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Twinhead Durabook D14RI

Date: February 9, 2007
Author(s): Greg King

Are you in the market for a notebook that can take certain punishment? How about one that will survive a drop, spill or being thrown off a bridge? Well, it won’t survive the last one, but it is designed to suit the lifestyle of the clumsy notebook user.



Introduction


Here at Techgage, we tend to focus on the gaming aspects of the PC industry. While true, we do concentrate a lot of time and energy into this section, we are true techies at heart and in saying that, we admit that we love almost everything tech. Our reviews in the past confirm this as we have taken looks at routers, home audio equipment, software and the occasional gadget and this is all in the two years that we have been around.

In that time however, we have only taken a look at one notebook. Back in November, Rob took a look at the ASUS Lamborghini VX1 and for the most part, he liked it quite a bit. Today we have the second notebook to come through our labs on the bench but don’t expect anything glamorous about this one. For what the Lamborghini was to style and multi-media, this notebook is to productivity, durability and hard nosed work.

Today we are working with the Twinhead Durabook D14RI. Having been in business for just under 20 years, Twinhead knows a thing or two about the notebook business. Their popular line of durable notebooks, aptly named “durabooks,” has forgone sleek lines and thin cases for a more rough and tumble image. Armed with a magnesium alloy case, which Twinhead claims is 20 times stronger than ABS plastic, the D14RI is built for those of us who aren’t as careful with our investments as others. Suggesting that the D14RI can survive drops from a reasonable heights, as well as occasional liquid spills, Twinhead has a lot of promise.

Can the D14RI live up to these expectations and provide us the state of mind that one would need if they were worried about breaking their laptop? Aside from that, how does it perform? These are all questions that will be answered over the course of this review.

Closer Look

Coming to us in the retail packaging, the all blue box stands out. While nothing is terribly special about the packaging of the D14RI, the notebook was shipped in a secure, well labeled package. Notice the three small blue, orange and red squares on the front and top of the box. These hint at the strengths, and ultimately the major selling points, for the notebook itself. Twinhead is marketing the Durabook line of notebooks towards the people on the go that need a durable notebook that can survive the occasional mishandling.

The D14RI is securely placed in the box between a pair of foam inserts. These hug the Durabook on either end allowing no movement while in shipping.

Included in the box is the battery, a few CDs, the power brick, documentation and a phone cable. Of the CDs included, there was not an OS disk in the box. Odd but not a mistake, the D14RI did not ship with one.

Once out of the box, we see the D14RI in all its 14.1″ sized glory. The first thing I notice is the rather attractive carbon fiber look to the top of the case with the four rubber/plastic corners. With only a 14.1” screen, the D14RI isn’t exactly the largest of notebooks but when taking into account the market that they are shooting for, the size is well appreciated. The height of the laptop is decent, at 1.7”, and with a weight of roughly 6 pounds (with the 6 cell battery), the D14RI is certainly portable as well. The overall design of the notebook isn’t anything to get to worked up over, but it nice and to the point.

Once open, we see the XGA 14.1” LCD display and a sticker proudly proclaiming that this notebook was assembled in America. Aside from that, the open notebook appears to be a standard laptop with a regular keyboard layout and the standard lights at the top to show battery status as well as HDD activity. The touchpad is a standard touchpad but also has rocker switch that works as a scroll wheel would. Just above the touchpad is a standard 85 key keyboard as well as a pair of buttons. The power button is silver while the green button enables, or disables, WiFi. By default, WiFi is disabled when the notebook boots up.

The keyboard itself, as stated earlier, has 85 keys, and is as solid of keyboard as any I have worked with. The key response is crisp and the overall feel of the board is comfortable. There isn’t much travel in the keys and it doesn’t take much force to push them down. Sound isn’t an issue with the D14RI either. There is little to no noise produced by typing on the keyboard.



Closer Look, Usage and Benchmarking

As we make our way around the notebook, we see the Durabook provides standard connectivity. Starting out in the front, there is just a pair of audio jacks, color coded for output and microphone, as well as a volume wheel. Around the corner, on the right side of the notebook, there is a pair of USB ports, a 56K modem, a CD-R/W / DVD-R/W drive and a serial COM port.

