Compaq Presario C500T Review

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by Michael Truong

This is a review of the Compaq Presario C500 budget notebook made by HP. It is a 15.4-inch screen system, making it a mainstream notebook. Although using ancient Celeron M technology, this notebook offers some nice features at an even better price.
This is the configuration coming out of the box:

  • 15.4 widescreen, glossy screen
  • Mobile Intel Celeron M, 1866 MHz
  • 512MB system memory (I did not verify the speed, but it was advertised as 533MHz, and I promptly added a 1GB stick of memory into this machine, bringing the total to 1.5 GB of RAM)
  • Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics
  • 80GB ATA hard drive, by Seagate Technology
  • DVD/CD-RW combo drive
  • Altec Lansing speakers
  • 6-cell battery
  • MS Windows Vista Home

The total price was $400 for the notebook plus $35 (after rebate) for the 1GB stick of Crucial Memory. And Californian Tax.


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Notice how easily my fingerprints show on the body


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Where and How Purchased

This machine was advertised in my local Best Buy ad for $400. However, I believe the deal was national even though the in-store price of the machine was set to $600. I printed the ad out, told the salesman, and he changed matched the advertisement price in a snap. I believe other retail stores are selling this machine for around this price also. CompUSA was also selling it for about $330 after rebate at the time and Office Depot was selling it for $380 after rebate.

Build & Design

This notebook is made entirely of plastic. In my opinion, the plastic all around the notebook is pretty thick and rigid. The look/feel of the notebook is pretty nice. It is not flashy like the HP dv6000 series, but rather has an elegant, minimalist, essentialist design. The laptop does not feel like as cheap as the price reflects.

 

Pushing on the back of this notebook produced a slight LCD ripple, indicating that the lid could offer a bit more protection. That’s not surprising with a budget notebook like this though.


Right side view: headphone port, microphone port, USB port, optical drive, power jack (view large image)


VGA monitor out port, S-Video port USB ports (view large image)

Screen

From the perspective of this reviewer, the screen looks wonderful. The glossy screen gives pictures nice contrast. The screen is very vivid and bright and I had no problem with dead pixels appearing on the LCD. One complaint I do have is that I feel the viewing angle is poor. Any time you’re viewing and are not directly in front of the screen then color alteration will occur with the image. I know this is an issue to some degree with any notebook LCD display, but it seems especially true for the C500.

The screen has 32 Bit color quality, 1280×800 resolution and 60 Hertz Refresh Rate (which you cannot change):


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Processor and Performance

All I really use this laptop for is to play around with Windows Vista, watch downloaded movies (yes, legally) with VideoLAN, surf the Web, install programs, use MS word, look at lecture notes, and scan for viruses with AVG. For these tasks the notebook ran smoothly and flawlessly.

Having Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics on this machine, I would imagine any 3D games would not run well, if at all. I tried running Starcraft Broodwars and it performed flawlessly, but then again the requirements for that game are only to have a Pentium 90 or higher and 16 MB RAM!

The only problem with performance I had was watching a downloaded movie with VideoLAN. When playing my first movie, the screen froze while the sound played normally. To fix this, I simply changed VideoLAN’s “video output module” (found in options) to “Direct X.” After adjusting this setting, movies played fine on this machine.

This laptop was usable with the 512MB RAM that game installed as the default amount. The upgrade to 1.5GB of RAM made this laptop from usable to really good. I would like to note that downloaded movies played just fine with VideoLAN using only 512MB RAM after adjusting the video output module.

Benchmarks

All tests were run with the 1.5GB RAM configuration. The laptop was plugged in.

Super Pi

Super Pi is a benchmarking program that forces the processor to calculate the accuracty of Pi to 2 million digits. It’s a good test for determining processor speed.

Laptop Super Pi Result (2 million digits)
Compaq Presario c500(1.86GHz Celeron M) 1m 29s
HP Pavilion dv9000t (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 41s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500) 1m 22s

 

Everest Home Edition

Everest is a program that shows basic information about your system. It also has a system memory benchmark tool, following are the results after having run it on the C500: Everest Home Edition system memory latency: 106.7 ns

 

Windows Vista has its own rating/benchmark system:

6 points is the max in each category.

Heat and Noise

Heat and noise are not a problem with this machine. The fan only turns on when you are doing stuff that’s a little more processor intensive, such as playing Starcraft or running Super Pi. Even when it is on, the noise is very low. I can hear the hard drive “think”, others might call this quietly clicking. The laptop does not generate any other noises besides the hard drive and the fan — no weird buzzing noises.

I imagine the Celeron M and GMA 950 are not really big on power consumption, and by that token nor are they heat generators. At times, I can feel the keyboard get warm.

Keyboard and Touchpad:

I would like to thank Compaq for placing the “Ctrl” key where it should be placed — in the bottom left hand corner. The keyboard feels thin, it flexes everywhere, but mostly in the middle. However, I don’t know what the big deal about keyboard flexing is; it doesn’t affect anything I do at all. Multimedia keys double as the F keys. The wireless module in this machine has its own button for on/off, which I think is very nice. Also, volume/mute have their own keys, which are essential for laptops.

The touchpad is standard. I like the presence of the vertical and the horizontal scrolls:


Keyboard: notice location of the CTRL key and the volume/WIFI button on the top. Also notice the large gaps to the right of the ENTER key. This might be bad as stuff might fall into it and get stuck. (view large image)


Close up of the volume/WIFI keys. Notice more large gaps separating the F keys. Also notice the hinges holding the screen to the body. (view large image)

Bloatware

This notebook had a few bloatware programs out of the box. The Norton trial software hogged the most resources and simply uninstalling it produced a noticeable improvement in performance. I installed AVG as an Antivirus instead. This notebook also came with a free trial of MS Office 2007. I can’t activate this program, upgrade this program, and cannot uninstall this program. Uninstalling Microsoft office Home and Student 2007 using the control panel gave me the error message “The language of this installation package is not supported by your system.” Great hey?

Conclusion

Pros

  • Pretty basic notebook for a nicly non-basic price
  • Nice features for a budget notebook: wireless button, volume buttons, glossy sharp screen, brand name speakers.
  • The screen looks very nice, compared to the LCD monitors I have at home.

Cons

  • Should have came with more than 512MB RAM
  • MS Office 2007 was the ultimate annoying bloatware
  • Screen Ripple
  • Viewing angle inferior in my opinion.

My personal conclusion is — every grandmother deserves at least something like the Compaq Presario C500t (with upgraded system memory to reduce the risk of hypertension).


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