by Ryan Jones
I recently arrived on the market for a new Notebook PC that would be able to make quick work of demanding graphic suites (i.e., Adobe, Dreamweaver, InDesign, etc.) as I am a college student pursuing a career in Graphic Design. Since last contemplating the purchase of a notebook a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the general cost of notebooks has gone down considerably, while the performance has exponentially increased. To the consumer, this translates into getting more for your money and that is definitely an important factor in today's increasingly competitive market.
After I had spent a good couple of weeks investigating what was available, I had narrowed it down to a few different models from ABS, Acer, and HP/Compaq, as these manufacturers seemed to be the premiere makers of notebooks with AMD processors to which I am very partial. Although all the manufacturers had very powerful products available in respect to the Acer Ferarri and ABS Mayhem models, it was HP/Compaq's cutting edge hardware and unbelievable price that eventually managed to sway me into purchasing from them.
Contents of your shipment (larger image)
Working with a budget of spending $2,400 at most, I could've purchased one of the other manufacturer's models, but the Compaq Presario R4000 Customizable model that starts with a currently listed base price of 699.00* after rebates was recently released with some of the newest hardware upgrades available. Even completely upgraded, the final cost of $1607.00 (with rebates and discounts) would allow the purchase of any other desired or required peripherals like a printer, digital camera, and wireless keyboard.
I initially chose this model over everything else because it happened to be the premiere notebook equipped with the huge Athlon 64 4000+ AMD chip, which was the highest end AMD processor available in a notebook at the time. There is also the option of the HP twin notebook, the Pavilion zv6000, that sees the addition of an Infrared port and additional software for about $400 more as well as sporting a slightly different color scheme, but they are essentially the same machine and the R4000 will deliver the same performance while being a little less burdening on your budget.
The stock components that came with this notebook were nice, but they were a little short of the standards I had in mind for heavy duty processing, so I upgraded just about all of the hardware to the maximum configuration available and ended up with this little monster:
When I say "little monster", I mean that not only in terms of power from a notebook, but also the considerable size and weight of this product. The stock specs are 14.25" (W) x 10.96" (L w/out hinge) to 11.18" (L w/hinge) x 1.8" (H Front) to 1.88"(H Rear) and around 7.85 lbs, but the upgrades might cause some variation in the weight, so the fully customized model is probably just a touch heavier. Thus, if you're looking for something thin, light and portable, you might want to check out some other options because the R4000 is a performance-based machine that is meant to replace your desktop (i.e., the title of DeskTop Replacement).
For the sake of analogy, the R4000 CTO is the equivalent of a 54' Chevy in its prime; it's big, heavy, powerful, and definitely at the high end of the technological curve. This particular model is probably geared towards individuals who want more processing ability than mobility, because it does feel like a full 8 lbs. when traveling with the AC adapter or any additional items. Though once all the discounts are calculated in, this is a whole lot of notebook for a very reasonable price and is affordable for most people who are shopping notebooks with a modest budget. Although, keep in mind that the price quoted in this review is with the Academic Discount and the rebate they offered, so it is a good idea to try and find out what their current offers are available before you buy.
So far, the worst thing about this notebook was the excruciating build time endured while waiting for it to arrive. This particular model was ordered on 4/22/05 with an estimated build time of 05/20/05, but it was thankfully delivered much sooner than quoted and ended up arriving in a little over 2 weeks, which is pretty fast considering it was regular ground shipping (which is free on a good deal of the customizable notebooks HP/Compaq offers).
The design of this notebook is excellent in my aesthetic opinion. The heavy-duty plastic body of the notebook has a unique shape with all rounded corners and a shell-like, slightly concavely interior lid that makes for a compact, "air-tight" appearance when closed. The body itself has a two-tone color scheme of very dark blue/black on the lid and base (outside) with a titanium silver keyboard/surface area (inside). The LED colors also make for nice accents with the power indicators, volume, and touchpad indicators being orange, the wireless indicator being blue, and a single green LED for the DVD+/-RW/R & CD-RW drive - it generally just looks very slick open or closed. The construction seems to be of high quality, with a solid metal, "briefcase-handle" style lid latch and a strong, wide latch button on the front that I can't see breaking anytime soon unless you're in the habit of slamming your lid down. The screen hinges are also thick and sturdy which seems to go along with the overall theme of this newly-released and designed notebook.
The notebook is almost inaudible when running due to the AMD patented "Cool'n'Quiet" technology and also emits a considerably low-level of heat as the feature would entail. With 2 fans on bottom, 1 exhaust port on the right side, and what I believe are 2 intake ports on the rear, the R4000 is almost as quiet on as it is off, with no "hot surface" or "sweating lap" effect.
