Usage Impressions and Conclusion

Averatec has seemingly nailed their target market with the N3400, delivering a powerful machine that is still small enough to easily take with you at a price point that won't break the bank. The 1280 x 800 glossy LCD screen looks great. It is plenty bright even at medium settings and viewing angles are above average both horizontally and vertically.

The keyboard is good but not great. I personally dislike the placement of the Function key in the bottom left corner. Also some of the secondary Function buttons are oddly placed. For example, the volume controls on the Function row keys have the Down arrow on the right and the Up arrow on the left. The same goes for brightness controls, which can be a little confusing.

Battery life was good for 2 hours and 44 minutes when sitting idle at the desktop, using 50% screen brightness. We didn't expect much from a 2-cell 5000mAh pack, but given how the battery is internal and thus not swappable it was definitely a letdown. If you rely on a notebook for work, you will need to stay near a power source for a good portion of the day with the N3400.

The downward-firing speaker system is pretty good. Audio is of course louder when using the notebook on a hard flat surface and noticeably quieter when working on a soft surface like a blanket or couch. The overall quality of sound was a bit tinny but didn't distort at the upper end of the spectrum.

Having worked with a lot of netbooks recently, I really appreciate the additional horsepower from Intel's Dual Core T3400 in this system. Sure, it contributes to the less-than-stellar battery life, but I was able to do everything I wanted without any noticeable slowdown or lag. Playing HD videos from YouTube and Hulu only taxed the CPU about 60% at full screen, leaving plenty of spare cycles for multitasking.

When utilizing the CPU to its maximum capacity, the N3400 is a bit on the noisy side, more so than most portables I have worked with. It is about as loud as a standard optical drive when spinning a disc, but then again the system is having to cool a dual core chip which puts out more heat than weaker single core solutions. The cooling system works efficiently, however, as the keyboard and touchpad are barely warm when under full load. On the bottom of the system, heat is expelled via the ventilated slots on the upper left corner, so naturally that area of the notebook is pretty warm. But the remaining areas are all just slightly warm to the touch, making this a suitable system for lap usage. When not being pushed hard, the N3400 remains nice and quiet.

I also appreciated the inclusion of the USB optical drive. This is something missing on all netbooks and several smaller notebooks. I even found myself using the drive with a netbook during testing. It is very convenient indeed.

Overall build quality on the N3400 is nice. The lid is solid and doesn't have a lot of free play. The aluminum outer shell adds a touch of class and I can only wonder what the system would look with a full aluminum body.

Closing Thoughts

The 13.3" Averatec N3400 Ultraportable Notebook currently retails for $800, making for a nice portable system with plenty of processing power to muscle through any task. If you need something a bit more powerful than a netbook but still want something small enough to carry around, the N3400 is worth checking out, but in the end you'll have to decide if performance and portability make up for its poor battery life.

Pros: Slim and stylish design, very capable processor, three USB ports, virtually no junk software bundled, USB optical drive included.

Cons: Dismal battery life, battery is not easily swappable, confusing keyboard layout, hard to access internals.