbook, which is very disappointing.
Watching 1080p HD video--that is, Blu-ray quality content--needs the hardware acceleration provided by the GMA 4500 MHD graphics card. To do that, you'll need to use software that can access these features, like PowerDVD or Media Player Classic HC and the right codecs. When you do that, the load on the CPU falls from 100% (unworkable) to 20%, and power consumption goes from 24.5 to 22.5 W.
The graphics card can handle HD video files, but isn't powerful enough for games. You'll need to stick to 2D games or Flash games, which will work without a problem. Some (very) old 3D titles might work with the lowest level of detail.
The sound produced by the speakers is pretty poor. It's dry and only manages to produce treble sounds, leaving bass behind entirely. The signal from the headphone jack is clean enough, but there is a small amount of feedback that disappears once you start playing music.
Portability & Battery Life
Although the CULV technology is supposed to provide excellent battery life, the Medion Akoya E3211 only manages 3 hours 30 minutes when playing video (with the screen at 100 cd/m², WiFi deactivated and the sound playing through headphones). Although that's close to the 3 hours 40 minutes of a 13'' MacBook, the Medion is a much less powerful computer. Its poor performance is down to the capacity of its six-cell 4300 mAh battery.
At 1.7 kg, the Akoya E3211 is light enough compared to other 13'' laptops. It could have had a smaller charger though.