by Eric Murawski
Compal HGL-30 Review
Compal HGL-30 (view large image)
Compal HGL-30 specs as reviewed:
- OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows XP Professional (installed separately)
- PROCESSOR: Intel T2500 Core Duo (2.0 GHz) with arctic silver 5
- GRAPHICS: NVIDIA Geforce Go7600 with 256 MB of discrete video memory
- SCREEN: 14.1 -inch WXGA+ (1280 x 800)
- HARD DRIVE: 100 GB 5400RPM SATA
- MEMORY: 2GB DDR2 667 PC2-5400
- OPTICAL DRIVE: DVD+/-RW
This notebook also comes with optional Bluetooth and TV tuner, neither of which I purchased. It has a standard 9 cell battery, biometric fingerprint reader, a hardware wireless on/off switch, as well as a 3 in 1 memory reader.
Reasons for Buying:
I purchased this notebook for college first and foremost, but my criteria for the perfect computer was not simple. I am a very demanding computer user and required a discrete video card, but I did not want to sacrifice much battery life. My initial choice was between the Compal HEL-80 and the Asus S96J. When the rumors for the HGL-30 were confirmed and the price was announced I immediately decided that I had found the perfect computer. I was shying away from the HEL-80 and the S96J because of the weight and screen size, and so with a price point under $1600 (without OS) this was the perfect blend of battery, power, and size for my needs.
Where and How Purchased:
With extensive research I decided on powernotebooks.com as my vendor of choice. Not only did they have very competitive prices, but when I purchased the computer they were one of about 3 vendors that were carrying the HGL-30. I purchased the computer on a Friday, and 13 days later the computer had arrived at my doorstop for a purchase price of $1,549.00, saving myself over $37.00 with the 2.5% cash discount price. The wait time for the computer would have been less had the computer been in stock at the time of purchasing, and if I had selected to buy it with a credit card, but I choose to get the cash discount price. I purchased my copy of Windows XP Professional from NewEgg.com for $137.99, the Logitech mx610 cordless laser mouse for $41.99 also from NewEgg.com, and a neoprene case from RadioShack for $24.99. My total price when I was finished buying the computer and accessories that I considered necessary was just over $1,756.00.
Build and Design:
The Compal HGL-30 has nothing cheap feeling to it. There is no rippling of the screen even with consistent and hard pressure on the back of the screen. The screen hinges are solid almost to a fault. The hinges take a fair amount of pressure to open the screen, and if the screen is opened too fast then the bottom of the computer will pull up from the table until the weight brings it back down. The computer is made of all plastic but in my opinion (and this is very subjective) this is a very stylish computer. The back screen is of high quality plastic with a greenish blue cover that is very hard to show with pictures, but is no doubt better looking when seen live. The palm rests and around the screen are a slightly textured sliver, with the sides and the bottom of the computer a matte black. There are no curved edges save for the area reserved for the latch on the top of the computer lending to a slightly boxy design, but does not take away from the overall beauty of the computer.
There is an air intake on the bottom right of the computer, and two exhaust vents, one on the left rear and one on the back left of the computer. These vents are very well placed in my mind for several reasons. Two exhaust vents mean more efficient cooling and the vents are placed on the left, and with the majority of the people right handed the vents do not blow warm air on hands when using a cordless mouse. There are 3 USB ports, one on the left and two on the right. The placement of these ports makes for easy addition of peripherals without having everything cluttered on one side of the computer.
A look at the HGL30 widescreen display (view large image)
A look at the HGL30 screen from the side (view large image)
The screen is a 14.1 inch WXGA+ (1280 x 800 resolution). In my opinion this is a very good screen, but I do not have very much to compare it to. My old gateway laptop was a 12.1 inch matte screen and there is no comparison in terms of image quality and brightness. The viewing angles on this screen are unbelievable. Five people were standing in a row, me being the center person, looking at the computer and the screen was still visible. The screen is very bright at its highest setting, but even on battery power, with the lowest brightness the screen is still very visible watching a movie in sunlight outside. The screen has no faults in my mind but being a glossy screen there is always going to be the glare that has to be looked through however this is not a detriment to the overall beauty of the screen.
The speakers are nothing to rave about, being standard quiet laptop speakers. There is only a very small amount of bass but still noticeable. The speakers are quiet but are listenable and music can still be played and enjoyed, albeit in a decently quiet setting only. Listening to music can be enjoyed but the speakers can reach a maximum volume of maybe 1/4th the volume that my 2.1 Boston speaker system can get on my desktop. The speakers are placed on the right and left of the keyboard.
