by Andy Kean, Canada
The Compaq R4125CA is a pre-configured version of the Compaq R4000 notebook and, along with Hewlett Packard’s version which is almost identical, the HP Pavilion zv6000, (HP and Compaq being the same company of course) is often referred to as the best “bang for buck” notebook on the market today. It can be used as a full desktop replacement notebook, which is one of the reasons I opted for it myself.
Below are the notebook’s specifications as reviewed:
- Compaq Presario R4125CA
- Processor: 2.2 GHz AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3500+
- Memory: 512MB (2 x 256MB) 333MHz DDR (Max. 2048MB)
- Video: ATI Radeon XPRESS 200M IGP (128MB Dedicated Memory)
- Display: 15.4″ WXGA High-Definition BrightView Widescreen Display
- Hard Drive: 100GB (4200 RPM)
- Optical Drive: DVD R/RW and CD-RW Combo Drive with Double Layer Support
- Fax/Modem: High Speed 56k Modem
- Network Card: Integrated 10/100BASE-T Ethernet LAN
- Wireless: 54g 802.11b/g WLAN with SpeedBooster and BroadRange support
- Power: 8 Cell Lithium-Ion Battery
- Microsoft Windows XP Home with SP2
For me, it was the first time I had purchased a notebook. Up until now I had always relied on Desktop Computers, apart from older notebooks supplied to me by work that I had used. I was looking for the best value for money and I didn’t have the budget to go much over $1,500 CAD. The main purpose was to use the notebook as a desktop replacement, so mobility wasn’t the biggest concern for me, however would be a nice bonus. So when I saw this notebook as a special at the local Futureshop I was immediately interested. After some research I decided this was the notebook for me.
Generally I like to order straight from the Manufacturer, eliminating any middleman, however with the notebook being $100 cheaper at Futureshop than directly from HP/Compaq, and the opportunity to receive a free D-Link wireless router along with half price on a new EPSON printer (both after mail-in rebates) I took the plunge and made the purchase. Total Price for me was $1,459 CAD plus taxes, made up of the laptop for $1,399 CAD and the EPSON printer for $60 CAD (after mail in rebates as above). For what I received I believe I got a great deal.
Build and Design
The R4125CA is packed full of power, but along with the power comes quite a hefty notebook. It weighs in at 7.85 lbs, so it’s not the heaviest notebook out there, but it’s definitely a lot heavier than a lot of the smaller, slim line notebooks on the market. With a good carry case though it is definitely easily carried and transported. As I looked at it lined up in the store next to various models including Sony’s and Toshiba’s, it definitely stood out as having some bulk. However it is very well put together. The screen tilts back to almost lie flat and whichever position you choose it stays steady. The hinges feel safe and secure even when “wobbled”.
The inside of the notebook (around the screen and the whole bottom section, including the keyboard) is finished in silver whilst the outside casing is a dark blue/black color. It all comes together nicely, making a very good looking notebook. All in all the laptop is put together well and it feels safe and secure, it doesn’t feel like you could break any part of it with too much ease, unless you really tried to.
Compaq R4000 above view (view larger image)
Half-Life 2 shown off on the screen of the Compaq R4000 (view larger image)
The 15.4″ widescreen display is a thing of beauty. Packed with BrightView technology, which is HP/Compaq’s marketing name for latest in anti-reflective LCD screen technology, it really gives off a nice clear, crisp picture. By holding down the function key and pressing F7 (to decrease brightness) or F8 (to increase brightness) you can adjust the brightness, there is also a built in function which automatically decreases brightness when unplugged from AC Power, to decrease battery consumption. I am happy to report that I have no dead pixels or dead areas whatsoever on the screen, however if there was this would be something covered by the standard 1 year warranty.
Like most LCD screens if you are not sitting in the right position the screen can appear dark. However the screen is easily adjusted and so this should not be a problem. The only times it has come into play is if I am trying to show someone else something on the screen, if they are at a different viewing angle they will struggle to see until the screens angle is adjusted. The screen has a maximum resolution of 1280 x 800.
This notebook has two Altec Lansing speakers located at the very front. The sound that is given out is of a very high, clear, crisp quality for a laptop. I find it perfect for the casual game playing and listening to CD’s and music that I do. For much more than this, like regular movie watching and more extreme gaming, external speakers would be recommended (or quality headphones if you don’t want to disturb anyone). There is no built in microphone and an external one will need to be purchased if this is something you require.
Processor and Performance
As stated the notebook came with a 2.2 GHz AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3500+. It has the Cool’n’Quiet feature which is nice. Basically it means that the processor runs much lower than capable when it is not required (eg. General windows work) however as soon as the extra power is needed, it speeds up to meet any gaming or graphic intensive needs. This is a great feature for not only preserving much needed battery life, but keeps the laptop cooler and prolongs the life of the processor itself. It took 52 seconds from pushing the power button to reaching the Windows XP logon screen. The 100GB hard drive that it comes with runs at only 4200RPM which can be noticeable when it is being accessed. This, along with only 512mb RAM has meant that loading games can take a little bit longer than is hoped for, however these are two aspects that can easily be upgraded if required. Personally the performance of the notebook for me is great, and runs all necessary tasks with ease. Only after it has just booted up do you notice any slow down of opening programs, however this could be my individual setup of startup programs and antivirus software. I have played both Splinter Cell and Half-Life 2 on this laptop with ease, both however on medium settings. The graphics card seems to play its part nicely for my gaming needs and provides crisp graphics with minimal slowdowns.
