It's a sign of the commoditisation of computers that we can make PC buying decisions based on colour. Maybe the trend started with the first bondi blue iMac in 1998, which turned the tide away from the beige or grey box toward something altogether more personal. We cannot ignore the subtle psychology of colour which can turn a rather uninspiring design into something quite covetable.
Hi-Grade's W5800P is, by all technical counts, a somewhat boring notebook. It's based on a generic far Eastern chassis of unspectacular design, a Clevo M760S, but includes enough modern features to keep an average user happy. You'll find key features such as 802.11g wireless, a DVD writer, ethernet, three USB ports, and even a multi-card reader and ExpressCard slot.
Lacking from this model, though, is a webcam, digital video out and eSATA - although the laptop has cut-outs for all these features, thoughtfully blanked off with plastic bungs.
The 15in widescreen is glossy and reflective and of middling quality, with colours a little milky and black definition rather lacking. With a pixel resolution of 1280x800, you don't have as much resolution as many modern 15in designs but at least fonts and Taskbar icons will remain large and legible. Stereo speakers are mounted below in the screen panel, offering limited volume.
For graphics, this model takes an unusual choice of a SiS Mirage card with 128MB RAM. In our gaming tests with FEAR, the Hi-Grade could only muster an average of 1 frame per second, the lowest recordable score. Dropping all setting to minimum raised framerate to a still unsatisfactory 21fps, so don't get ideas about running anything much more challenging than Solitaire.
In terms of real-world performance, the W5800 is no racehorse, taking an older Intel Dual Core 2GHz processor rather than the ubiquitous Core 2 Duo types we usually see. Running slightly hotter inside, we noted that a cooling fan could often be heard running. Usefully, this could be easily turned off using a Silent Mode hotkey by the left screen hinge. In benchmark tests, we recorded a score of just 66 points in WorldBench 6, where most 2GHz laptops now tend to hit around 80 points.
Battery life was equally disappointing, checking in on MobileMark 2007 with just under 2 hours 20 minutes - a paltry lifespan when you can now expect three hours or more. Overall build quality is good, and the main chassis and lid feel reasonably robust.
Where the W5800P drew admiring looks in the PCA office was its choice of colour, a dark coral pink with contrasting white keyboard. And that keyboard is a solid enough choice with satisfying action for its matt-finish keys. Meanwhile the trackpad and the associated buttons were precise and very easy to use, key factors in making any laptop experience a comfortable one.
A below-average performance and features count combine to undermine the Hi-Grade W5800P’s appeal on the ‘brain’ level, but for some the eye-catching colour scheme will be enough to draw the heart. And note that it can be had for £100 less by selecting a version with Vista Basic, slower CPU and smaller hard drive. Ignore its gaming deficit, indifferent benchmarks and poor battery life, and the W5800P can still make an attractive and personable laptop companion.