Notebookcheck

Review Packard Bell Dot S2 Netbook

by Sebastian Jentsch 03/16/2010

One of Many?

The Dot s2 is the second netbook generation from Packard Bell. Despite the comparably weak battery and the low weight of 1.2 kilograms, the 10 incher can stay remote from the mains for up to 11 hours. What's in the runtime bolide for 299 euro?

Packard Bell Dot S2 Netbook
Packard Bell Dot S2 Netbook

Those who want to attract attention with a netbook these days need striking colors, structured surfaces, an Nvidia Ion GPU or at least phat runtimes beyond the 10 hour mark. The Asus Eee PC Karim Rashid  addresses the lifestyle division with its structured looks. The Dell Mini 1012  is aimed at entertainment fans with a Broadcom HD chip and the Asus Eee PC 1201 approaches the tech-fans among netbook users with an Ion chip set.

The Packard Bell Dot s2 at hand doesn't have any of these qualities. The 10 incher would like to be seen as an ordinary netbook for entertainment, for surfing and for mobile communication. For this, Packard Bell uses Intel's new Pine Trail platform with an Atom N450 processor. The connections are, as always, austere and the display isn't of the anti-reflective kind. With a battery life of 5:30 to 11:00 hours determined in the test, the s2 lasts for a long time without an outlet. We would like to fathom if the soft criteria like workmanship, waste heat or input devices provide reason for a rage.

Case

Matt surfaces and a solid case
Matt surfaces and a solid case
Nice details
Nice details

Packard Bell provides a solidly built netbook case. We especially like the stiff lid. We could pick the mini up at the edges or the upper corners. Nothing twisted. The lid's surface is sensitive to scratches, but it can only be dent with great pressure. The chassis is comparatively stable. We can only twist it with both hands and force. The battery fits very tight in its compartment and doesn't wobble. The base plate can only be depressed slightly in a few places and leaves a fairly superior impression, despite the plastic look.

The hinges move rather stiffly, but sit tight in their anchorage. Users will definitely need both hands to open it. The maximum opening angle has been chosen well. Even taller people can open the lid very far in order to adjust the display in an ideal viewing position.

Connectivity

Webcam
Webcam

Restrained but typically mobile - That describes the Dot s2's connections the best. On the right, in the Kensington lock's vicinity, we find the port for the network cable. The same side is finished with a cardreader in the front, as well as the headphone and microphone jack.

A small detail that we like: The 3.5 mm audio jacks for headphones, external loudspeakers or a microphone are reinforced by a metal ring. This almost excludes a breaking of the sockets. Most jacks are made completely of plastic. The USB ports don't have a charge function. The iPod or cell phone can, therefore, only be charged when the PC is running.

The case's left presents a VGA connection and two USB ports. The user can chain the mini to the table via Kensington lock. The included soft case has a slight cushioning for shocks and scratches. The flap has a slightly unfavorable cut and sticks out in a closed condition.

The inconspicuous VGA webcam supplies somewhat pallid but natural colors in indoor light conditions. The signal noise of the 640 x 480 pixel test images are surprisingly low. The fast adaption of changed light conditions is positive.

Front: No connections
Front: No connections
Left: DC-in, VGA, 2x USB
Left: DC-in, VGA, 2x USB
Rear: no connections
Rear: no connections
Right: Cardreader, audio, USB, Kensington, LAN
Right: Cardreader, audio, USB, Kensington, LAN

The manufacturer doesn't want to leave the user alone with its data chaos.  If it has to be a netbook, then at least properly in sync with the PC - might be the motto. Packard Bell has installed a software suite for this. Automatic backups or synchronizations can be set up with it.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The keyboard doesn't belong to one of the highlights, but it's useable. The keys have a sufficient stroke length, but a slightly indistinct pressure point. The stroke is firm, especially because the keys sit tight on the entire surface. The keys only have a slight gap between them and usually a comparatively big surface. The small enter key proves to be less obstructive  than anticipated in use. With the broad shift key, the hand can simply access the double occupied key above it.

However, the slight differentiation of the keys remains to be a flaw. In opposition to detached keys, the fingers can barely feel the junction to the neighboring key. A compromise in terms of keyboard quality is almost inevitable in a netbook, though.

