Intel's new Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) processors promise better energy-efficient performance than the Intel Atom found in many netbooks, but at a lower price than those that use Intel's more mainstream Centrino chips.
As a result, a new wave of affordable 'thin and light' CULV laptops are expected over the next few months, although the first we reviewed, the Asus UX30, was a little too pricey to qualify.
At £600, the Advent Altro certainly seems a better contender, and it has a similarly sleek footprint to the UX30. The silver plastic case doesn't have quite the same cachet, though, and its trim profile is undone by two large air intakes on each side. However, the lack of vents on the underside at least means that the Altro can be safely used on your lap.
Nonetheless, the Altro is still only 21mm thick and has a removable battery. This is perhaps just as well given we found that the battery life for light use was just three hours and two minutes.
A large keyboard and 13.3in glossy screen with a 1,366 x 768 resolution address the two main complaints leveled at most netbooks, and make the Altro much more comfortable to use for long spells. The shiny finish on the trackpad did annoy us, however, because it's much too sticky for a finger to slide across smoothly.
Advent supplies a small port replicator that allows the Altro to sit at the centre of a desktop set-up, supplementing the onboard HDMI and single USB port with Ethernet, VGA and a pair of USB ports, but it does raise one small concern. The replicator plugs into the same port as the power supply and, although it provides a corresponding pass-though port, this takes the form of a bulky proprietary multi-pin fitting rather than the more usual slender circular tip. It looks robust enough, but it will make it more difficult to source a spare power supply, particularly in a pinch.
The low-voltage Celeron M 723 processor inside the Advent Altro is nowhere near as capable as the equally frugal Core 2 Duo CULV chip in the Asus UX30. In fact it's barely quicker than the Intel Atom and, since it's a single-core chip, it doesn't offer any benefits when running multiple applications. It doesn't have the same problems as the Atom when it comes to full-screen video playback, but that's hardly a consolation.
Considering its performance and specification, the Advent Altro is not a big step up from the Eee PC 1101HA, yet it costs considerably more. It has only a fraction of the Eee PC's battery life, and an ultraportable that doesn't last long away from the mains really isn't much use at all.