Zepto Nox A15: straightforward and snappy

Where so many notebooks have taken the high-horse road to fashion the Zepto Nox A15 keeps it real or at least simple. Yet it doesn’t skimp on the hardware. Although it’s missing some basic elements that have become almost standard in other products the core hardware is really cooking.

If you’re unfamiliar with the brand that’s likely because it’s a relatively new player in the Australian market crossing the high seas from its Danish homeland to grace Australia with its Nordic charm. However that’s no reason to fear it. According to Zepto’s own site it is the largest notebook manufacturer in Europe and it’s certainly produced some solid products by our reckoning. Incorporating much of the latest hardware the Nox A15 a good performer and is built to last. Unfortunately like much of Europe’s produce it’s quite expensive for Australians to buy at least at the time of writing.

Unlike many other notebooks on the scene the Zepto Nox A15 doesn’t claim to be made of some organic material or incorporate any designer labels. You won’t see it being carried by models on the catwalk and there are no competitions to design new fantastical covers for it. No the Zepto Nox A15 is a plain unadulterated no fuss no frills black – with Zepto’s Tron-like logo about the only thing lighting the void. Aghast you say? It’s true. And to be honest it’s nice.

But it’s not all about the stylish black facade. Zepto has gone to town with the specifications here offering a top-end 45nm Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 CPU running at 2.53GHz on a 1066MHz front side bus (FSB) and a 6MB L2 cache. There’s also 4GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM with the potential for up to 8GB. This can be upgraded at the time of purchase if desired but an added cost would be involved naturally. Zepto has also thrown in an NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with 512MB of GDDR3 memory providing some decent gaming performance at least as far as notebooks go.

Overall we were quite impressed by the performance though it didn’t top the charts when compared to other notebooks using identical core components. In PCMark Vantage for example it scored 3889 which doesn’t quite match the recently tested HP HDX X18-1013TX (FZ946PA) on 4012 despite being a solid score on its own.

In the 3DMark Vantage test on the other hand which gives the graphics card a run for its money the Zepto Nox A15 scored 1455 a notch above its aforementioned nemesis which only landed 1233 with the same hardware. The GeForce 9600M GT is not the most powerful notebook GPU available but it’s up there. As such you can expect to run some of the more recent titles with this notebook though some sacrifices might have to be made such as running the games at lower resolutions or knocking off a few higher quality settings.

A standard DVD RW drive installed though a Blu-ray drive is optional and the Nox A15’s 1680 x 1050 screen provides a nice high resolution image should you wish to watch any high definition movies Blu-ray or not. We’re happy enough with the brightness and contrast of the Nox A15’s 15.4in screen and the viewing angle is reasonable but it’s not perfect. Tilting the screen soon distorts the image from the viewer’s perspective. It’s not the worst we’ve seen but it could be better. If you’re likely to be using the notebook in cramped conditions where the angle of the screen might be out of your control keep this in mind.

We’re also happy to report that the speakers produce plenty of volume and a reasonable quality audio. You’re probably not going to want to use this notebook as a replacement stereo system but we were happy with the quality when watching a DVD. A distinct lack of bass is the main problem leaving the sound a little thin. However this problem exists in the vast majority of notebooks. Probably the only thing that is worth complaining about in regards to the overall audio/visual quality is the price. For the kind of money you’re paying here we’d expect a more hearty sound system and a slightly more impressive screen would have been nice too.

Another thing that deserves being whined about is the lack of an e-SATA port. In the last 12 months e-SATA has gone from being a bonus to a regular and the Zepto Nox A15’s lack of e-SATA is a little disappointing especially considering it’s a high end model. e-SATA may not be on everyone’s list of needs but if you already own some e-SATA external hard drives you might want to bare this in mind. If you’re likely to start using a lot of external storage in the future we again suggest you keep this in mind. As far as internal storage goes the Nox A15 offers a 250GB 7200RPM drive which is a cut above the standard 5400RPM models usually found in notebooks and is worth a nod of recognition.

Other features worth noting are the Nox A15’s webcam biometric fingerprint scanner and HDMI port. Biometric fingerprint scanners may not be as necessary in notebooks of this nature but any added security should be welcomed. HDMI on the other hand is almost essential these days as S-Video is becoming obsolete with newer TVs and home theatre systems. Still we would have liked to have seen an S-Video port as well and the lack of a VGA output is a little baffling .This makes it impossible to connect to a monitor or TV that does not use HDMI which is a little short sighted. There are three USB ports and a media card reader as you would expect.

On the up side the Nox A15 does offer some good networking with Gigabit Ethernet and in our model at least Intel’s latest Wi-Fi 533AN Shirley Peak b/g/n wireless card. This may not mean much and is probably pointless for the vast majority of people but it does offer a theoretical maximum of 450Mbit on the N standard rather than the current stock-standard 300Mbit wireless cards. This of course will require a router that also supports the speeds so don’t expect to see results until you’ve got the hardware to match. Again this is an optional extra so you can opt for the regular card if you want to save a bit of coin.

While the Nox A15 is a power user’s notebook and shouldn’t be expected to have the most impressive battery life we were quite happy with the results of our DVD run down in which the Nox A15 lasted a good two hours and 15 minutes. Our model included a 9-cell battery at extra cost so consider this when opting to upgrade or not. This test is considered a worst-case scenario of sorts due to the high strain on the battery and subsequently you should expect to see longer battery life under normal circumstances.