In a market that’s quite literally flooded with notebooks by premium brands, HCL is one that many people look to for inexpensive, affordable products. The new ME54, one of their latest notebooks to be launched, according to HCL is an eco-friendly one. Is it something that the typcal Indian consumer needs?

Features

The HCL ME54 comes with an LED-backlit 14-inch display that supports a resolution of 1366×768, which is the same sized screen that you get from some of the other vendors. 

HCL EL2 and HCL touch buttons clearly visible on the keyboard

HCL EL2 and HCL touch buttons clearly visible on the keyboard

The processor used on the ME54 is a slightly older Intel Core i5 520M, which is a dual core processor that operates at 2.4 GHz and supports hyperthreading. The processor isn’t part of the new Sandy Bridge line from Intel. There’s 4 GB of DDR3 memory onboard the laptop and a 500 GB, 5400 rpm Hitachi hard drive for storage. There is no discrete graphics solution onboard the notebook, which means you’re left with the integrated graphics controller. Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and WiFi 802.11n is also supported. In most aspects then, the HCL ME54 matches products from other manufacturers in this price range.

There are also features such as the fingerprint scanner as well as a memory card reader, eSATA and HDMI connectivity.

A new eco-friendly notebook from HCL

A new eco-friendly notebook from HCL

We’re also not fond of the customised trackpad. The trackpad has a mode button on it, which lets you use certain areas of it to control the multimedia functions. The mouse function for the trackpad is disabled when you press the mode option. Dedicated controls on the keyboard are also present for some of the other features. The problem arrives when you’re using the trackpad (which by itself isn’t too bad), and you happen to press the Mode feature by mistake. The trackpad is immediately disabled. Fortunately, there is an option to disable the feature completely using the drivers. 

There are a few unique HCL features onboard the laptop as well. For example, there’s an HCL EC2 button on the notebook, which lets you access a quick backup-recovery utility. Another feature is the HCL touch feature, which lets you quickly get in touch with HCL about problems with the notebook over chat.

Design and Build Quality

The exteriors of the HCL ME54 look great. The model we received had a black glossy finish all over with a dark red gradient along the edges with HCL’s ME logo, which makes the laptop look pretty good. The laptop is bulky in thickness, so it’s not the easiest to carry around. At 2.2 kg in weight, it’s roughly the same weight as any other upper entry-level class of notebooks. 

The build quality of the HCL ME54 is where things go wrong. Our biggest complaint is with the buttons that accompany the trackpad. They are lined up along the edge of the notebook, are very hard and therefore annoying to use. Even the keyboard doesn’t feel grounded – there is a lot of movement when you press on the keys especially the ones along the right side. 

Large exhaust vents on the side

Large exhaust vents on the side

The panel holding the screen is sturdy and the hinge doesn’t allow for a lot of movement, which is a good thing. We also noticed that the ME54 ran pretty hot and the fan does make some noise. It’s not loud enough to disturb you but in a quiet room, you can hear it. There wasn’t much heating noticed though.

Performance

The performance of the HCL ME54 is at par with notebooks using Intel’s Core i5 dual core processors. The Core i5 520M churns out a PCMark Vantage score of 4778, which is roughly in the same territory as the Lenovo IdeaPad Z570. Graphics performance isn’t great either. The integrated graphics solution can only manage 1.29 fps on the Cinebench OpenGL test. Hard drive performance isn’t too shabby. Using SiSoft Sandra’s synthetic benchmark, the drive scored a drive index of 66.3 MB/s. In real world tests, we saw speeds touch 72 MB/s for sequential data. We used a 4GB file to do this test.

The video encoding test includes converting a sample video using a x264 encoder. The video conversion completed in 1 min 51 seconds, which is average. The battery on the ME54 lasted for 1 hr 7 minutes on our CPU intensive battery test. This is a bit lower than most of the other laptops we’ve tested. You’re bound to see better performance under normal operating conditions.

Trackpad with upgraded functionality

Trackpad with upgraded functionality

Video quality is pretty good and the notebook can easily handle HD content. Colours on the screen aren’t very vibrant and the contrast levels aren’t very impressive either. The speakers aren’t very loud but they are pretty detailed. They lack a punch due to poor low frequency audio reproduction.

Verdict

The HCL ME54 is an average performer in different areas, but then again, it matches the same performance that you find on other notebooks in this range. Priced at Rs. 39,990, it’s not the cheapest notebook with those features. HCL claims that the ME54 has been designed and manufactured as an eco-friendly product. There are other brands offering similar features but with better build quality. There are several areas that HCL needs to improve on this notebook, beginning with the build quality. Had this notebook been designed better but bundled with much superior hardware or priced lower, we’d have recommended it.

Publish date: May 20, 2011 4:14 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 7:51 pm

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