Processor and Performance:
The overall performance of the HGL-30 was very impressive with the t2500 dual core processor, NVIDIA Geforce Go7600 with 256MB of dedicated ram and 2GB of 667 MHz ram. The computer boots up decently fast seeing as I have 20 icons in the status bar. The omnipass piece of software seems to hang-up the system at the login screen however, but this is for a maximum of 20 seconds and I like the convenience, if not the “wow” factor of the fingerprint reader. I have not played any games yet on the system aside from pinball, however while running a full system virus scan I was able to work in Photoshop with multiple windows open and had no system lag at all.
The benchmark scores seem a little low to me but that could be because of the graphics card being underclocked. I think that if the card was overclocked according to Donald’s tutorial that there would be a much better 3dmark score.
Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results Compal HGL30 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB) 3,107 3D Marks Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 3,925 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 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB) 2,536 3D Marks Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks
3D Mark 05 Results
Compal HGL30 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)
3,107 3D Marks
Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
3,925 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)
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)
HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)
2,536 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)
2,090 3D Marks
|Notebook||3DMark 06 Results|
Compal HGL30 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,528 3DMarks|
HP nc8430 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
Zepto 6214 (2.0GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go7600 512MB)
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3DMarks|
Compal HGL30 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)
Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
Heat and Noise:
The heat and noise is very minimal. There is a big fan under the right middle portion of the bottom of the case that cools both the CPU and GPU by way of copper pipes which output to two vents with aluminum fins. The two vents do a very good job dissipating the heat along with the Artic Silver 5 compound that I had put on the processor to reduce the heat. I undervolted the processor with RightMark CPU Clock Utility, further lowering the heat production and extending battery life. The fan makes almost no noise, quieter then if you blow air out of your mouth as fast as possible. The fan cannot be heard with the quiet grumble of an air conditioner in the background. In a room with any type of background noise the fan is drowned out and only in silent rooms is the fan noise audible.
The exhaust vents cycle on and off when on battery power and blow out what could be considered lukewarm air even with the processor clocked to 2.0 GHz and the hard disk spinning trying to install big files, running a virus scan and working on Photoshop. Although I haven’t played any games I have used the computer multitasking heavily on battery and find nothing hot about this computer. That being said there are a few warm spots on the computer.
The heat coming off of the bottom of the computer can not be considered hot, but there is warmth coming off of the bottom. Sitting in my room on a cool night I had no problem with the computer on my lap warming my legs but not to a point of annoyance. The palm rests on the computer can become warm, but again nothing terrible. The left palm rest heats up faster, and with constant usage both of the palm rests become heated. The heat is not enough to become unbearable and again could not be considered to be hot, only warm at most.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Keyboard and touchpad view (view large image)
The touchpad is in my opinion one of the best that I have used (made by Elanech). The touchpad tracks easily and is accurate enough and not too sensitive. The touchpad can be configured to have areas for both horizontal and vertical scrolling. I find these areas to be a little too small as you have to really work the touchpad to get it to scroll. I had to put my finger touching partly off of the touchpad in order to get the scrolling to work even with it set to the maximum allowed space. Sometimes the scrolling will stop working in the middle of a scroll sequence which can be annoying.
There are several nice features also for the touchpad that make up for the minor annoyances. Single finger, double finger, and triple finger configurations can all be assigned to this touchpad. I have mine set for single finger click = left click, double finger click = middle click, and triple finger click = right click. This works flawlessly and gives me all of the functionality of a normal mouse. I find no problems with the mouse misinterpreting the amount of fingers and it takes a decent amount of pressure to have it recognize a click which is good so that when scrolling there is no accidental click when it is not meant.
The keyboard is in the upper realm of keyboards as far as I am concerned. I am typing this review right now from the keyboard and have no problem finding a key or with any discomfort. In terms of flex the keyboard can be broken into 3 parts, the left ending at the f key, the middle going from the f to the k key, and the right going from the k key to the end of the notebook.
The left third of the keyboard has no flex all and is of no concern. The middle has the slightest bit of flex, but nothing that stop me from calling it solid. The right however has some flex. The letters don’t flex very much, in fact it is not noticeable during normal typing, but centered around the enter key there is a good bit of flex. This has not affected me in recommending the keyboard because outside of the enter key, the keys that do flex are rarely used and even with the flex the keys are not uncomfortable or hard to use.