Touchpad

The multi-touch pad from Alps has multi-touch functionality. Scrolling with two fingers or zooming by spreading of the same - Only these actions are possible with the mouse substitute. The pad's surface, sensitive up to its edges, has a barely palpable perforation. Because the pad is on the same level as the wrist-rest, typists can touch it unintentionally and trigger unwanted actions. The mouse substitute can be disabled via a function key in this case. The pad keys have a good stroke length but click unnecessarily loud.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Arrow keys
Arrow keys
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Packard Bell has never ever built in matt displays into its netbooks. This is not different in the Dot s2. A native resolution of 1024x600 pixels of the 10.1 inch WSVGA display is the current standard of mini notebooks. Low contrasts are, unfortunately, almost characteristic for the low-priced notebook class. We record 248:1 at a very high brightness of 256 cd/m2.

If such a low WSVGA resolution of 1024x600 pixels bothers you, you unfortunately can't force the display resolution to an interpolated, higher resolution. Thus, while looking at websites we often experience that we have to scroll a lot because the website is only displayed as a narrow stripe.

243
cd/m²
254
cd/m²
246
cd/m²
252
cd/m²
248
cd/m²
255
cd/m²
273
cd/m²
264
cd/m²
267
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 273 cd/m²
Average: 255.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 89 %
Center on Battery: 248 cd/m²
Black: 1.37 cd/m²
Contrast: 181:1

The displayed screen's brightness doesn't have to hide with the achieved 256 cd/m2. That is a very high average rate, which even slightly surpasses the high brightness of  the Samsung's N220. The illumination is extraordinarily homogeneous. The luminosity at the edges doesn't drop, it even increases.

Outdoors - frontal
Outdoors - frontal
Outdoors - lateral
Outdoors - lateral

Packard Bell builds in a glare-type display. Thus, a reflection weak surfing in sunlight is made impossible. The 10.1 inch screen meets its limits in blazing sunshine, despite its good brightness. If you look for a shadowy place or evade direct sun incidence, you can definitely work well on the go.  However, you'll have to count with disturbing sources of varying light conditions in the train, during the car ride or on the camping site.

The Packard Bell Dot s2's viewing angles are good on the horizontal plane. Writing remains readable and colors are barely falsified up to about 50 degrees. But the image dims. Our eyes can stray up to 20 degrees before the image dims on the vertical plane. We experience extremely inverted color and a very dark display at a 45 degree deviation from above.

Viewing angles Packard Bell Dot S2
Viewing angles Packard Bell Dot S2

Performance

The Pine Trail netbook, Packard Bell Dot s2, is based on an Intel Atom N450 processor (1x1.66 GHz) with integrated GMA 3150 graphics. The processor has, as its Atom N270 and N280 predecessors, a small L2 cache of 512 KB. The performance data is basically on par with the Atom predecessor generation. Intel's hyperthreading technology makes a virtual core available for applications. Thus, the single-core can work with a multitasking OS, such as Windows 7 or XP, despite the weak clock rate.

The Atom N450 is supported by 1024 MB main memory and a 160 GB hard disk from Hitachi. The graphics, GMA3150, can borrow up to 256 MB from the RAM; the rest remains available for programs and operating systems.

Graphic performance is a foreign word for netbooks. This is also the case for the Dot s2. The DirectX-9 GPU (GMA 3150) is integrated into the processor and contributes just as little as its predecessors (GMA 950, GMA 500). The classic benchmark 3DMark2006, for example, finishes with 145 points.

Starter gaming notebooks with comparably weak dedicated graphic cards achieve 5000 to 6500 points in 3DMark2006. There is no HD support for the GPU. Result: The Dot s2 also inherits the flaw of the old netbook generation. 720p and 1080p encoded videos can't be played smoothly. But this isn't a tragedy because the 10.1 inch display can't present HD Ready anyway. Thus, YouTube clips or movies don't necessarily have to be played in HD on the Dot s2.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info GPUZ
System info HDTune
System information Packard Bell Dot S2
No stress: DPC Latency Checker
No stress: DPC Latency Checker

Packard Bell has installed a Windows 7 Starter 32 bit in order to make a low retail price possible. But no matter if with or without 64 bit, the synthetic processor benchmarks underline the Atom's N450 low performance. The Cinebench Multi CPU test merely achieves 859 points. Already a Pentium T4200 achieves 3489 points.

