Compal IFL90 User Review

by Donsell Reads (55,251)

by Dan Denzell

Overview

The PowerPro J 10:15 is the first Santa Rosa notebook produced by Compal, the second largest notebook manufacturer in the world.  Replacing the HEL80, the IFL90 does away with the brushed aluminum with copper accents to produce a professional, if rather ordinary appearance.


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Specifications

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, 2,2GHz processor
  • 15.4 Wide Screen WSXGA+ Matte LCD
  • 2.0GB DDR2-667 SDRAM, 1 DIMM
  • 512MB NVIDA 8600GT GPU
  • 120GB Seagate 7200.2 Hard Drive
  • 90W AC Power Adapter
  • Intel 4965 WLAN (802.11 a/g/n)
  • 1GB Intel Turbo Memory (Robson)
  • 2 Megapixel Camera
  • Dimensions 14”X10.1”X1.4”
  • 6.95lbs With 9 Cell Battery

Reason for Buying

I had been limping along on a four year old Compaq R3000 with a faulty power jack for some time. I knew I wanted a laptop that had a dual core processor, a higher resolution screen, dedicated graphics and a professional look. I started looking at new notebooks in April. I learned that Intel was set to release the Santa Rosa update in early May and decided to wait.

When Intel’s Santa Rosa finally was released, I looked at the Lenovo ThinkPad T61 and the Asus G1S, two of the first Santa Rosa laptops to be announced.  Both are good machines, but the T61 had weaker graphics than I wanted. The G1S is targeted at gamers and I didn’t feel its flashing lights and green accents would be appropriate in a business setting.

While looking for other options, I stumbled on the Compal forum and found the pre-announcement for the Compal IFL90.  It seemed to be the type of machine I was looking for with great components, good customization options and professional looks.  I ordered from PowerNotebooks on June 1.

One of the things I appreciate about the PowerPro line of products from PowerNotebooks is the ability to configure your machine with exactly what you need and nothing extra.  Most machines come with "bloatware" and many offer cases and mice that I’d never use, and most include an OEM version of the operating system that I don’t need. Those are available on the PowerPros, but optional.

The Wait

Jump ahead 63 days and my IFL90 was finally delivered.  As is common with new models, manufacturing issues delayed the delivery of my new notebook.  I wish I could say that I was a patient customer, but those that have read the forums know that at times I wasn’t.  If there had been an option that met my needs from a company with as much positive user feedback as PowerNotebooks, I may have ordered something else. I kept telling myself that the wait would be worth it. Was it?  Read on.

First Impressions and Construction


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The IFL90 arrived in a surprisingly little, double boxed shipping container. The inner box contained my Compal IFL90 and a box with a driver disk, DVD-RW software and a Robson disk. The power supply came with cords for both US and European outlets so I’m set if anyone in Italy wants to fly me there so they can check out my notebook.

Removing the protective packing reveals the glossy, black piano finish of the IFL90 lid.  I expected this to be a magnet for fingerprints, and they do show, but not nearly as badly as I feared.  I think that it willl scratch easily, but I didn’t want to test this, I figure time will tell.  I’m very pleased with its external appearance.


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There are no latches to keep the lid closed.  There is enough resistance in the hinges to keep the lid closed tightly.  It takes two hands to open the notebook.


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The internal layout of the IFL 90 is a very basic black.  Along the top of the keyboard there is a set of quick launch buttons to launch a web browser, your default e-mail program, WOW Video and Audio and to mute the sound.  For some reason out of the box the buttons on my machine aren’t functional so that’s an issue I’m currently looking into.

Along the left side are buttons to control the Smart Battery Charge and the powered USB ports.  Smart Battery Charge lets the user “manually push the notebook charge 70% in an hour”.  Personally I don’t use this feature and don’t fully understand or know that it even works.

In the lower right hand corner there is a finger print reader.  This turned out to be easy to use and works very well.

Above the screen you’ll find the 2 megapixel camera and 2 built in microphones.

Along the left side, you find the VGA, Ethernet, modem and S-Video out ports, 2 powered USB ports, FireWire, ExpressCard and media card ports, and microphone and headphone jacks.


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The front has 3 LED indicators for power, battery and wireless networking and a switch to turn off wireless networking. There are no external media controls which would have been nice.


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The right side has 2 additional USB, the power jack and the DVD-RW drive, while the back just has Kenisngton Lock connector.  The 9-cell battery sticks out the back about a three quarters of an inche. I expected this to bother me somewhat, but it really hasn’t.


