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VPR Matrix 200A5 Review

VPR Matrix 200A5
MSRP $2,399.99
“For those wanting an Apple Powerbook feel with Windows OS and functionality, the 200A5 is about as close as you can get.”
Pros
  • Slot loading DVD/CDRW drive
  • brilliant display
Cons
  • Poor 802.11b integrated wireless networking

Summary

The VPR Matrix 200A5 is a fantastic full featured laptop. It is packed with great components, looks sexy and is very innovative. While there are some problems that need to be addressed such as the integrated wireless networking and the digital sound, there is a lot the 200A5 has to offer. The 200A5 is as fast as an Intel 2GHz Pentium 4-m notebook can get and and just as rugged. For those wanting an Apple PowerBook feel with Windows OS and functionality, the 200A5 is about as close as you can get. Head to your local Best Buy and grab the 200A5 before it’s too late.

Introduction
Next time you are at your local Best Buy store, you may want to check out that sleek looking laptop with the unfamiliar name. VPR Matrix is Best Buy’s own line of private label PC’s found only at Best Buy stores. The 200A5 is the VPR Matrix flagship laptop designed by world renowned F.A. Porsche design house. F.A. Porsche is the grandson of the legendary car designer Ferdinand Porsche. In 1963 F.A. Porsche designed the body of the Porsche 911 car. Then in 1972 he began his own design firm, Porsche Design in GmbH Austria. You may recognize some of F.A. Porsche’s design influences on many consumer electronics, including Samsung LCD monitors and the entire VPR Matrix computer line. The F.A. Porsche influence is immediately noticeable on the VPR Matrix line. The 200A5 is encased in a modernistic magnesium case with an emphasis on simplistic design and function. Buttons are easily laid out on the 200A5 with inputs and controls where you would expect them. But it is what’s underneath the hood of this stylish laptop that really shines.

Features

The 200A5 uses some of the best brand name components available. Upon receiving the 200A5 the first thing to stand out other than the magnesium case, is the slot loading DVD/CD-RW combo drive. For Windows based systems, a slot loading drive is almost unheard of. Apple enthusiasts have long been enjoying the aesthetic pleasures of a slot loading drive. The 200A5’s slot loading drive is manufactured and provided by Matsushita, Panasonic’s parent company. The 200A5 features a 40GB 4,200 RPM IBM Travelstar hard drive and the graphics adapter is a 32MB Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go. Powering the 200A5 is Intel’s 2.0GHz Mobile Pentium 4-M processor. The 200A5 also comes equipped with 512MB DRAM (2x256MB) 266MHz DDR SDRAM.  WiFi 802.11b is integrated. There is one PCMCIA slot available on the 200A5, but that should be all you need since the system has most of what you need internally.

Audio and video enthusiasts will love the 15.2″ widescreen display and Sonopur audio system. Rumor has it that the display on the 200A5 could possibly be manufactured by the same company that produces the displays for Apple’s PowerBook line. VPR Matrix is proudly promoting the Sonopour sound system in the 200A5 as rivaling that of most home theater systems. What the Sonopur sound system does is up-sample the audio by interpolating between samples to effectively double the quality of sound. Although the Sonopur audio system sounds good in theory, you will need to use headphones for a noticeable difference in sound, the speakers on the 200A5 do it little justice. One cool feature the 200A5 has is the ability to play CD audio with the notebook side turned off giving you the same functionality as a portable CD player using the front controls.

The 200A5 features Microsoft’s Windows XP Home Edition as well as Microsoft Works 6.0, and CyberLink’s PowerDVD video player. Those that despise the hundreds of useless preinstalled software will enjoy the included necessities on the 200A5.

Performance

In out Mobile Mark 2002 test, the VPR Matrix 200A5 beat both the Toshiba and the Dell systems. We attributing this to the 200A5’s slightly faster CPU than the Toshiba system (2GHz Vs. 1.9GHz) and more memory than the Dell system (512MB vs. 256MB). Overall it was a very close rate. Please click on the performance tabs to see benchmark scores and system configurations.

VPR Matrix 200A5 Mobile Mark 2002 Scores

In our 3D benchmarking tests, the VPR Matrix 200A5 scored higher than the Dell, but lower than the Toshiba Satellite 5205-S503. This is mainly due to the Toshiba’s faster graphics adapter.

