by Kevin Giberson
The 14.1? HP Compaq 6515b notebook is one of eight or so ?Balanced Mobility? business machines currently being offered by HP. The 6515b is distinguished from some of its thin-and-light brethren, such as the 14.1? nc6400, by its relatively low price and AMD processor options. An AMD Sempron-based 6515b is available for as little as $650 right now, while a nicely configured AMD Turion-outfitted machine can be had for under $1000. Despite its positioning as something of a budget business notebook, the 6515b makes no sacrifices when it comes to the security and communications features one expects to find in a solid business model. Moreover, the 6515b includes some of the latest mobile technologies being offered by the newly merged AMD and ATI, namely, the AMD M690T chipset and the Radeon x1270 GPU, a coupling designed to provide good mobile performance and low power consumption.
HP Compaq 6515b (view large image)
The configuration of this review machine is slightly different than what is currently available on the HP website, but a similar 6515b, with a one-year warranty and no Bluetooth, costs $929. Step up one level, and $1199 gets you a slightly better CPU, the faster TL-56, Bluetooth and a three-year warranty. In both cases, 2GB RAM and a WWAN card will add to the price.
The 6515b is very similar, in terms of look and feel, to the laptops I occasionally use at work, which are HP Compaq nc6120s. These are solid, if unexciting, business notebooks, providing reliability, good build quality and adequate performance. When I started up the 6515b under review here, I had the feeling that I would end up viewing it in much the same manner. But after a good couple of weeks with the 6515b, I would certainly take it over the older Pentium M-based nc6120.
HP Compaq 6515b Specs as reviewed:
The 6515b should appeal to businesses, and individuals as well, looking for quality, security and usability, including good communications, provided they don't mind sacrificing top-of-the-line performance to stay below a certain price. For the vast majority of notebook users, security, connectivity, sturdiness, a decent screen and a pleasant keyboard are the main issues. And the 6515b seems to have targeted these pragmatists well.
The first thing that struck me, as noted, was how closely the 6515b resembles the familiar nc6120. The 6515b is all dark gray and black, has a clean business look, and feels very solid. Like the dv6000t, an HP consumer model I reviewed, the 6515b features touch-sensitive light-buttons, rather than protruding switches, to allow the user to perform certain basic functions, such as muting the speakers or enabling and disabling wireless. This is a nice feature, and the 6515b, thankfully, does not beep loudly, like the dv6000t, when these light-buttons are touched. All in all, what I was most impressed by was the solid feel; this notebook seems about as sturdy as any I've used. My second favorite thing, light buttons notwithstanding, was the clean, subdued look.
Design and Build
There's not a lot more to say about the look and build of the 6515b, though I might add that during two weeks of use, I was repeatedly impressed by the overall strength of the notebook. Everything, from the palm rests to the hinges, seem to have been designed to last, whether the notebook is sitting on a desk or flying around the country, and there is virtually no flex in anything. The one downside to all this strength and solidness is portability: the 6515b is slightly thicker and heavier than some other 14.1? business notebooks, such as the aforementioned nc6400.
HP Compaq 6515b lid (view large image)
Input and Output Ports
Here's a tour around the HP Compaq 6515b to see what ports you get:
HP Compaq 6515b Front side view (view large image)
On the front we have: Wireless light, power light, battery light, drive light / HP 3D DriveGuard light, integrated stereo speakers, display release latch.
HP Compaq 6515b Left side view (view large image)
On the left side we have: Type I/II PC card slot, power connector, 2 USB 2.0 ports, stereo headphone / line out, stereo microphone / line in, FireWire 1394a port, vent
HP Compaq 6515b Right side view (view large image)
On the right side we have: Media card reader, 2 USB 2.0 ports, Fixed Optical Drive, RJ-11 / modem jack
HP Compaq 6515b rear view (view large image)
On the back side we have: Ethernet port, S-Video jack, VGA out, Kensington slot lock
HP Compaq 6515b screen (view large image)
This review notebook has a matte screen, which is my preference, and it is excellent. I'm by no means the pickiest LCD user around, but the brightness and absence of any light leakage are impressive. The only thing I would recommend to a purchaser is to be sure you're getting the LCD you want, whether that's glossy or matte. To me at least, the screen being included in a particular model wasn't always clear on the HP shopping sight. What I found particularly helpful was looking at HP's ?QuickSpecs? for North America, which provided detailed configurations for the various model numbers.
Default wallpaper on the HP 6515b (view large image)
The ATI Radeon x1270 graphics handled Vista Business and the Aero Glass interface with no problems whatsoever. Synthetic benchmarks were nothing to brag about, but that?s neither surprising nor disconcerting given the intended uses of the 6515b.
Like the graphics, the sound was easily adequate. I?ve listened to a lot of notebooks now, and the 6515b speakers sounded about the same as all the others, which in my opinion is really not too bad.