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The build quality is good.  There is a slight amount of screen flex and very faint screen ripples when moderate pressure is applied to the lid.  The hinges are firm and feel like they’ll last.  My only complaint is the plastic used on the wrist rest.  It feels lesser quality than the rest of the unit and flexes with moderate pressure.  At least it isn’t painted silver – I’m tired of silver painted plastic that wears through after a few months of use.

Input Devices


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The keyboard is good, but there is a slight flex when pressing firmly on the top row of keys.  The keys feel good to type on and are very firm, not mushy. Some of the keys such as the right shift and the directional arrows are smaller than I’m used to and will take some time to get used to.  The Function (Fn) key and Ctrl key are flip-flopped, but I’ll get used to that.  The right Alt key is labeled “Alt Gr” for some strange reason, I wonder what "Gr” stands for?

The touchpad is smooth and responsive, but it lacks a button to turn it off, something I used often on my Compaq R3000. 

Display

I’m very impressed with the WSXGA+ (1650×1050) matte screen.  When I ordered, the only option was glossy, which I had on my R3000.  Later, PowerNotebooks contacted me saying that because of supply problems the first orders would ship with the matte screen.  I’m glad it did. The lighting is even across the screen and it is bright with good color.  There is a very slight light leakage along the bottom, but nothing compared with what I’ve seen on other screens.  I’m very happy with viewing angles as well.  The screen displays none of the graininess reported on other notebooks.

The IFL90 has VGA out, but no DVI or HDMI.  I think this is an unfortunate oversight on Compal’s part.

Sound

I’m not a good judge of sound quality, but the IFL 90 has the best speakers I’ve heard on a consumer class laptop. It’s not THX theater quality, and there could be more volume, but they aren’t bad.  The sound is very good through headphones with no background hum or buzz.  The only volume control is via the function key, there’s no dedicated buttons.  It’d be nice to have media controls accessible when the notebook is closed.

OS and Software

I had a legal version of Windows Vista Business to install on my IFL90.  I liked that I was able to order the system without an OS so I didn’t have to pay for an OEM version of Windows that I didn’t need. This should appeal to Linux users as well.  Since I ordered without an OS, there was no bloatware to contend with.

The disk that shipped with the unit contained only 64 Vista drivers so I had to download what I needed. Fortunately the drivers are readily available online.

The other included disks were DVD Suite for use with the DVD-RW drive and a disk with Intel Robson drivers.

Benchmarks and Performance

All benchmarks were run under Vista Enterprise with stock drivers and clocking.

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
Compal IFL90 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo) 1m 0s
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 54s
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 1m 01s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 0m 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Compal IFL90 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, NVidia 8600 GT) 4,825 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 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
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Compal IFL90 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, NVidia 8600 GT) 2,937 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

Wireless

I chose to configure the IFL90 with Intel 4965 WLAN (802.11 a/g/n) wireless LAN. I only have 802.11 g available at work and in my home and reception is very good.  I’ve not had the opportunity to test 802.11n, but maybe my host in Italy will have it.  I also ordered Bluetooth, but PowerNotebooks shipped without installing it.  They’re sending me the module to self install.

Battery


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That IFL90 has three power settings: Power Saving, Balanced and High Performance.  I ran a battery test using my notebook doing standard office work with WiFi on. This also included problem shooting the buttons above the keyboard (still no solution) but I did use the network, downloaded drivers and rebooted the notebook a few times.  On the balanced setting the battery lasted a very respectable 3:21.  If needed, the power saving mode with wifi off should give greater battery life.

Heat and Noise

The IFL90 is surprisingly cool and quiet.  I have heard the fan with initial setup, I know that it’s running, but it is barely noticeable.  When running the system for an entire afternoon there are no hot spots around the keyboard at all. The bottom becomes warm, but not hot to the touch.

Customer Support

Support for the Compal IFL90 is offered through PowerNotebooks.  On the PowerPro line of products, there is 3 years parts and labor with paid shipping both ways.  There is also lifetime call in support.  This is an expensive upgrade from most dealers so be sure to consider it when comparing notebooks.  I’ve not had to call customer support yet, but if it’s anything like their sales support I expect it lives up to their seller ratings. 

Conclusion

So was the wait for the Compal IFL90 worth it?  My initial impressions say yes,  it was.  It’s a solid machine with a good price/performance ratio.  Since I was able to configure the machine to the specifications that I wanted I didn’t waste money buying things I didn’t need.  The support plan through PowerNotebooks is excellent.  This is a machine to consider.

Pros:

  • Configurability
  • Options
  • Good Price/performance
  • Solidly built
  • Beautiful screen
  • Professional Appearance

Cons:

  • Cheap plastic for the wrist rest
  • No DVI, HDMI ports


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