It appears that the Compaq R&D team put some good time and effort into making sure the R4000 lives up to the disputed Compaq image of quality and being a Compaq desktop owner since '99, I am used to the high standard of construction and materials that characterized Compaq before they merged with HP. In the few weeks that I've been able to spend many of my waking hours in the presence of this new toy, the notebook certainly seems to coincide with Compaq's distinctive product design and manufacturing ideals, so I'm glad that (with this product at least) HP/Compaq has not abandoned build quality for affordability.
Front-Side View (larger image)
Back-Side View (larger image)
Left-Side View (larger image)
Right-Side View (larger image)
The screen on this model is the 15.4" WXGA BrightView widescreen with a maximum resolution of 1280x800, which looks just about right when it's sitting 2-3 feet away from you. The BrightView option makes the screen look as bright as you would expect it to, so without it I think the screen might be a little too dim in a well lit area, but with that said, it looks absolutely stunning and razor sharp in any occasion or environment that I've been able to use it in. The screens are generally flawless in regards to dead pixels and if you order a custom model, chances are relatively good that they will ship you a product that has passed this type of inspection.
Open-Screen & Keyboard (larger image)
For those who expect their laptop to double as veritable stereo with receiver quality sound, the speakers that come installed on the R4000 might be a little too quiet. While they might not be the highest grade notebook speakers, I've certainly had no problems listening to a DVD from about 6 feet away and the clarity and acoustic resonance seems quite good when playing back demanding music genre's like hip-hop, jazz, rock or classical. The lows, mids, and highs frequencies are all audible and there is no distortion when the volume is all the way up, so for the most part their performance is pretty satisfactory. For games you might want to hook it up to an actual receiver and change the sound output to one of the many surround sound supported modes to enhance your experience.
As stated before, the model reviewed here is equipped with the AMD Athlon 64 4000+ processor @ 2.4 GHz (2.393 GHz to be exact), the highest model in the Athlon 64 line of chips, with a Front Side Bus Speed of 1990 MHz. Although HP does offer many other options in the AMD processor product line if you don't need the excess power. The performance for normal application operation is as impressive as you would expect it to be from such a powerful chip. The CPU and GPU power is more than enough for whatever you want to do with the exception of running the most demanding games at the highest settings, but I was able to play Half-Life 2 @ 1024x768x32 with most of the graphic options on high except for texture filtering at a comfortable 35+ FPS. It tears through the large Photoshop filters with ease, burns a CD at 24x while watching a DVD or surfing the web and enables the user to have just about as many regular programs running simultaneously (with the exception of demanding games and editing software) as desired in normal conditions. Of course, this is with the maximum 2.0 GB DDR-SDRAM installed and this much virtual memory certainly doesn't hurt the overall speed. Startup time from the power button press to Windows logon screen is almost exactly 40 seconds and shutdown time (from button click to completely off) is right at 15 seconds, so frustrating wait times are of no concern.
The other main factor in performance is the GPU, which in this specific case is the ATI Radeon Xpress 200M 128mb. The thing I like about this GPU is that it is configurable (as stated previously) up to 256mb, but it also utilizes the new PCI-Express technology by keeping a PCI-e slot open on the motherboard for the future addition of more video memory, sound card options, or other network capabilities. Of course, the real proof is always in the test results and the conducted benchmarks speak for themselves.
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Compaq R4000 (AMD 2.4GHz)||1m 37s|
|Gateway 7422GX (AMD 2.4GHz)||2m 12s|
|Dell Latitude D410 (2.00 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 36s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 28s|
Battery Eater Pro v2.5:
|Ran in Classic Mode||@800x600x32||Fullscreen Enabled||1:32:46|
|Ran in Reader Mode||@800x600x32||Fullscreen Disabled||2:46:25|
|Ran in Idle Mode||@800x600x32||Fullscreen Disabled||3:15:28|
HD Tune Benchmarks:
|HD Tune Benchmarks|
|Minimum Transfer Rate||18.5 MB/sec|
|Maximum Transfer Rate||34.6 MB/sec|
|Average Transfer Rate||28.5 MB/sec|
|Acess Time||17.9 ms|
|Burst Rate||67.7 MB/sec|
PCMark 04 BE v1.3.0:
|Overall PC Marks||CPU||Memory||Graphics||HDD|
Full PCMark 04 BE v1.3.0 Results: http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/5259.xls
Full 3DMark 03 Pro v3.6.0 Results: http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/5254.xls
AMD N-Bench v3 Results: http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/5258.txt
The keyboard on the R4000 is very accommodating in terms of key placement and the user's hand and finger size as the keyboard itself takes advantage of the large surface area and has nice, big keys so you don't feel cramped when trying to type quickly. There are 2 orange indicator lights for the Number and Caps Lock Functions so it's easy to tell if you have accidentally pressed them without intending to. All the keys have a medium tension springy-ness to them and a pretty low-profile, so medium to fast typists will probably feel right at home as it's completely comfortable to use for longer periods of time.
