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Hi-Grade Ultinote A9900 review

A big, media-friendly laptop that's kept costs down

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Our Verdict

It's certainly no all-rounder, but as a budget media centre it comes highly recommended

For

  • Suprisingly lightweight

    Good performance

Against

  • Quite noisy

    Overly reflective screen

While many laptops at this price point provide decent mobility, the Hi-Grade Ultinote A9900 (£890 inc. VAT) takes a different approach. With its 17-inch screen, powerful graphics and dual-core processor, this is more of an entry-level home media centre.

With its large size, mobility is limited, but its semi-portable 3.3kg weight let us work on short journeys. Its 101-minute battery life is respectable for such a large laptop, but suits home or office use more than frequent travel.

Thanks to its large screen, an equally spacious keyboard is fitted. With a full number pad provided for data input and gaming use, all the keys are securely fixed and respond well. The touchpad and mouse buttons are just as effective and proved comfortable to use.

Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2GHz, performance is outstanding, making it ideal for high-performance video and photo editing. However, heat builds up quickly so the fairly noisy fan runs regularly.

Using a dedicated graphics card from ATi, gaming and multimedia performance is strong. The latest 3D games need to be run at lower screen resolutions, but older games are fine.

The 17-inch screen isn't as impressive. Its glossy Super-TFT coating provides vibrant colours, but brightness is lower than we'd have liked. Although fine in low light conditions, visibility is greatly reduced when working outdoors or under bright lights.

With Windows Vista installed, online security and general usability is improved over Windows XP and a degree of future-proofing is provided. Windows Media Center software is also included, providing an easy-to-use interface for accessing your music, photos and videos.

Storage space

The 100GB hard drive provides ample storage and is ideal for storing large multimedia files. A dual-format recordable DVD drive is fitted for backing up data to CD or DVD. You can also create your own video and music discs, but you'll need to add your own disc creation software.

Network connectivity is limited. While high-speed wireless networks can be accessed using 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, fixed networks are limited to the older 10/100 Base-T speeds. This will suit basic home use, but most other laptops in this class use faster Gigabit Ethernet.

If you're looking for a reliable laptop for home multimedia use, then the Hi-Grade Ultinote A9900 has plenty to offer. Its regular fan noise and poor brightness may deter some users, but the high performance it offers may be worth the sacrifice at this price.