Centrino Duo Whitebook: A Do-It-Yourself Laptop
Overall, our Whitebook performed very well in our benchmarks. It did especially well in the general usage benchmarks thanks to its combination of a fast Core Duo T2600 processor, 1GB of DDR2 667 and 80GB SATA/150 hard drive. We were somewhat surprised that it was able to best the Dell XPS M1710 in several tests even though it has the same processor, but double the RAM. We originally thought the additional RAM would allow the M1710 to edge out our Whitebook but it turns out that for business applications and content creation, quick hard drive access prevailed over having loads of memory.
The gaming test results were unsurprising, with our Whitebook scoring in the middle of the pack. It's worthy of note that although the X1600 isn't a hard-core gaming solution, it did perform well in the games we threw at it. Quake 4 was very playable, although we had to turn the quality settings down to maintain a consistently good frame rate during especially stressing areas of the game.
With regards to customizability, Laptops have come a long way, however, we don't think they're quite there yet. While Whitebooks offer a commendable amount of upgradeability, the fact that the motherboard cannot be changed is a severe limiting factor. Chassis, cooling, motherboard and power system designs continue to be very proprietary and still lack interoperability between brands and even models within the same product line. Our particular Whitebook used an integrated graphics solution which further limited the overall upgradeability of the Laptop.
Laptops will not be able to achieve the same level of upgradeability as Desktop PCs until the ODMs decide to sit down and agree on some standards. We've now reached the point where the industry has standards in place for almost every Laptop component but the chassis, cooling solutions, motherboard and power system. The lack of unifying form factors (similar to those for Desktop PCs, like ATX) for the Laptop is the primary roadblock preventing Laptops from reaching the same level of upgradeability and customizability that Desktop PC users have enjoyed for years.
Having said all of that, Whitebooks still have a lot to offer in their current state. Despite the previously mentioned limitations, Whitebooks are still very versatile. Thanks to the introduction of MXM, graphics cards can now be upgraded, although retail MXM units are still very elusive. Despite not being able to change the motherboard, Whitebooks utilizing socket S1 and FCPGA6 will enjoy at least one more generation of upgrade options to come, as well as being able to choose from any processor from the current generation.
Whitebooks using Intel's FCPGA6 will be able to upgrade to a Merom once it hits the streets. Intel has promised that all FCPGA6 motherboards will be Merom compatible, although some will require BIOS updates. AMD based Whitebooks utilizing their mobile socket, socket S1, will enjoy even more flexibility since the platform will have a longer life than FCPGA6. Although compatibility with existing units isn't guaranteed, some time down the road, Turions using a 65nm process will appear, utilizing S1. This potentially gives AMD based Whitebooks a couple more years of life.
So what's the bottom line? Are Whitebooks worth the effort? We think so. Although building a Whitebook with the same components as a pre-built from a value-added reseller won't necessarily net you a significant savings, Whitebooks allow you to fine tune where your money is going through out its useful life span. The ability to tailor a Whitebook to your needs, through out its useful life, is the key difference that sets it apart from just picking out a couple of parts that will be in your next pre-built machine.