The new Medion Akoya S5611 has a dual-core processor, a dedicated graphics card, a 15.6'' display and a super-thin, stylish design. All of these features come in for less than £500, meaning you're in for a treat, especially given that this computer is based on the same framework as the MSI X-Slim X600.Handling: simple and effective
You can tell as soon as you look at it: the Medion Akoya S5611 sits in the same shell as MSI's X-Slim X600 series of laptops. That doesn't put us off though, as the components involved are of a reasonably high quality, despite being a little plasticky. The laptop is solid enough but still very thin. More disappointing is the choice of materials for the screen and the case: black glossy plastic has taken over, which leads to unattractive glossy fingerprints and dust.
The wide keyboard has everything you'll need, with flat, responsive keys measuring a good 18 mm square. Typing is firm and quiet. Although we would have preferred backlighting, we suspect it was something Medion skipped on to save costs.
The touchpad is a reasonable size, but other laptops--especially Apple's--have much larger versions. It's still easy to use, with rapid, accurate scrolling that's light to the touch. The two buttons are less impressive and the shiny finish doesn't make a very good impression.
The webcam is acceptable, but nothing better. It could be a lot more fluid, the colours are saturated with overexposed areas burning out and the contrast is weak. Putting the good quality mic to the right of the webcam was a good idea, as it avoids picking up the noise of typing.
Like all of MSI's other computers, you can always hear the S5611's fan turning away. It's disappointing given how little energy this laptop actually uses. Apple's laptops do much better, although admittedly in a much different price bracket. The cooling system is always there in the background, but becomes even more audible if you push the laptop a little further.
Along each side, you'll find the various connectivity options: a VGA input; a Gigabit Ethernet port; HDMI; a combined USB/eSATA input; three USB 2.0 ports; the mic and headphone jacks and a three-in-one memory card reader. That leaves the S5611 with one extra USB port compared to its closest competitors. 802.11b/g/n is also included.
Underneath, a single large panel can be removed to give access to almost all of the components, and you only need to remove a single screw, which is very handy.
|VGA, USB 2.0, eSATA/USB combo, HDMI
||Card reader, 2 USB 2.0, mic and headphone jacks, power
|Touchpad and buttons
||Medion Akoya S5611 vs. MSI X-Slim X600
Processor Power: lightweight dual-core is good enough for the web
Vista Index: 4.2. Details: CPU 4.7 - Memory 4.9 - Graphics 4.2 - Gaming graphics 4.8 - Main hard drive 5.5.
Inside the Medion Akoya S5611 is an Intel Celeron ULV SU2300 CPU. It's an entry-level dual-core processor, which means it had modest energy consumption and is inexpensive. Although it's less powerful than the Intel Core 2 Duo SU9600 found in the MSI X-Slim X600, it's still perfectly useable for web browsing and office work. You can even do a little bit of photo and video work, as long as you can be patient during more intensive tasks like encoding.
Compared to our reference laptop, indexed at 100, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (which has an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400), the S5611 comes in at 43 for its processor and got an overall score of 59 (3D excluded). For comparison, the MSI X-Slim X600 was at 56 and 71 respectively for these two tests.
Playing 1080p HD video--the equivalent of a Blu-ray disc--is absolutely fine, even if the CPU load was relatively high. Instead, we suggest you allow the graphics card to show off its excellent decoding capabilities, to take the strain off the CPU.
3D Gaming: some recent titles are possible, but without much detail
The Mobility Radeon HD 4530 graphics card is at the bottom of ATI's mid-range offerings. That means you should avoid demanding games including recent FPS titles like Crysis or those that use the Unreal Engine 3 3D engine, unless you want to turn off all of the details. Racing games like Race Driver GRID worked perfectly for us with details set to 'medium', and you can also enjoy slightly older games, as well as those that rely on less demanding 3D engines, like the Source Engine found in Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2.
Audio Quality: an optical audio out saves the day
The speakers produce a high-pitched sound with no bass. It's very unpleasant to listen to, because although the sound is distributed a little, it has absolutely no depth. The headphone jack gives a clean signal, despite a slight hiss that disappears when you start playing music. It doubles up as an optical audio output, which is good news if you want to connect this computer to some quality audio equipment that's worthy of the name.
Portability & Battery Life: impressive for a screen this big
Clocking up 3 hours 18 minutes of constant video playback in our test, the Medion Akoya S5611 did almost as well as the MSI X600. The results are equivalent to what the 15'' MacBook Pro managed (3 h 19), although the latter is a more powerful computer overall. That's still enough to watch an entire film, which is pretty good given the size of the screen and the price point of this computer.
At 2.15 kg, this laptop is light for its size, and a thickness of just 25 mm is welcome news.