Speakers and CPU Upgrade Access
Located at the upper right and left of the keyboard are the two stereo speakers. These are covered by a protective plate that also covers the access to the CPU. Under the access plate we can see 2x 5watt Laptop speakers. These speakers, while being somewhat small, do put out better sound that we have seen on a lot of other notebooks.
Under the speaker access you will find the CPU covered with a heatpipe. The unit we were supplied with came with a Mobile Pentium 4-M 2.0GHz supporting Speedstep technology. While most of us know what Speedstep is, there are a few of us who aren't aware of what it does. For the benefit of those out there, here is a brief rundown of what is involved.
Speedstep is a power saving technology that is built into Intel's latest mobile CPU's. This technology, when equipped with a mobile chipset series, allows the CPU to throttle itself when not is use. What this means is when the CPU is idle, Speedstep identifies the reduction in load and drops the CPU speed back to 1.2GHz and drops the CPU core voltage from 1.5v down to 1.0v. This becomes useful when running a system on a battery. Since people are wanting faster notebooks for their computing needs, the only way to keep battery power is to implement a new power saving technology.
The CPU sits in a standard Socket 478 connector, making it fully compatible with desktop CPU's. With the 533MHz FSB support supplied by the 651 chipset you can stick a 3.0GHz into the system with Hyper Threading. While this will give a great boost in performance, your battery will die in about 30 minutes due to the lack of Speedstep on the desktop CPU.
Hard Disk Drive and Optical Storage
Using a 2.5" IBM Travelstar 4200RPM 20GB drive as stock standard, you do experience some slowdowns due to the low RPM's of the Hard Disk. But like the CPU and memory, you can replace it with any 2.5" IDE laptop HDD, which includes the new 5400 and 6200RPM units.
The Optical Storage unit that is supplied standard with the Excel is a 16x DVD, 32x CD ROM, 24x CD-RW combination unit. Since the unit doesn't come with a floppy disk drive, it is good to see a CD-RW added to the mix to transfer data off the hard disk.
V.92 Fax/Data Modem
While most of the laptops today have built in modems, it is rather odd to see a Mini PCI version modem. The unit comes with the ECS V.92 MiniPCI modem. The reason behind this is simple; the modem can be upgraded beyond V.92 standards. Another point is that MiniPCI internal xDSL modems should be available soon. The simple process of removing the existing modem and installing the ADSL modem will be a snap and plug operation.
Unlike the ECS I-Buddie, the Excel G550 uses standard SO-DIMM DDR memory modules. These modules are 200-pin and range from 128MB to 1GB modules. Two sockets are located on the board. One is on the bottom under the small expansion flap and the other is under the keyboard, which requires a partial dismantle of the system to access the other SO-DIMM socket.
Due to the use of the M651 Northbridge, this notebook can accommodate either DDR-266 memory or DDR-333 memory. DDR-333 on a notebook allows for a much greater memory bandwidth to complete office applications and various games.
Battery and Recharge System
Another of the major difference between the G550 and the I-Buddie is the G550 comes with a built in battery system. This battery is a very large 8 cell Lithium Ion battery with a maximum rating of 75 watts. This translates in to a total system online time of 124 minutes at 100% load. When sitting in Speedstep state your system online time is 187 minutes.
To recharge the battery, a Liteon 19v 3.4A universal recharger is supplied. This is simply an AC to DC converter to pump out a constant 19v for the system to run on and recharge the internal battery. The unit is designed to run in all countries with automatic voltage setting to either 110v or 230v. With interchangeable input lines, all you need is the one for your country and you can run this notebook anywhere.