The Advent Sienna 710 is pitched as a powerful, yet affordable, entertainment laptop that's ideal for use around the home. Its price tag of £700 is quite reasonable, given that it includes a muscular Core i7 processor, but does it have the chops to cut it as a family PC?
Rise and shine
With a depth of 35mm, the Sienna's chassis is rather chunky by 15-inch standards. Advent has done a decent job of disguising this by giving it nicely curved and sloping edges. We're also fans of the wave pattern used on the glossy, deep blue lid and the dotted grid that graces the otherwise shiny trackpad. Although the matte finish of the keyboard surround is probably scratch-resistant, it looks a little flat next to the glossy screen surround.
The keyboard uses the increasingly popular isolated-key design that proved a hit when it first appeared on Apple's MacBook range. It's suitably large and the layout is good -- it even includes a full numerical keypad on the right-hand side. It does flex a little when you apply pressure, but this isn't very noticeable when you're typing at speed.
As we've come to expect with consumer-focused laptops, the 15.6-inch screen on the Sienna has a glossy coating. This generally makes it more reflective, although the Sienna doesn't fair too badly in this regard. The glossy sheen does have the added benefit of making colours look very bright and vivid. The 710's display resolution is pretty average, though, at just 1366x768 pixels.
For a 15-inch machine, this laptop's quota of three USB ports is a little bit on the stingy side, as many of its similarly sized rivals manage to pack in four or more. There is some consolation in the fact that one of the ports is enabled for sleep-and-charge, so you can use it to charge devices like cameras and MP3 players when the laptop is turned off. As well as a VGA port for connecting the laptop to an external display, Advent has added an HDMI port. Because this carries both audio and video over a single lead, it makes it much easier to hook the laptop up to an HD-Ready TV. For connecting to the net, there's both Ethernet and 801.11n Wi-Fi. Sadly, Advent hasn't added Bluetooth support to the wireless mix.
Too hot to handle
The Sienna is built around a dual-core Intel Core i7-620M processor, running at 2.6GHz. This is a very fast chip, so it's no surprise that this CPU, with the help of 4GB of on-board memory, managed to push the laptop to an impressive score of 6,426 in PCMark05. This shows the laptop has performance to burn and will easily slice through taxing tasks such as HD video-editing. On the flip side, this speed puts serious strain on the laptop's battery life. The Sienna lasted just over an hour in our intensive Battery Eater test, which isn't too flash.
There's another issue that concerns us, however. The i7 can run quite hot and therefore needs significant cooling. Rather than have the heat blown out of the side or rear of the laptop, Advent has chosen to exhaust it via the bottom. This means you can't actually use it on your lap. In fact, there's even a sticker on the bottom warning you that the bottom of the laptop gets hot, and to only use it on a hard surface.
The on-board Intel GMA HD graphics can't keep pace with the impressive CPU. As a result, the laptop's gaming performance is a washout. It only scored 1,511 in the 3DMark06 benchmark, so frame rates in the latest 3D games are going to be pretty dire. All is not lost on the entertainment front, however, as the Sienna's speakers are actually rather good. They're capable of producing a little more bass than most and, therefore, sound more solid than other 15-inch laptops.
The i7 processor means the Advent Sienna 710 really does pack a powerful punch when it comes to multitasking performance. This leaves the laptop a little lopsided in its specification, though, since the graphics chip can't keep up with the CPU. Overall, we think there are laptops with a more balanced specification that may be more suitable for family use. However, if you're simply looking for raw performance, it's certainly a reasonably priced option.
Edited by Emma Bayly