Input and Output Ports:
Front of computer:
Back of computer:
Left side of computer:
Right side of computer:
There is nothing special about the ports — most of which are standard on just about every computer. On the left hand side, starting from the front of the computer there is a PCMCIA card slot and an ExpressCard slot stacked upon each other. Behind that there is an Ethernet cable followed by a USB port . All the way at the back of the notebook there is a notebook lock port. On the back from right to left, there is a power plug, modem port, and S-video port. On the left side from the front, there is a headphone and microphone port followed by two USB ports. Following the USB port there is the optical drive and finally a VGA port. On the front of the notebook on the left side there is a 3-in-1 memory card reader.
There is one notable port missing and that is the omission of a firewire port, also known as the IEEE 1394 port. While this is not important to me because I do not do video capture this would be something that people interested in home movies would be wanting. I do not think that the omission of the firewire port is anything to worry about because almost nothing outside of video capture is ever done with the firewire and even if video capture is needed I believe that certain TV tuner cards are able to capture video.
The wireless on the HGL-30 is a built in “Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection.” This is a very good wireless card, I am able to pick up the wireless router buried in the middle of my house from all rooms. In my room with only one wall to go through I am able to get a very strong connection and a respectable speed to the wireless connection. The card comes with a hardware switch which is very handy when trying to save battery life because instead of having to go through menus which can get tedious, the hardware switch is positioned perfectly to allow you to turn it off with a thumb and not have to remove the entire hand from the keyboard, making it a very quick process.
Although not wireless this computer also comes with an Ethernet connection to connect to a land line and a modem. I have not tried out the modem as dial-up Internet is not very popular anymore, but the Ethernet worked perfectly connecting to both my Road Runner at home and my T1 connection at school without a problem.
Underside and view of battery (view large image)
The battery supplied with the HGl-30 is a 9-cell lithium ion battery. The battery does stick out the back of the computer a little (3/4th of an inch) but I did not find it to be any type of distraction or detraction from the computer. The battery doing normal light browsing and typing gets nearly 4 hours (3:37 — 3:53 on 99% charge) depending on the situation and the amount the processor has to throttle up. Doing more intensive tasks, like running a virus scan and working with Photoshop at the same time brought the battery life down nearly an hour to 3:03 on 93% charge. I have not gamed yet on the computer but I would expect the battery life to dip below or hover right at 2 hours with this battery.
Operating System and Software:
There was a choice to select Windows XP Professional, Home, or nothing when buying the computer. I choose to have nothing installed and I purchased my own copy of XP Professional and installed it myself. After installation the driver CD was very easy to use, although after a restart from a driver install the CD would not autorun which got very annoying when I had to pop open the drive and shut it again to run the disk, or go through explorer to run the CD.
The drivers all installed flawlessly and there was only one driver on the CD that seemed like a waste of space on the hard drive. That driver was the smart watch dog software. The entire purpose of the piece of software was to watch a face and shut down the computer when that face leaves the webcams view after a predetermined time. To me this was just a piece of software that did not need to be included. The only other problem that I had with the software is that it put a lot of icons in the system tray. This is just a cosmetic annoyance to me and so I auto hide almost every one of the icons and then they are no longer a nuisance.
The boot times were reasonable although I did notice that after installing Omnipass the initial windows boot was slowed. Once my password was input to log into windows it was a mere 15 to 20 seconds or so before I had full functionality of the computer with over 20 icons in the system tray.
The Omnipass software worked perfectly with the fingerprint reader and with windows and makes it very simple to log into windows with the swipe of a finger. The computer came with Power DVD 5 and the Nero OEM suite, neither of which I have installed (no time to do so) so I cannot say how they work. There is also a CD for Intel’s wireless notebook card driver, but it is useless as the driver on the driver CD is newer.
Powernotebooks.com prides itself on the customer service that they provide. This includes lifetime 24/7 tech support that isn’t outsourced. In my one occasion that I had to call so far the person was courteous and was knowledgeable and my problem was quickly and easily resolved. I also have a one year warranty with “match” shipping. This means that if I have to send in the computer to get repaired they will ship it back with the same method that I have selected to ship the notebook to the company. There were options for other warranties but I chose to stick with the standard one year.
This covers all of the characteristics of the Compal HGL30 that make it such a great machine for me. To me this computer perfectly blends size (14.1 inch screen, and 5.5 lbs) with battery life (pushing 4 hours without WiFi enabled) and power with a dual core processor and dedicated graphics card.
- Different color makes it out of the ordinary
- Above average battery life with 9-cell battery
- Bright screen with great viewing angles
- Does not get very hot
- Perfect blend of power and battery
- No IEEE 1394 (Firewire) port
- Omnipass slows down start up
- Slight flex on left side of keyboard
- Ctrl key is not the last one on the left
- Power button doesn’t always work with first click