I have a confession: Aldi sell great chocolate and being right opposite an Aldi store in North Sydney, it makes it easy to be tempted to drop in for an afternoon fix of the Swiss elixir. But what baffled me was that every time I visited the store, consumers were walking out with a notebook under their arm along with a bag of groceries.
Further investigations revealed that not only was Aldi selling pallet loads of notebooks, it was a 17-inch Medion notebook that came with 3GB of memory, 250GB hard drive, Intel Core 2 Duo processors, TV tuner and Windows Vista Home Premium. Also thrown in was a built in webcam, high performance Nvidia graphics card as well as HDMI connectivity.
The most impressive item for the German notebook was the price which at $1,499 sounded too good to be true. So how did the notebook stack up and how well did it go up alongside the big brands like Toshiba, Lenovo, HP and Acer?
Firstly, it is dirt cheap despite it being packed with a lot of the same branded products as the more expensive notebooks. Second, it is well made and while the piano gloss finishing is prone to fingerprints, it was well worth putting up with because the nearest competitor was over $1,000 more expensive.
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When you open the box that the notebook comes in, the first thing that users will notice is the multitude of accessories bundled in the deal. Medion has included an ExpressCard DVB-T TV tuner, DVB-T antennae, remote control, DVI-adaptor, a USB mouse, and even a carry bag. This is quite a feat considering a lot of big companies don't even include an optical mouse or remote with its notebooks.
The MD96420 is considerably heavy but is understandable because of its 17-inch screen. The inside of the notebook has a solid feel to it and sports an aluminium finish, which matches with the black exterior.
The keyboard has a dedicated numeric keypad that makes computing easier, although the layout is a little different from your conventional keyboard. In addition, a 1.3-megapixel camera on top of the screen can be used for IM programs such as Windows Live Messenger or for snapshots that can be posted on blog sites.
Feeling around, we found an ExpressCard slot, modem and LAN port jacks, and DVI-out port located on the left side of the notebook, while two USB ports and Super Multi DVD optical writer is located on the right side of the unit. In addition, an HDMI port as well as two additional USB ports can be found at the back of the unit. At the front of the notebook, users can find a microphone and headphone jack, an S/PDIF jack, and a four-in-one card reader (SD, MMC, MS, and MS Pro). The notebook also has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.0 for easy wireless connection with a network or wireless devices.
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Office applications, multimedia programs, and even games will run smoother, as the system comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 1.66GHz processor, 3GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS graphics chipset with 512MB of video memory. Storage is also not an issue as it comes with 250GB of storage capacity (20 GB allotted for recovery; 212 GB for file storage).
Besides Windows Vista Home Premium installed on the system, Medion has also included Microsoft Works 9, Google Desktop, Microsoft Office 2007 (with 60-day trial), Nero Essentials, Home Cinema Suite (Media Show, Power2Go, Power Director, Power DVD, Power Producer, and You Cam), Ulead Photoimpact 12, and Bullguard security software.
Medion did not include any proprietary troubleshooting software, but has a website that offers general FAQs, drivers and updates link, and e-mail product support. In cases of program errors, users may use the system restore provided by Windows.
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We suggest users to use the bundled remote when watching TV or playing movies since there are no multimedia hotkeys on the system. The speakers can get loud when set to its maximum volume, but we definitely recommend users to hook it up to external speakers for better audio output.
When set to its 'Power Saver' mode, the MD96420 will last a little over two hours. However, it only lasted for 95 minutes during our DVD test, which can be considered 'normal' for a 17-inch notebook.
The Medion MD9640 is one of those phenomenal notebooks out there well-worth purchasing. For $1,499 you get a 17-inch notebook with notable specifications, an abundance of accessories, and 2 years warranty. And while it is sold in Aldi stores and not in 'well-known' electronic stores where other branded notebooks are being displayed, we believe that this well-specced notebook just speaks for itself and will provide users with performance like no other.
See page over for specifications and final rating.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo processor T5450 (1.66 GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, FSB 667 MHz)
Operating System: Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
Display: 17" TFT WXGA widescreen display for TV and DVD playback in widescreen 16:10 cinema format
Memory: 3 GB DDR2 SDRAM
Hard drive: 250 GB S-ATA Hard Disk Drive, 8 MB Cache
Graphics: NVidia GeForce 8600M GS based on PCI-Express technology with 512MB GDDR2 memory
Webcamera: Integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam with microphone
Speaker system: 2 integrated speakers + subwoofer
Optical Drive: Multi-Standard Dual Layer DVD-/-CD-Writer: Multi-Standard DVD/CD writer with DVD-RAM and Dual Layer support.
Wireless LAN: Wireless LAN IEEE 802.11 n-Draft up to 300Mbit/s.
Integrated 4-in-1 memory card reader: Memory Card reader for SD, MMC, MS & MS Pro flash
Medion Akoya MD96420 | $1,499 | | www.medion.com.au
For: Very attractive price point, Noteworthy specifications; HDMI out; Wi-Fi; 17-inch screen; Bundled accessories; Software
Against: Piano finish prone to fingerprint marks; Screen is very reflective; Battery life
Conclusion: A notebook that has good specifications and attractive price tag despite being sold in a supermarket.