The Wireless Touchpad is incredibly responsive and has a very slick, "one-piece sealed" design which makes it nearly impossible to get any dust underneath the touchpad itself. It has a dedicated vertical and horizontal scrolling area that serves the same purpose of the scroll-wheel on a mouse, a wireless pad on/off button (directly above the pad), and rubberized right/left buttons that have a great, solid feel to them so your clicks are always registered. This touchpad comes loaded with Synaptic Drivers that are very configurable to the user's specific preferences as well. You can set everything from tap sensitivity and pointer speed to horizontal/vertical scrolling boundaries. It even has some interesting, useless tools like "MoodPad" where you can see the heat signature in real time on the Touchpad. All-in-all, it has been very well conceived with maintenance and longevity in mind, but without skimping on performance. The only qualm I have with the touchpad is that the horizontal and vertical scrolling don't work with the latest version of the Mozilla Firefox Web Browser, but I suspect it's just a matter of time until they release a compatible version.
Input and Output Ports:
Compaq was pretty efficient about utilizing the space they had to fit in as many peripheral options as possible. Your options include: a 6-in-1 memory card reader, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a PCMCIA Type I/II Slot that is also ExpressCard 52/34 compatible, a 1394 Firewire port, Microphone and Headphone ports, an S-Video port than enables you to connect to your TV, a VGA port in the rear for an additional monitor, an additional Expansion port, and finally LAN and Modem ports. The only difference between the R4000 and its HP counterpart model is the addition of the Infrared device on the zv6000. So basically, if there is a cool peripheral you want to hook up, it's likely that the R4000 will fit the bill.
There are several options to choose from when customizing these components, but this model is equipped with the 54g(TM) Integ. Broadcom 802.11b/g WLAN & Bluetooth as I figured I might as well have the Bluetooth capability if I should want it in the future. Though you can save a couple bucks and just go with the 54g(TM) 802.11b/g WLAN w/ 125HSM/SpeedBooster(TM) or simply the Integrated 56K Modem + 10/100 Ethernet LAN, but I would definitely recommend one of the Wireless options because you really don't want to have to plug in anything else other than the AC if you're around the house. Plus, once you go wireless, it is really hard to go back to the anchor of a LAN cable and you can get good wireless routers for pretty cheap these days. I clocked 1.4 MBits per second on a bandwidth test which is plenty fast enough for internet gaming or any file transferring you need to do. It also has a Wireless On/Off button which comes in pretty handy if you want to be sure you're disconnected from the Internet for security purposes.
You can choose to power this notebook with an 8-cell or 12-cell battery, so you might want to pick your processor first and then pick a power source accordingly or just go with the 12-cell if you want to ensure maximum operating life. I decided to go with the 12-cell as well as an additional battery for long trips. As shown in the Battery Eater tests, the R4000 has moderate battery life considering it the Athlon chip's core speed and size (130nm). Alas, if you're looking for the absolute longest battery life in a laptop and don't need to do much more than surf the web or use normal applications, you're probably better off with a notebook geared for light usage that will last far longer. The AMD Powernow Technology definitely does help in this area as will decrease the clock speed according to battery charge level, helping you get the most out of whatever power you have left, but it does suck the juice down pretty quick
Underside view (with battery removed) (larger image)
Battery in Relation to Laptop (larger image)
Operating System and Software:
HP currently offers Windows XP Home Edition standard and Windows XP Professional for an additional $49, so you have the option to upgrade if you so choose. It also comes packaged with a driver/applications recovery disk and various software:
I've heard good and bad things about HP/Compaq's customer support these days. With Technical support, you're call is probably going to be transferred overseas, but I've talked to Tech. rep's with and without accents and both have been helpful, so I would say it pretty much just depends on your particular customer support representative and their personal knowledge of the product. In all my experiences, I've never had any problems with them (outsourced of not), and they are usually pretty friendly and happy to help you.
After being essentially attached to this expensive little toy for the past few weeks, I have to say that I am really impressed by how far notebooks have come these days. Also, I think the general design of the notebook is very well conceived in appearance, construction, and performance that any tech-savvy aficionado will appreciate. For a notebook as new as the Presario R4000, it most certainly has all the latest digital bells and whistles any casual to heavy PC user could want at a price coming in well below $2,000.00. With the flexibility and variety of customizing options to fit your needs and wallet, this is definitely shaping up to be a contender in the current generation of portable computing and worth checking out if you want desktop power that you can take with you on the go.
Pricing and Availability
If you're interested in purchasing this product or want to see what else HP and Compaq have to offer, please visit their Retail Site:
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