The application performance under Windows 7 is more important for a netbook. This doesn't appear to be particularly high. Directories, files or new programs first open with a noticeable delay. These delays become really evident as soon as programs run simultaneously. Listening to music with five browser tabs open and to type in the mail client at the same time? This scenario only works with frustrating delays.

That's not a real notebook feeling. But a Dot s2 doesn't have to accomplish this in order to meet its obligations. Mobility especially matters. Mobile surfing and checking emails always work. But the Packard Bell Dot s2 isn't a notebook replacement anyway.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
567
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
859
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
294
Help
2.4
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
2.4
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
4.5
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
3
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
3
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.4
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE2740 points
3DMark 05304 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
145 points
Help
160 GB - 5400 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 31.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 65.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 48.7 MB/s
Access Time: 18.8 ms
Burst Rate: 127.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 100 %

The Hitachi HDD (HTS545016B9A300) with a gross capacity of only 160 Gbytes reaches a weak data throughput in HDTune. 48.7 MB/s (Sequential Read Test) isn't up-to-date in 2.5 inch notebook hard disks. The HDD isn't audible even under profound reading and writing head activity. The hard disk can be easily replaced by a bigger one over the base plate. Users should however create a backup data carrier with the Packard Bell Software Suite prior to this.

Emissions

Not a vent but rather a loudspeaker
Not a vent but rather a loudspeaker

System Noise

One of Packard Bell Dot s2's advantages is its low system noise. A sound in use is frequently non-existent. The measured 29.5 dB (A) are produced only by the hard disk's gentle purring. Surfing in the web (flash animations) or playing music is already enough to activate the fan, though. But it isn't at all loud: 31.1 dB(A).

When the active fan really has to step on it, its level increases to merely 32.1 dB(A). We could only provoke this maximum volume in the stress test with Prime95, though. So there are only two levels of the active cooling: On and full speed.

Noise Level

Idle 29.5 / 29.5 / 29.5 dB(A)
HDD 29.7 dB(A)
Load 31.1 / 32.1 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)
Stresstest: N450's temperature: max. 61 Grad
Stresstest: N450's temperature: max. 61 Grad

Temperature

The temperature stays - no matter what we do with the s2 - on the floor. The highest waste heat that we can determine on the case is 43.3 degrees Celsius (bottom, louver vicinity). The Dot s2 has been put under processor load for two hours for this, though. The upper side's average temperature during the stress test is merely 27.5 degrees Celsius. The temperature at the processor reaches 61 degrees Celsius at most in the tests. A risk of overheating on the inside, as well as out, can be excluded.

If you're not planning to do any stress tests with the Packard Bell Dot s2, but only want to write emails or watch video clips, you can take delight in pleasant temperatures of circa 27.5 degrees (upper side).

Max. Load
 31.1 °C27.1 °C24.4 °C 
 31.5 °C27.1 °C24.3 °C 
 31.9 °C28.5 °C22.9 °C 
Maximum: 31.9 °C
Average: 27.6 °C
26.1 °C29.8 °C43.3 °C
26.4 °C28.6 °C35 °C
22.4 °C26.6 °C28.7 °C
Maximum: 43.3 °C
Average: 29.7 °C
Power Supply (max.)  26.7 °C | Room Temperature 19.4 °C

The stereo loudspeakers, placed underneath the wrist-rest, supply a balanced sound for netbook standards.  Due to the missing subwoofer, there are of course no basses. Trebles and midranges are emitted balanced, though. The small membranes don't start to scratch even at maximum volume. The hands on the wrist-rest only distort the sound slightly. However, the 10.1 incher has to be placed on a level surface. If a thick carpet or a blanket covers the loudspeakers, they naturally can't emit a balanced sound then.

