With so many laptops and notebooks available on the market today, potential buyers are both spoiled for choice as well as daunted by it. Making a decision when buying a high-end or gaming laptop may sometimes be easier than choosing an entry-level laptop, especially when you’re looking for something with quality performance on a tight budget. The market becomes a very challenging place when searching for the basics, but still need the reliability as a daily driver. Having recently received the Mecer Xpression Z140C Notebook for review, it was evident from the start that the unit was aimed at students and on-the-go businessmen. But can a unit still meet the daily performance demands at its budget price point?
Build and Design
Right from the off the Mecer Xpression Z140C Notebook is different to many other units. For starters, it has a predominantly white plastic build. The all-over white frame is not something you see too often with modern-day notebooks. The white, however, is contrasted by means of the black keys, touchpad and screen. Given the white frame, I feel that the colours could have extended to further around the device just to tie the aesthetics together. There’s no getting away from the plastic, though, even with the faux, brushed aluminium design. Thankfully, the unit has a decent enough build so you won’t have to worry about it falling apart on you, even when under a bit of stress. I didn’t pick up any creeks or too much bend during normal usage, which is also a good sign when it comes to the longevity of the product, especially when purchasing a budget unit.
The notebook is fairly nimble with a frame measuring just 333x220x18mm and which weighs only around 1.4KG. Keeping the weight to a minimum for a budget device is no small feat, so it is definitely something worth mentioning. In terms of physical connectivity options, there are a few. The unit has x1 USB 3.0 port, x1 USB 2.0 port, a mini-HDMI port, 3.5mm auxiliary port, as well as a built-in microSD card reader.
Keeping the weight to a minimum for a budget device is no small feat, so it is definitely something worth mentioning.
The design, however, isn’t without issues. For starters, while the keyboard keys aren’t too shabby, the layout is a bit questionable. The positioning of the power button as one of the keys has always been a pet peeve for me with a few laptops in recent times, but on the Z140C the button is placed where most other units would position their “delete” key. This meant that for the first few uses I accidentally pressed the power button, only to put the unit to sleep. Thankfully, turning it back on wasn’t a tedious waiting game as it simply powered back on to the same spot I had left it.
The second design choice I took issue with was the strange decision to make the power jack the exact same size as the 3.5mm jack. On one or two occasions I almost made the mistake of plugging in the power cord into the 3.5mm jack only to realise that it wasn’t the correct port. I can only hope that nothing would happen if someone were to accidentally do just that.
The final issue I had is more down to build than the design. I’m not the biggest fan of the touchpad, to begin with, but the one fitted to the Z140C was probably one of the worst I’ve used in quite some time. When testing it out, I found that the precision of the touchpad using the cursor is far from great. I’d often have to make minute adjustments only to hope that I land on the correct spot to select what I wanted. To make matters worse, both the touch gesture and buttons aren’t great either when you need to click on a button once you’ve managed to align the cursor. Clicking on the physical keys takes a lot more effort than should be necessary, with the gesture-based button not picking up the tap at least 50% of the time. I quickly switched back to my wireless mouse before too long.
Screen and Display
The Z140C has a reasonably-sized, 14″ IPS panel, which has a matte finish, so it doesn’t reflect too much light. The unit sports the standard 1366x768px resolution, which in itself isn’t bad either given that many larger-screened units also have the same resolution with much lower pixel density. The panel isn’t the brightest around, but delivers good colour reproduction. Where the display does struggle is with deep blacks and contrast, making the images appear washed on the whole.
The panel isn’t the brightest around, but delivers good colour reproduction.
The screen has a 175° tilt. So you can almost flip the lid open to be flush against the surface when tilted backwards. The viewing angles are a bit of a mixed bag, with good enough visibility when viewing straight on, even when tilted back, but losing quite a bit of detail and colour when viewed off to the sides. This isn’t an entertainment device by any means, so having more than one or two people viewing the screen isn’t a scenario we can expect the Z140C to find itself in often.
Performance and Battery
When it comes to outright performance, the Mecer Xpression Z140C Notebook isn’t going to win many races, if any. The unit features Intel’s entry-level CPU in the form of the Intel Atom x5-Z8350, which has a clockspeed of 1.44Ghz. This, however, can be boosted to around 1.92Ghz if you’re proficient enough to know how to go about things. The unit is powered by Intel HD Graphics, which definitely isn’t for any gaming, as it gets by just enough to play movies at 720p resolution. The remain specifications include 2GB DDR3 RAM, Windows 10 64-Bit Home OS as well as 32GB SanDisk NAND flash memory (eMMC). Where the outright CPU performance isn’t going to do much in terms of boosting the numbers, the flash memory picks up a lot of the slack. That means that bootup times and general processing of tasks from storage is quite quick. While I know that the unit is an entry-level one, I would have loved to see a boost to 64GB or even 128G of flash storage for good measure, which would mean that students would be able to work on their larger projects from the main drive instead of having to rely on external storage to accommodate the overall capacity requirement.
You’ll still be able to process your Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents without too much fuss, but may be bogged down when trying to utilise all three concurrently.
While I was able to manage most tasks with relative ease, I found that multi-tab browsing on the Z140C to be fairly challenging. With the low CPU performance and lack of RAM, using more than three tabs at a time could result in a decrease in performance, which reveals itself as a lag or stutter every so often. You’ll still be able to process your Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents without too much fuss, but may be bogged down when trying to utilise all three concurrently.
When it comes to battery life, the unit delivered quite impressive results, which I wasn’t quite expecting. The unit has a listed 10,000mAh battery and a factory benchmark of around 10 hours of continuous use. I found that during testing the battery would last between eight and nine hours on average, but on a few occasions pushing well beyond the nine-hour mark. I mentioned previously that I had issues with the design of the charger, being able to fit into the 3.5mm jack, but in all fairness, the unit is quite small. If need be, users could carry the charger around in their pockets for true portability. Charging isn’t all that fast, however, taking between two and three hours to complete, but on most days you’d probably only have to do that once or twice if you’re on the move.
One of the great aspects about the Mecer Xpression Z140C Notebook is that it’s a notebook designed and built in South Africa. Mecer has done a really good job at manufacturing this device, which is aimed at students and businessmen on a budget. At a retail price of R2,999 – with a few deals even below the R2,500 mark – it is an impressive and enticing buy. No frills, no enhanced features you don’t need, just affordability.
Mecer Xpression Z140C
- Extremely affordable
- Great battery life
Ease of Learning
Ease of Use
Value for Money