Packard Bell EasyNote XS20 - First Look

Packard Bell EasyNote XS20 - First Look

VIA C7-M processor 1.2GHz; 1GB RAM

At the recently concluded SITEX show, Packard Bell sprang a surprise by launching its first UMPC. Dubbed the Packard Bell XS20, it found itself in direct competition with the cheap ASUS Eee PC as the latter also made its maiden appearance at the show. Despite the fact that both are 7-inch clamshell laptops, digging a little deeper showed that both machines actually target different markets. While the Eee PC goes for the basic user with its Linux OS and puny 4GB, the XS20 aims for those who need a little more power with its VIA 1.2GHz processor and larger 30GB storage space. Though one may be tempted to make comparisons with the Kohjinsha SA1 and SH6, the latter is a convertible tablet PC with a touchscreen, while the EasyNote uses a normal LCD.


At S$1,298 (US$853.95), it is twice as costly as its ASUS rival. So the EasyNote XS20 has to rely on its impressive hardware to make a good showing. For the additional cost, you get a 1.2GHz VIA processor, 30GB and the Windows XP platform. Most users probably find the EasyNote a more versatile machine to work with.

An interesting addition is a DVI port in place of a common VGA output. We were a little skeptical about this decision. On the one hand, DVI is certainly the way of the future. On the other, the frequent traveler is more likely to encounter a VGA display than a DVI one. Connectivity-wise, it should suffice for most users with 802.11b/g, Bluetooth and Ethernet ports for network connections. There is also a memory card reader which allows the EasyNote to keep and display your favorite photos.

We have yet to test this, but Packard Bell claims the XS20 can survive up to 3 hours with Wi-Fi turned on. Without the power-sucking wireless hardware activated, the uptime is increased to 5 hours. This is comparable to the Kohjinsha SA1 (which has a larger footprint) and almost as good as the Everun UMPC. But frankly, though it seems impressive compared with the anemic battery life of models such as the LifeBook U1010 and the Eee PC, this kind of uptime should be the bare minimum for UMPCs to really take off.


The design does take getting used to. As Packard Bell has decided to place the Webcam to the right of the screen (which is strange since the top bezel has enough space for it), the screen is slightly off center to the left. It is more of an aesthetic boo-boo than a functional one, as during usage we barely noticed that the display was not dead center to the keyboard.

As previously mentioned, the exclusion of the common VGA output may hamper its use as a mobile presentation device as most projectors offer either VGA or HDMI inputs. Though it is a common drawback among the current crop of UMPCs, we did not like that the native screen resolution stopped at 800 x 480 pixels. More than a few Websites are optimized for a width of 1,024 pixels and, as such, the user will need to scroll left and right to read the page fully.

Like the Gigabyte U60, the X20 has a thumbpad on the right and mouse buttons on the left. Unfortunately, it also suffers from the same lack of precision and tactile feel of the Gigabyte model. We suggest using a mouse if you need to do fine digital work like image editing. Heck, we hated the thumbpad so much that even for simple surfing we'd rather forego this feature and use the keyboard for scrolling instead.


The Packard Bell EasyNote is one of the few UMPCs not to have a touchscreen, but in return offers a processor with above 1GHz clockspeeds as well as DVI output. Though its has a questionable design and annoying thumbpad, the Packard Bell X20 is nonetheless a competent UMPC with a long battery life and good feature set that can give most models a run for their money.