ViewSonic isn't the first PC maker to take inspiration from the MacBook Air, and it probably won't be the last. But of all the copycats we've seen recently, the ViewSonic ViewBook 130 is actually one of the better examples.
Unlike some ultraportables that try to hide their girth with razor-thinned edges, the ViewSonic ViewBook 130 has more consistent rectangular sides and edges. Its body may get umistakeably thicker toward the rear - but that's handy when it comes to supporting a range of ports that would embarrass an Air. There's HDMI and VGA video, three USB ports (usefully scattered left, right and rear), a reader for SD cards and Sony Memory Sticks, Gigabit ethernet - even an ExpressCard 34 slot.
Three variants of ViewSonic ViewBook 130 are available, from the cheapest with a single-core Intel Celeron processor, to two dual-core models. We tested the top-spec ViewSonic ViewBook 130 with 1.3GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GS45 chipset and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. In other respects the specification remains the same between these ViewSonic ViewBook 130s, including 320GB 2.5in hard drive, wireless-N networking, and a keyboard that stands out from the crowd with its broad, flat lilly-pad keys and smooth, pleasant action.
The trackpad of the ViewSonic ViewBook 130 is said to be multitouch, although like most Windows notebooks with pretensions of multitouchiness, we found it a crude imitation of the tactile interface found on MacBooks. By default, its ‘one-finger side scrolling' means whenever your finger approaches the right side, the mouse cursor freezes as it expects to take on scroll duties. We couldn't work on this pad until this feature had been deselected from the mouse control panel. Two finger pinch gesture recognition in particular was slow and awkward in Internet Explorer; not so bad for expanding images in Photo Viewer but still buggy and erratic.
Screen quality of the ViewSonic ViewBook 130 is average for the type, a 13.3in high-gloss reflective widescreen, nicely LED backlit, that will - so to speak - lose its shine once you're forced to use the laptop near a window or overhead strip lighting.
There's some moderate massaging of the truth in the weightwatching department, since the company's listed 1.45kg spec was not matched by our lab scale's reading, closer to 1.53kg. Much more troubling, we're not sure how ViewSonic measures its laptops' battery life, but we'd contend it's not with any industry-standard test. ViewSonic says: up to 8 hours. We say: less than 3 hours 20 minutes; in deference to our MobileMark 2007 Productivity tests.
Meanwhile in our application performance tests, the ViewSonic ViewBook 130 showed a usable turn of real-world speed, hitting 64 points in WorldBench 6. To give some context, that may equal last year's Samsung X360 ultraportable, but it's well short of an Air's score of 83. On a subjective note, we found the Windows 7 Professional interface slower than we'd like, with less-than-snappy responsiveness as we moved around the operating system.
Top view of the ViewSonic ViewBook 130... but it's not quite as metallic as it may look
Gaming possibilities are unsurprisingly limited by the low power integrated Intel graphics in the ViewSonic ViewBook 130. We saw 6fps in our standard FEAR game test.
ViewSonic is strangely keen to promote the sound quality from the ViewSonic ViewBook 130's underslung stereo speakers, claiming them to be ‘meticulously reckoned [sic] and finetuned to output 20% more impact'. In reality, they're as thin and weedy sounding as most netbook's.
Overall build quality was solid feeling, and despite the ersatz plastic construction - sprayed silver to resemble real aluminium - it felt reasonably tough and flex-free.
Mock-metal plastic isn’t unusual in the sub-£1000 laptop price band but be aware that the ViewBook is trading on the prestige of a certain laptop hewn from more durable aluminium. Despite pretensions of mixing with the upmarket ultraportables, the ViewSonic ViewBook 130 is after all a relatively affordable thin ’n’ lightish notebook, and one that remains cool and mostly quiet in use. We can't help thinking that for the same money, some highly capable 15in laptops can be found elsewhere. But this 13in notebook has excellent connectivity options and slimmer style, leaving its biggest let downs an oversold touchpad and mediocre battery life.