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Review: Sylvania's g Netbook Meso

Sylvania tries to shine some light with its new entry in the netbook arena.

Produced by Digital Gadgets, which previously specialized in various mobile electronics and accessories, Sylvania's g Netbook Meso is similar in many ways to its more well-known competitors. Measuring 9-x-7-x-1.25 inches, it weighs approximately 2.2 pounds without battery.

Like the majority of netbooks currently available, the Meso is powered by the 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor. Although standard with 512 MB of RAM, our test unit had 1 GB. Storage space is provided on an 80-GB, 5,400 rpm SATA hard drive.

The small 8.9-inch LCD screen displays clear, 1,024-x-600 images, driven by a 64-GB Intel 945 Express Graphics chipset. A 0.3-megapixel Webcam is centered above the screen, which works well enough, but reviewers were a little disappointed (though not surprised) with the washed-out picture quality. The same can be said for the two speakers below the display, which produced surprisingly loud, but expectedly tinny, sound.

As it is with most current netbooks, the Meso's keyboard is probably its biggest drawback. Small and cramped, the surface area of the keys is reduced even further with a beveling down the sides. While this does make accidentally tapping an adjacent key less likely, it also adds to the uncertainty of connecting with the correct one. Additionally, the lack of a right-side Shift key quickly became a pet peeve of ours.

Our test unit was loaded with Ubuntu Netbook Remix, but Windows XP Home Edition is available as an option. The interface of the operating system is nicely laid out and easy to navigate, even for Linux novices.

Available in the Crayola-inspired colors of Onyx, Snow, Solar and Blossom (Black, White, Yellow and Pink), the Meso supports Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and has a 10/100 Ethernet port. Other ports include three USB connections, a VGA out and a Multi Card reader, as well as one each of Headphone/Line-Out and Microphone/Line-In mini-jacks.

The four-cell battery is rated at four hours, and our standard battery test of playing a WMV-formatted movie in repeat mode -- with all wireless radios on and all power-saving features turned off -- yielded a life of a little over three hours. Charging the unit back to 100 percent, under the same conditions, took almost the same three hours.

Using Primate Labs' Benchmarking utility Geekbench 2.1, the Meso scored a reputable 1020. Although we've noticed that Linux systems tend to garner slightly elevated scores, as does the latest 2.1 version of Geekbench (vs. the 2.0), the unit's score is still the highest our lab has seen a netbook reach.

Although it's available for just under $300, the Sylvania g Netbook Meso has an MSRP of $399. Like most of the netbook contenders, the Meso won't likely become anyone's primary laptop; but for when space and time are limited, it is adequate for short bursts of use, and is reasonably priced.

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