Along the back of the notebook is where the battery resides. There are no connections here. The D14RI uses a 6 cell 4400mAh Li-Ion battery that attaches easily into the back.

On the left side of the notebook, there are lock hole, a power adapter connector, VGA out, 10/100 Ethernet and a PCMCIA slot. One thing to notice is the placement of the power cable. Compared to what I am used to, this is an odd place to put this connector but even with the notebook plugged in, the cable is not that annoying. I would prefer this, as well as the network cable, to be in the back of the notebook but this is something that we all can live with.

Now that we have covered the exterior of the D14RI, lets get into the inside. While not having specs that would make anyone drool, the Durabook isn’t any slouch either. With a single core Dothan Pentium-M, the hardware certainly is starting to age but this notebook was not built with gamers in mind and the specs in the notebook are more than enough for email and office use. Let’s take a look at the Twinhead provided specs.

While these won’t know anyone’s socks off, as stated earlier, the D14RIis more than enough for the market that Durabook is marketing this notebook to. With integrated graphics, there won’t be many games being played on it but we were able to get reasonable frame rates in Warcraft III and Rise of Nations. With this not being a gaming notebook, we didn’t feel the need to test out any more games than that. However, in the next tests, we will actually see what the D14RI is all about.

Twinhead is marketing this line of notebooks to those on the go. People who just need a reliable notebook that can stand up to the tests of time. With these people I mind, Twinhead has set up a few parameters for testing the D14RI. We were allowed to drop the notebook onto the floor, spill water on the keyboard and shake it with all our might. While the shaking wasn’t anything special, the water and the dropping tests are certainly something we were looking forward to.

To start out with, we measured the allowed 30 inches and dropped the notebook to the ground around 5 times. With the CD drive locked shut, we began to test. After each drop, the shut down notebook was booted up and tested to see if everything was in working order. After the first test, we were pleased to note that the entire system worked as it should. On the final drop, the CD drive did pop open but after shutting it, powering on the system and inserting a CD, the drive acted as if nothing had happened.

The water test was a bit trickier. We slowly poured a half cup of water over the keyboard and touchpad 3 different times. Each time, as the water ran across the keyboard, the water would run through the keyboard’s drainage ducts and out the bottom of the notebook. Twice we did this with the notebook off as instructed and on the final pour, the notebook was left on because really, how many people are ever going to spill anything on a closed shut down notebook. If I were to take the D14RI to the coffee shop or library and type on it, it’s going to be on.

After passing each of the tests, the Durabook D14RI has certainly gained quite a few cool points with this editor. After all of this, we are moving onto the benchmarks. As covered earlier, this isn’t exactly a review, but rather an evaluation. We ran few tests on the D14RI and will report on what we found.

Conclusion

There is something to be said about purposely spilling a cup of water onto your notebook and dropping the thing for no better reason than you know that it can take it. While we have done these things, personal mileage may vary and not every notebook will survive this torture. The Durabook was made to survive a majority of these situations and in our tests, that’s just what it did. The design of the D14RI was classy but not incredibly moving. Just like the design, the hardware and specs are nice, but nothing that is going to make anyone take a second look. This is certainly not a LAN party machine here.

The benchmarks were less than amazing but we much keep in perspective that this machine cannot be compared to other notebooks. This is a business class notebook that I would compare to the Nextel line of mobile phones. Sturdy and tough, you know that they will always work no matter what you put them through. While we are not going to award any scores to the Durabook today, I would like to recommend this notebook to anyone who is not interested in gaming. While I would have died without the ability to play games, this is something that I would have loved to have had in college.

Hopping in and out of the bunk and throwing my old notebook in my bag time and time again took a hefty toll on the old thing and is one of the reasons that it’s no longer with me. The D14RI is a notebook that I would almost guarantee against that kind of wear and tear. With all this said, Twinhead’s Durabook line of notebooks is something that we all should look at the next time we are interested in picking up a notebook.

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