Connecting external loudspeakers over the headphone-out is the tip for ambitioned music fans. We've tested this with two Yamaha speakers (YST-M20SDP). The netbook's tethered level is strong enough to allow even faintly amplified speakers to be turned up loud.

Battery Life

WLAN 337 min
WLAN-Test 337 min
Charged 191 min
Charged battery 191 min

When the maximum possible energy savings measures are applied, the Dot s2 achieves a proud 11:00 hours. The PC bobbed along with disabled WLAN/Bluetooth and the lowest brightness setting in these 660 minutes. Thus, these 11 hours are an unrealistic specification (maximum possible runtime). The realistic battery life will likely be between 5 and 8 hours. The WLAN and DVD test are indicators for that.

How long will it last in WLAN surfing? The battery is drained after 5:37 hours because we visited news sites with lively flash animations. Video clips didn't belong to the test situation this time. The LED screen ran on a medium level during this, so a bit over 150 cd/m2.

Due to it lacking an optical drive, we've used an external USB drive for the DVD movie. It has its own power supply. The Dot s2 therefore only has to be on call for decoding the movie and operating the USB ports power. The movie first came to an end after 5:32 hours (342 minutes).

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
11h 00min
WiFi Surfing
5h 37min
DVD
5h 42min
Load (maximum brightness)
4h 52min

A low power consumption has always been the credo of the netbook category. Intel's Pine Trail platform provides the necessary requirements. The memory controller and graphic card are in the Atom processor, which reduces the power consumption and boosts the runtimes, as can be seen. It's remarkable that the Dot s2 reaches the runtimes above despite the fairly low battery capacity of 4400 mAh (48 Wh). The measurements of the average efficient power from the outlet (without battery) now show us why the runtimes are so good anyway.

The activated Dot s2 needs a minimum of 4.8 watts. When the brightness is maximized and the wireless modules are running, it's still even only 7.1 watts. If you put the Dot s2 under a real demand and both the hard disk and CPU have to work, you can boost the power requirement up to 14.1 watts (stress test plus graphic test).

Important for energy savers is also a low power consumption in standby and in a deactivated state. Our multimeter merely measured 0.3 watts (standby) and 0.4 watts (off). This hasn't been mixed up.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.4 / 0.3 Watt
Idle 4.8 / 6,6 / 7.1 Watt
Load 12.6 / 14.1 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

Dot s2: A lot of netbook for 299 euro
Dot s2: A lot of netbook for 299 euro

The Packard Bell Dot s2 retrieves many of the points that a netbook can seize nowadays. The solid case, the long battery life of 5 to 8 hours and the pleasant soundscape is worth mentioning. The input devices aren't perfect, as their keys are very close to each other. But a self test proves that you can work with them adequately.

The reflective 10.1 inch display is detrimental for the mobility claim. It's nice and bright but it can't stand up to reflections in direct sunlight.

The Packard Bell Dot s2 is available for starting at 299 euro in retail. The 160 GB hard disk isn't up-to-date but there is a Bluetooth module onboard and a Mini PCI ExpressCard slot is ready for any upgrades. Windows 7 is the bargain. Buyers who are looking for a good netbook with a long battery life and low weight can't do much wrong with the Packard Bell Dot s2. Potential buyers just shouldn't expect performance. The Dot s2 is a netbook for a mobile internet visit and checking emails.

Packard Bell Dot S2 mit Intels Pine Trail Plattform
Packard Bell Dot S2
In Review: Packard Bell Dot S2
In Review:  Packard Bell Dot S2

