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Packard Bell dot m/a

Packard Bell dot m/a netbook

A realistic rival for Intel's Atom

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Take a quick shufti around the m/a's exterior and you will find much the netbook norm: three USB ports, VGA, 10/100Mb/s Ethernet, 3.5mm audio-in and -out sockets, and a Kensington lock slot. The five-in-one card reader allows you to slide SD cards in until nearly flush - a nice touch, as is the external Wi-Fi switch. The m/a also a below average 0.3Mp webcam and a built-in microphone.

Packard Bell dot m/a

The logo panel on the lid is handy for getting the machine open

The underside of the machine is home to three easily removable panels that cover the wireless card, a 3G module (if one was installed), the hard drive and the memory slot. It looks as though there's only one memory module, so 2GB is quite likely your lot.

Unlike the majority of netbooks, the dot m/a is available with a selection of HDD options. Our entry-level test machine came with a 160GB 5400rpm Sata drive, but Packard Bell will also sell you one with either a 250 or a 320GB drive. There is no SSD option.

The most basic m/a doesn't come with Bluetooth - standard on the 320GB machine. Wi-Fi connectivity is the usual 802.11b/g across the range. The display is a high gloss LED-backlit panel with a 16:9 resolution of 1366 x 768. It's bright, crisp, colourful and generally pleasant to look at.

Below the rather fine screen sits a rather fine keyboard - in fact, one of the best that we have encountered on a netbook. The flat-topped keys are not only a little larger than is usual on machines of this size but also have a generous amount of space between them which helps minimise typos. The key action is very positive if a little short and there is very little base flex.

Packard Bell dot m/a

A nice, large, responsive touchpad and button bar

The 65 x 37mm touchpad is both large enough and sufficiently responsive to provide a complaint-free user experience while also supporting pinch-to-zoom multi-touch. The one-piece chrome click bar below the pad has a firm action and can be used continuously for long periods of time without setting your teeth on edge. You can't really ask for more from a netbook.

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