VPR Matrix 200A5 3D Mark 2001 Pro Scores

SiSoftware Sandra CPU Arithmetic Benchmark

SiSoftware Sandra CPU Multimedia Benchmark

System Configurations:

VPR Matrix 200A5

Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Dell Latitude C640
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 40GB 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite 5205-S503
Windows XP Home; 1.9GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 460 Go 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Use and testing

The first thing you will notice about the VPR Matrix 200A5 is the beautiful widescreen display. Our 200A5 came with no bad pixels and is very bright and easy to see from most viewing angles. Maximum resolution on the 200A5 is set at an unusual 1280×854 pixels, but is pulled off nicely. DVD playback is smooth and looks great on the widescreen LCD display. While the display is not a true 16:9 aspect ratio, the 200A5 does a great job of creating a widescreen feel. The slot loading DVD/CDRW drive works good, but is relatively loud compared to Apples’ PowerBook line featuring their slot loading drive.

We tested the VPR Matrix against two other machines, a Dell C640 Latitude and a Toshiba Satellite 5205-S503. All three systems have very similar specs, the Dell only has 256MB of memory however and the Toshiba has a more powerful video card. Both the Toshiba and VPR Matrix systems have the same IBM Travelstar 40G 40GB hard drive. In our 3D benchmarking tests, the VPR Matrix 200A5 scored higher than the Dell, but lower than the Toshiba Satellite 5205-S503. This is mainly due to the Toshiba’s faster graphics adapter.

In our MobileMark 2002 test, the VPR Matrix 200A5 beat both the Toshiba and the Dell systems. We are attributing this to the 200A5’s slightly faster CPU than the Toshiba system (2GHz Vs. 1.9GHz) and more memory than the Dell system (512MB vs. 256MB). Overall it was a very close race. Please click on the performance tabs above and below this review to see benchmark scores and system configurations.

The VPR Matrix is a very fast performing machine. Battery life is above average due in part to the 4,200 RPM IBM hard drive. We were able to watch a full 2 hour DVD movie with our system with our battery saver settings turned on. Boot up time is faster than most and the system overall feels very powerful and fast in application use. Reliability was above average and we encountered no system errors or problems while traveling with the system.

The Main Gripes

While the VPR Matrix is full of innovations, there are plenty of problems that need to be mentioned. The integrated wireless networking gave us sub par performance. Even while sitting next to our Linksys wireless gateway, our signal strength showed us a low signal.  VPR Matrix has acknowledged this problem and is providing solutions via their support department. Another major gripe we have is with VPR’s claim of digital audio out. There is no dedicated SPDIF connector output and the only way to actually get digital audio output is by purchasing their $250 dollar cables which uses your parallel port as the means of connection. We think $250 dollars is too expensive and that digital audio output should either be built into the system or taken off the specifications altogether. We also would have liked to have seen a flip down cover to protect the rare ports; the included detachable rubber cover is pretty useless.

*Edit: We were just informed that the $250 digial audio cables have been discontinued due to problems with them thus subtracting the digital audio feature from the 200A5 for now. This is not enough to affect the overall score of the 200A5.

Service and Support

While VPR Matrix is in itself a brand, chances are that your laptop may at one point get serviced through Best Buy should something go wrong with it. Our experience with Best Buy was very poor and we recommend that you call VPR Matrix tech support directly and have them deal with any problems. Turn around time on a serviced laptop using Best Buy is about 4-6 weeks. If you call VPR Matrix directly, they will most likely overnight you a box to ship your laptop back to them with. VPR Matrix turnaround is about 5-7 business days much better than Best Buy’s. All VPR Matrix notebookscome with a one year parts and labor warranty. There is no warranty upgrade option either like most notebook manufacturers offer and we feel Best Buy’s protection plan is not worth the $250 dollar cost.

Conclusion

The VPR Matrix 200A5 is a fantastic full featured laptop. It is packed with great components, looks sexy and is very innovative. While there are some problems that need to be addressed such as the integrated wireless networking and the digital sound, there is a lot the 200A5 has to offer. The 200A5 is as fast as an Intel 2GHz Pentium 4-m notebook can get and and just as rugged. For those wanting an Apple PowerBook feel with Windows OS and functionality, the 200A5 is about as close as you can get. Head to your local Best Buy and grab the 200A5 before it’s too late.

Come participate in the largest VPR Matrix community on the net, right here on Designtechnica’s message boards.

Editors' Recommendations

Ian Bell
I work with the best people in the world and get paid to play with gadgets. What's not to like?
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