Specifications

Packard Bell Dot S2
Processor
Intel Atom N450 1.66 GHz
Memory
1024 MB 
Display
10.1 inch 10:6, 1024x600 pixel, AUOB101AW03 V0, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel NM10
Harddisk
160 GB - 5400 rpm, 160 GB 
5400 rpm Hitachi HTS545016B9A300
Soundcard
Realtek ALC269 @ Intel 82801GBM ICH7-M - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Line-out, mic, Card Reader: SD. MMC, xD, MS/Pro,
Networking
Atheros AR8132 PCI-E Fast Ethernet Controller (10/100MBit), Atheros AR5B93 Wireless Network Adapter (a b g n ), Broadcom 2046 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 29 x 249 x 195 ( = 1.14 x 9.8 x 7.68 in)
Weight
1.199 kg ( = 42.29 oz) Power Supply: 190 g ( = 6.7 oz)
Battery
48 Wh Lithium-Ion, UM09H31 10.8V 4.400mAh
Price
299 Euro
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Starter 32 Bit
Additional features
Webcam: 1.3 MP, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Little details freshen up the silver black look (power button).
Little details freshen up the silver black look (power button).
Praiseworthy: Despite the low price, a soft skin case is included.
Praiseworthy: Despite the low price, a soft skin case is included.
The adapter is made up of two parts.
The adapter is made up of two parts.
It's made suitable for German outlets by a plug insert.
It's made suitable for German outlets by a plug insert.
If you use the Dot s2 outside, you'll be overwhelmed by reflections.
If you use the Dot s2 outside, you'll be overwhelmed by reflections.
The good brightness can partly compensate this flaw, though
The good brightness can partly compensate this flaw, though
If the memory capacity of 160 GB is soon too small,
If the memory capacity of 160 GB is soon too small,
the cover on the bottom is simply opened and the hard disk exchanged.
the cover on the bottom is simply opened and the hard disk exchanged.
The upgrade fan will find an empty mini PCI Express slot
The upgrade fan will find an empty mini PCI Express slot
and a slot occupied by a one gigabyte RAM.
and a slot occupied by a one gigabyte RAM.
There's no software in the scope of delivery. The user has to burn a recovery DVD via an external drive.
There's no software in the scope of delivery. The user has to burn a recovery DVD via an external drive.
you can use the mini on the desk without the battery.
you can use the mini on the desk without the battery.
The power button lights up in blue.
The power button lights up in blue.
The LED indicators for WLAN & Bluetooth are on the right.
The LED indicators for WLAN & Bluetooth are on the right.
This is not a button!
This is not a button!
It lights up when active: red (WLAN) or blue (Bluetooth).
It lights up when active: red (WLAN) or blue (Bluetooth).
The work surface looks cleaned up and sober,
The work surface looks cleaned up and sober,
and the close sitting keys are in a very tight room.
and the close sitting keys are in a very tight room.
The Packard Bell logo shouldn't be left out on the wrist-rest.
The Packard Bell logo shouldn't be left out on the wrist-rest.
The connectivity is netbook standard. Here, the cardreader (right).
The connectivity is netbook standard. Here, the cardreader (right).
If you forgo on the mobility factor,
If you forgo on the mobility factor,
Aside from power and WLAN/Bluetooth, the status LEDs also glow with a certain diffusion.
Aside from power and WLAN/Bluetooth, the status LEDs also glow with a certain diffusion.

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Compare Prices

Pro

+Battery life of 5 to 8 hours
+Bright display
+Quiet & cool
+Solid workmanship
+Bluetooth module
+Low weight
 

Cons

-Reflective display
-Contrast weak display

Shortcut

What we like

A simple netbook in a stable case.

What we miss

If the display had been matt, it could have been the perfect outdoor companion.

What surprises us

Stark runtimes - even without a 6000 mAh battery. Pine Trail and Packard Bell prove how little energy a netbook needs.

The competitors

The Asus Eee PC 1005P, starting at about 270 euro and the Eee PC 1001P with Windows XP (249 euro) are up front in terms of price. A more expensive and also more striking alternative is the Eee PC 1008P Karim Rashid. The MSI Wind U135 is already to be had for starting at 319 euro, but the battery life isn't quite as good as the Packard Bell's Dot s2. And if you want a matt display, you'll snatch the Samsung N220.

Rating

Packard Bell Dot S2
03/16/2010
Sebastian Jentsch

Chassis
85%
Keyboard
80%
Pointing Device
84%
Connectivity
68%
Weight
94%
Battery
98%
Display
84%
Games Performance
30%
Application Performance
56%
Temperature
86%
Noise
97%
Add Points
80%
Average
79%
86%
Netbook *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Packard Bell Dot S2 Netbook
Author: Sebastian Jentsch, 2010-03-21 (Update: 2013-06- 6)