Novatech's m20 3G is a mini notebook with a difference.

Instead of being festooned with garish logos and tacky stickers, the Novatech m20 3G is refreshingly anonymous in its solemn all-black livery.

And while most new small-form laptops we now see use the low-power Intel Atom, or a low-speed version of the Core 2 Duo, the Novatech m20 3G runs with an Intel A110 processor, clocked at the unfashionably slow speed of 800MHz. But like the new crop of mini laptops, this machine is not trying to be a speed demon, simply a good workhorse with useful battery life.

The Novatech m20 3G is a no-nonsense business laptop with few frills beyond a fingerprint reader and an Eco button to reduce power consumption - this more for the benefit of a user seeking longer battery life, we note, than a step toward reducing your carbon footprint. In prqctice, this buttom seems to drop processor speed to 600MHz and reduce screen brightness. Two system versions are offered, the model we reviewed adding integrated 3G wireless capability.

The Novatech m20 3G is built around a lightweight magnesium alloy case, which along with its lack of optical drive helps keep the weight down to a svelte 1.39kg. The keyboard is still full size, while the nicely textured trackpad is only 70mm measured diagonally. Click buttons here are mounted a little high for easy clicking but work crisply and the keyboard itself is responsive if uninspiring in action.

Under the Novatech m20 3G's keyboard is a membrane to slow down ingress from drinks accidents. We didn't check this feature but Novatech promises that the m20 can withstand up to 50cc of fluid spillage.

There's no digital display output, so business types hoping to present from the Novatech m20 3G will need to resort to the traditional VGA output sited by the left screen hinge. The screen is suitably bright and clear, a 12in glossy widescreen display that renders small text with good legibility.

In our tests, the Novatech m20 3G scored a WorldBench 6 score of 31, putting it about four points behind a typical Intel Atom system (which, it's worth remembering, are clocked at over twice the speed). A little sedate for modern multimedia applications, the m20 should still serve well for unstrenuous business tasks.

And the all-important battery life? Using our standard MobileMark 2007 productivity test, the Novatech m20 3G notched up 272 minutes of untethered use, around four and a half hours.

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Novatech m20 3G laptop: Specs

  • 800MHz Intel A110
  • Windows XP Professional
  • 12in (1280x800) gloss widescreen LCD
  • Intel 945 chipset 1GB RAM
  • 100GB 1.8in HDD
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • ethernet
  • PC card slot
  • mic in
  • headphone out
  • VGA out
  • 6-cell lithium battery
  • 1.39kg
  • 800MHz Intel A110
  • Windows XP Professional
  • 12in (1280x800) gloss widescreen LCD
  • Intel 945 chipset 1GB RAM
  • 100GB 1.8in HDD
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • ethernet
  • PC card slot
  • mic in
  • headphone out
  • VGA out
  • 6-cell lithium battery
  • 1.39kg

OUR VERDICT

Understated but purposeful, the Novatech m20 3G will serve well in its chosen role as a lightweight business tool. Long battery life and good connectivity options should go some way to compensate for less than stellar outright performance.

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