Processor and Performance
This was my first chance to try out a Turion 64 X2 CPU and I was very curious to see how it would perform. What I found was that despite an inability to be Super-PI-competitive (or PCMark05-competitive, for that matter), when compared to laptops using Intel?s latest notebook CPUs, the Turion TL-52 was no slouch. The screen shot immediately below shows a number of open applications, including Super PI, which is resource-hungry and had been started on a protracted run at the beginning of this little test, along with a virus scan. Despite the demand on system resources, there was never a point when opening a new instance of an application took more than a few seconds. This was exactly the sort of responsiveness that I found so delightful when I first used an Intel dual-core laptop. So, to the extent that this everyday-use scenario is revealing, the Turion 64 X2 performs much like the latest Intel CPUs, and though I?m a little bit of a Super PI snob, I would no longer hesitate to recommend, or purchase for myself, a laptop based on the TL-52 or better.
Super PI is a program that forces the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy, it generally favors Intel processors, so it's not a great benchmark for the Turion, but we'll show the comparison anyway:
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52)||2m 05s|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)||59s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Toshiba A100 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 29s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|HP dv5000z (2.0GHz Sempron 3300+)||2m 02s|
The 3DMark05 synthetic graphics benchmark results:
3DMark05 Comparison Results:
|Notebook||3D Mark 05 Results|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)||871 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3D Marks|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||1,791 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3DMarks|
|Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)||7,078 3D Marks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,092 3D Marks|
|Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)||2,530 3D Marks|
|Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,273 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3D Marks|
As expected, a less than spectacular 3DMark06 score:
|Notebook||3DMark 06 Results|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)||290 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,528 3DMarks|
|Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M)||3,926 3DMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)||4,085 3DMarks|
|Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)||1,654 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3DMarks|
The PCMark05 results were consistent with the Super PI results insofar as they were lower than expected, at least when compared to an Intel-equipped (Core Duo T2250 + GMA 950 graphics) Vista consumer notebook, the Toshiba Satellite A135-S4427, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. Nonetheless, real-life performance seemed quite good, as noted above.
Comparison table for PCMark05
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)||2,420 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Satellite A135 (Core Duo T2250, Intel GMA 950)||3,027 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)||2,994 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)||3,427 PCMarks|
Detailed results for PCMark05
|2420 Total PCMarks|
|HDD ? XP Startup||5.63 MB/s|
|Physics and 3D||65.95 FPS|
|Transparent Windows||428.64 Windows/s|
|3D ? Pixel Shader||13.92 FPS|
|Web Page Rendering||0.82 Pages/s|
|File Decryption||27.29 MB/s|
|Graphics Memory ? 64 Lines||168.13 FPS|
|HDD ? General Usage||3.83 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression||1447.83 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding||228.65 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit||68.44 Pages/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression||16.6 Mpixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression||3.23 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption||15.09 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD ? Virus Scan||28.58 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency ? Random 16 MB||7.65 Maccesses/s|
HD Tune hard drive performance results:
Windows Experience Index results
Keyboard and Touchpad
HP Compaq 6515b keyboard and touchpad (view large image)
I liked the keyboard as much as the overall build quality and fine LCD of the 6515b. There was no flex in the keyboard, the layout was free of any annoying quirks, and responsiveness was good. The keys did seem to require a slightly heavier touch than some, but I didn?t find this to be any problem. The touchpad has rubberized buttons, which I liked, and was otherwise unremarkable. Generally I use a Bluetooth mouse.
(view large image)
The M690T/x1270 combination is supposed to provide ?advanced power-saving functionality,? and the 6-cell battery did perform reasonably well. In high performance mode, with the screen at maximum brightness, the battery lasted for 2.5 hours, but with a few modest adjustments to save power, the battery kept going for 3.25 hours. For both of these times, wireless was enabled. As I often say, a more power-friendly user could undoubtedly squeeze additional time out of the battery.
Heat and Noise
The 6515b had no heat or noise issues, staying about as cool and quiet as any notebook I?ve used.
The Broadcom 802.11a/ b/g wireless worked just fine, without any dropped connections or other problems. This review model also included the optional EV-DO module, and I was even able to connect. The speed of the EV-DO wireless was quite impressive and I found myself wishing I had the card and service, though I really have no compelling need. My Bluetooth mouse connected with ease.
Service and Support
As noted above, the 6515b comes with either a three-year or a one-year warranty, depending on the model purchased.
There was nothing I would describe as bloatware installed on this notebook, but there were a number of useful business-oriented utilities, primarily for handling security. Windows Vista Business did not present any surprises, though after years of using XP Pro I find that XP is still my preference. Vista did, however, work without a hitch, and there were no software-related problems.
(view large image)
The HP Compaq 6515b is a solid, nicely outfitted notebook that, while falling into the thin-and-light category, is pushing close to the maximums, in my opinion, when it comes to weight and size. Nonetheless, no sacrifices have been made in terms of build quality or business features. The matte screen and keyboard are excellent, and the notebook offers a lot for the price. Performance could be better, but that?s almost always true, and for most typical business and personal computing, performance should be plenty; there was no significant lag under stress and the 6515b easily handled Vista Business, including Windows Aero Glass. The 6515b was a pleasure to use and, as expected, performed much better than the still very serviceable nc6120s I?m used to.
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