They're not the highest of specs, but they are making a case for price and, more importantly, performance.
And – to make that statement pay off even more (pun intended) – let’s take a break from spending too much. Because this time around, we have a couple of suggestions for those of you in need of a computer. And oh, these are really affordable suggestions.
I-Life Digital Technologies prides itself as a maker of nice PCs at prices that will raise your eyebrows not because they’re expensive, but because they’re quite the opposite, with a really thin laptop at Dh599 and an all-in-one at Dh1,099 – those are way, way, below what we’d usually spend for either.
But, of course, don’t expect the highest-end parts crammed into these devices: a little strip-down here, slap some decent pieces there and – voila! – you have something that works for you from the company, which is, by the way, based in Miami.
So, since we’ve mentioned two prices earlier, we’re quite sure you have a fair idea that we’re reviewing a couple of contraptions here.
While not exactly the thinnest – its 16.2mm thinness pales in comparison to the likes of the HP Spectre’s 11.69mm and the MacBook Air’s 12.95mm – the ZedAir 2 is still a comfy 14-inch laptop to carry around (obviously, it’s also a bit heavier). Make no mistake, though: it’s a decent performer.
Its steely, simple-looking frame houses a number of ports, including two USBs (one each for 2.0 and 3.0), micro-HDMI, microSD and, of course, 3.5mm audio. The keyboard, meanwhile, may feel different for some of us: initially, I thought the keys were too elevated, but after running through it for some time, I discovered that the keys were a bit further away from each other compared to other keyboard layouts. It may work for some and take some adjustment for others.
This Windows 10-powered machine doesn’t have a full-HD display at only 1366 x 768, but it’s still bright enough and won’t strain your eyes. Ditto for your fingers; it’s also touchscreen, and it pleasantly responds well to your touches and swipes.
As far as the innards go, an Intel Celeron chip serves as its brain. Though lags are few and far in between, putting it side-by-side with a higher-specced piece will show you the obvious difference in speed. There were also a number of times that it would take a bit longer to respond when a good number of apps are simultaneously on.
Which brings us to the biggest beef of all: while it does have a fair 3GB of RAM, its storage is only at 32GB – and almost half of it has been eaten up by the OS and other programs. That means it leaves you with space for about three full-HD movies. Yikes. If you’re one that loves videos, photos and games, better take out your (or buy a) higher-capacity external HDD.
(Incidentally, just last week I had to tinker around with a friend’s laptop that had the same capacity, although from a different brand. The problem with that was there was too much bloatware and unnecessary programs, which I had to uninstall. It only got worse when I tried backing up and restoring her iPhone; when you restore an iPhone, it creates a duplicate image in the computer while it’s at it, meaning, if you have, say, 9GB of free space and have 5GB worth of iOS stuff to be restored, it won’t work.
Moral of this short story: if you have a low-storage capacity PC, make sure you install only what you need.)
Suprisingly – no, oddly – the ZedAir 2’s battery was whittled all the way down to 4800mAh from the 10000mAh of its predecessor, the original ZedAir. Now that’s only half of what it was supposed to be – less than, even – and I wasn’t surprised that the 2 conked out just after four hours.
Not that you have to carry around this 17.3-inch full-fledged device, but it’s lightweight enough to easily move it anywhere at home or in the office, or even stowed in a bag and carried off somewhere.
Taking cues from the ZedAir 2, the Zed PC has a responsive touchscreen, but with a slightly better 1600 x 900 resolution. It’s also powered by Windows 10 and an Apollo Lake CPU, AKA Intel Celeron (apologies for the technicalities there). We have here, though, slightly lesser ports: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, microSD and 3.5mm audio; not surprising not to see a mini-HDMI or a Type-C slot.
Storage, meanwhile, is way better than the ZedAir 2: it has 500GB, aside from the 32GB used by the system, which is a big plus for its value. And though it only has 3GB of RAM, you can safely ignore the occasional lags, especially if you start jacking up app after app after app. I’m beginning to think that this thing is a larger version of the ZedAir 2, save for the keyboard and mouse.
Behind the device is a swiveling hinge, which is the sole reason that makes the device stand. Initially, I balked at the idea at why it had to be swung all the way down from the top when it could have rested below, but then I realised that it was better that way as you can adjust it at any angle you would want. And you can also use that hinge to carry the Zed PC around, just like a fruit basket or something (just for fun, really; I’d recommend carrying it as you would since it might, well, cause some damage to it).
Its 2500mAh battery, meanwhile, could be an issue here, as it only lasted me for about three hours – so make sure you have that trusty ol’ AC charger wherever you place or bring it.
For all its lower specs, it still was able to blurt out a decent performance – and you may only feel this when it starts up; it takes quite a bit of time to warm up and the touchscreen won’t respond immediately after you see the desktop. Watching movies, in particular, was nice. And it’s so easy to shift from one place to another; I found it very useful in my kitchen, especially when I’m about to butcher ingredients and I need to carve out space for the carnage that’s about to happen – without sacrificing what I’m looking at on the screen.
Surprise, and no surprise. As they fall under the same value proposition, both the ZedAir 2 and Zed PC – to no one’s surprise – will not exactly keep up with the bigwigs if this were a race. However, the surprise is that it’s actually better than some other brands that are more expensive than them. They’re good devices for the entry-level: students, kids and even those who just need a cheap, spare back-up PC that you know will be reliable in case of emergencies. And of course, think of the hundreds – even thousands – of dirhams you’ll be able to save.