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AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 Review

Wesstron    -   April 30, 2013
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AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 Conclusion:

Build quality & Design: The AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 has a simple yet very elegant design. Minimal branding and uniform color theme give the unit lots of appeal. When folded away on the desk it never ceased to amaze me how small its foot print is compared to a regular laptop. The full aluminium body and the great overall finish are a plus. The unit does not feel flimsy and I did not experience any flexing or bending while handling it. The screen hinge feels tough enough to survive your average abuse and trying to lift the top with one hand will pretty much lift the whole unit once it reaches a 45 degree angle, roughly. I would advise against all kind of one handed operations while manipulating this kind of hardware. The bottom of the unit is protected from sliding or surface scratches by four discreet rubber feet that are non-removable. The two onboard speakers are also located on the bottom of the unit, which could cause muffled playback for those who like having their Ultrabook on their lap. The sound quality is very good and I was pretty surprised how loud this little unit could get.

Noise & Heat generation: The AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 always felt cool to the touch, I would even say cold if you are really sensitive. The bottom of the unit will get warm to the touch under heavy load but is in no way uncomfortable; I did not notice any excessive heat coming from the back ventilation area either. To a certain extent, the full aluminium body serves also as a gigantic passive heat sink for the system and helps with the cooling. During the benchmarking phase of the review I paid close attention to the cooling solution behaviour. The fan cooling the i5-3317U is very quiet under normal load, so quiet that the noisiest component in this system seems to be the mechanical hard drive. Under high load the fan will ramp up and it becomes noticeable, but still fairly quiet; it will not distract from the task at hand. The hard drive on the other hand will let you know every time the platters spin. It also tends to make some alarming scratchy noises now and then. Maybe the review unit drive is failing on me... time will tell.

Keyboard & Touchpad: I really had my doubts about the Chiclet-style keyboard at first glance. Coming from mechanical Cherry switches I had to readjust for a while. Overall the quality of the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2's keyboard is very good. The keys do not feel sticky or mushy and applying normal pressure on the keyboard area will not bend it in an alarming way. My only problem here is with the layout and precisely the RED power button. It’s simply in the way and I hit it accidentally a few times when going for the Backspace, Home, or Delete keys. A perfect position for it would be next to the white LED notification lights in the form of a button that could have the same texture and look as the aluminium body with a subtle white LED. The palm rest areas on each side of the touchpad offer a smooth and pretty comfortable surface. The touchpad is well positioned and provides a fairly large interaction surface. It's easy to get used to and I did use it to navigate through Windows 8 while on the train in my way to work for a few days. I had to adjust some of my old habits while using a touchpad because of the Windows 8 touch control schemes. For example, having your right hand brush the right side of the touchpad inadvertently will bring out the Charms Menu in most cases and cause an interruption in whatever was being done. 

Screen & Webcam: The 14” LED-backlit screen of the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 sports a standard resolution of 1366 x 768, which seems to be the norm for similar sized laptops and Ultrabooks. It has decent viewing angles and adjusting one’s posture to be comfortable while working or watching a video is effortless. I used the unit to stream some 720p Black Lagoon episodes over WiFi with great success. The picture was crisp and the color rendering is actually great and just needed some tweaks on the Intel Graphics and Media Control Panel to find a sweet spot that fits my media content. The colors, however, seem to get a little washed out at very high brightness settings. I also took the unit outside to see how it fares under the sunlight; the glare on the glossy display was very uncomfortable even after cranking the brightness to 100%. The webcam on the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 is not something to write home about. The grainy 1MP camera will get the job done but I wouldn't expect miracles.

Battery life and Portability: To get an idea about the available battery life I put the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 in High Performance mode after a full charge and played back a 720p video in a loop. It lasted roughly four hours, which is a great performance and would yield a longer on-screen time under normal use. In terms of portability the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 weights about 3.9 pounds; not the lightest ultrabook out there but I still find it very comfortable to carry around. The aluminium body offers a good grip and is overall very nice to the touch. I actually managed to fit it in the ECBC Poseidon Messenger Bag K7202 that I reviewed a while back. The thin build of the Ultrabook made it possible to also fit the charger and some other stuff in the various pockets; not bad knowing that the bag is for 13" laptops!

Conclusion:

No bloatware, beautiful aluminium body, fairly thin form factor, and more than enough power under the hood for the average user's needs make the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 a great system. The build quality and attention to detail are amazing, both on the outside and the inside of the Ultrabook. The feature set is on par with the great looks of it. The third generation Intel Core i5 -3317U Ivy Bridge processor with Intel HD 4000 Graphics, 8GB DDR3 RAM, and 32GB mSATA SSD for caching provide great performance in the Ultrabook category while running on lower power consumption and less heat generation. Interacting with the system is a pretty comfortable experience. The Chiclet-style keyboard and the touchpad are on par with what the industry offers in the sub-$800 price point. The AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 was reported to be accessible for way less than that when on sale and it would make perfect sense to grab one for what could be pretty much the price of a tablet.

Avatar Technology Inc. is coming after a competitive market with a limited lineup of Ultrabooks. Only three systems, including our review unit, are available at the time of this article redaction. All three have the same processor and the differences are touchscreen capability and full SSD storage option. AVATAR is offering a very solid product with the Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2. The unknown brand and the minimal online presence will certainly scare some of the less adventurous away, but the California-based manufacturer seems to be on the right path to change that for a better tomorrow. 

 

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • Beautiful aluminium body 
  • Great performance for the price range
  • Cache drive makes it snappy and responsive 
  • No bloatware
  • Battery life

 

Cons:

  • RED power button in the keyboard area
  • Mechanical drive can be noisy


 

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