Handling, design and build: a wide comfortable keyboard, could do better with the touchpad
Tested in its black version, the Packard Bell dot s2 also exists in red or white. Overall it has a nice design with a good finish and good quality plastics. The battery could however have been better integrated as it sticks out from the bottom of and inside the casing. The screen hinges are moreover visible on either side of the battery. The screen is glossy with a black border and hood which pick up fingermarks all too easily.
The keyboard takes up the whole width of the netbook. With large keys (16 x 15 mm) keying is both rapid and quiet. Just the arrow keys are slightly problematic as a result of their reduced size. That said, in terms of general use this won't be too much of a problem.
The multitouch touchpad is perfectly set into the shell. The glide is good thanks to a matte coating. Precision is unfortunately insufficient and makes the touchpad disagreeable to use.
The webcam image is fine, with acceptable contrast. Note however, it tends to overexpose light colours and sharpness leaves something to be desired (VGA webcam).
Although not the quietest of netbooks, the dot s2 does however remain quiet. The fan is however constantly audible, without becoming too loud even during demanding tasks (photo, video encoding)
Connectivity is very standard with 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 RJ45, 1 headphones 1 mic and a 2-in1 card reader. Wi-Fi b/g/n is also present.
Underneath, a small panel gives access to the RAM, while another larger one gives access to the other main components (including the hard drive).
|dos s2's hood
||Power, VGA, 2 USB 2.0s
|Touchpad and click bar
||Card reader, headphones, mic, USB 2.0, RJ45
Processing: mainly office docs
Windows 7 index: 2,4. Details: CPU 2.4 - Memory 4.5 - Graphics 3.0 - Gaming graphics 3.0 - Main hard drive 5.8.
In contrast to other current netbooks which now run on Windows 7, Packard Bell has decided to retain Windows XP on the dot s2. This makes the machine a little more responsive but performances are not that different. On the other hand however, the Intel Atom N450 processor (with integrated graphics) is used. The score obtained on our index is 20, compared to 100 for our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400). This is fine for office work and the internet. You can still carry out other tasks (photo and video editing/encoding) as long as you're patient (processing takes between 3 and 6 times longer than on a standard machine).
You won't be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on this one but will have to make do with DVD type videos or compressed DivXs.
The graphics solution is limited to HD 720p video, which is a real shame when the Poulsbo platform (Intel Atom series Z processors) is able to give you 1080p playback.
3D gaming: old, undemanding titles
Generally speaking, gaming on netbooks is only for real enthusiasts willing to put up with highly compromised quality. Only models with ATI or NVIDIA ION graphics chips can handle a few recent games and even then as long as the CPU doesn't cut down performance too much (a single core Intel Atom is insufficient).
Audio: use the headphones for decent quality
The audio on the dot s2 is as poor as on most of the competition netbooks. The sound is still dry and without bass. We're still waiting for the manufacturer who's willing to change this! The headphones out is relatively clean, in spite of the slight hiss.
Mobility, battery life: close to the best
At 5H33 video playback (brightness at 100 Cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated and headphones plugged in) the Packard Bell dot s2 is close to the best of the current crop of netbooks. You'll be able to get a day's office work out of it and watch a film or two.
The mains adaptor plugs straight in to the netbook without any extension. It doesn't take up too much space, though Asus can do better. The netbook in itself weighs just 1.25 Kg and is 25 mm thick on average, which puts it on a par with many other machines in this class.