I ran two main benchmark tests on the laptop. Firstly I ran Super Pi which calculated Pi to 2 million digits. This took the notebook 1 minute and 48 seconds to calculate.
Secondly I ran the popular 3DMark05 software by futuremark. A screenshot is attached with the results but it returned a final score of 730 at a resolution of 1024 x 728.
3DMark 05 Results (view larger image)
Keyboard and Touchpad
Compaq R4000 keyboard and touchpad view (view larger image)
The Keyboard feels great on the R4125CA. The keys are easily pressed and all the important keys are regular sized. Things like the Windows key and function keys are reduced in size to fit in. I found that after being a desktop and therefore “regular” keyboard user for most of my computing life, the transition to this keyboard was very minor. There is no flexing on the keyboard either. Above the keyboard you will find the power button, along with three sound buttons (increase sound, decrease sound, and mute) as well as a very convenient Wireless button, which means you can turn the wireless function of the notebook on or off to suit the environment you’re in at the time, and again conserve battery life.
The touchpad is fairly easy to use also, and has the standard left and right “click” buttons underneath it. The built in “scroll bar” on the touchpad can be very easy to touch whilst you are typing. However the touchpad has a convenient on/off switch (located just above the touchpad) meaning that this is pretty much redundant if you are using a regular mouse.
The notebook makes very good use of “lighting”. By this I mean everything that needs to have a lighting indicator, does. From the Caps and Scroll lock lights adjacent to the appropriate keys, to the blue lighting on the wireless switch, it is always clear exactly what is switched on, and what isn’t. A nice feature in my opinion.
Input and Output Ports
The R4125CA has a number of input and output ports to please most. They are as follow:
- Standard Headphone and Microphone ports
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x Expansion Port 2 Connector
- 1 x RJ-45 (LAN) port
- 1 x TV-Out (S-Video)
- 1 x VGA Port (for connecting an external monitor)
- 1 x Modem port
- 1 x Memory Card Reader
The memory card reader for me was a nice bonus and reads most of the common memory card formats. It works great with my Sony memory stick for a quick transfer of pictures !
Compaq R4000 left side view (view larger image)
Compaq R4000 right side view (view larger image)
Compaq R4000 front side view (view larger image)
Back side view of Compaq R4000 (view larger image)
Wireless is a feature I really hadn’t used before so I was a little bit anxious as to how it would pan out. Equipped with the free D-Link router that I received as part of the Futureshop package, I was ready to set up my first home wireless network. As soon as the router was set up the pre installed HP Wireless software immediately detected the access point and I was up and running in no time. For me the wireless in this notebook works great. It had great range as my router was situated 2 stories down in the basement and I was picking up the connection fine, although I’m not sure if this is a testament to the notebook or the range on the router. There is however no Bluetooth or infrared built in, which did not affect me too much, but may turn off people who use this kind of wireless connectivity.
As I have stated, I was planning to have this notebook plugged into power for the most part, so battery life was not the biggest concern for me. This package comes with the 8-cell battery, and if mobility is important to you with this laptop, it would be wise to upgrade to a 12 cell battery or get a spare. The advertised battery life was 3 hours; however I have found it to be closer to around 2 hours and 15 minutes. However turning options off like wireless, and keeping screen brightness down, could increase this and get it closer to the advertised figure.
Operating System and Software
As stated in the specifications, the unit is bundled with Windows XP Home edition including Service Pack 2. This however is not where the software ends. Upon opening the box I discovered a total of 5 CD’s which were:
- User guides for the notebook, in PDF format.
- Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 — Starter Edition
- Application and Driver Recovery DVD — For software reinstallation and repair.
- The Windows XP Home Operating System CD
- Microsoft Works & Money (Pre-installed already, however CD provided for re-installation if required).
The disks provided are adequate for the average users needs, and prevents the need for calling up Customer Service if you are needing drivers or reinstalling windows. Along with the above applications that were bundled on the 5 CD’s, there was also some additional software that came pre-installed with the system, as below:
- Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005 (60 day trial only on live update)
- HP Total Care Help & Support Center
- Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Sonic RecordNow
- InterVideo WinDVD
- Apple iTunes
- MSN Encarta Plus
- Microsoft Office 2003 Student and Teacher Edition (60 day trial only)
- AOL Dial-Up
Support is always such a vital aspect of any technology. Sometimes the product is only as good as the support that goes along with it. As far as HP/Compaq goes, I was a little nervous due to the number of stories I have heard regarding inconsistent service from them. They have all forms of support ranging from the standard email and phone, to live online “chat” support. I did use the “chat” function once but am debating its advantages, as all the responses seemed rather scripted and generic. I even had to ask at one point whether this was live chat or an automated response system, and after all of that I verified what I needed to know with a phone call. I have called the phone support twice now and both times been satisfied with the customer service I received, however have not had to test the support with anything too major yet.
The laptop comes with a 1 year limited hardware warranty and 1 year of free hardware technical support via the channels mentioned above. The option was given to me by Futureshop to take up their 3 year insurance plan however I declined as it seemed very pricey. (around $350CAD before tax) HP/Compaq provide the option of extending to 3 year support for almost half this price, which you have the full first year to decide if you want or not.
I struggle to think of any complaints to bring up regarding this notebook. It really has lived up to all of my expectations. The only thing that has bugged me a little is how easy it is to brush against the touchpad; especially the scrolling section of it, which can be annoying when on the go and turning the touchpad off isn’t an option. It could have been indented slightly to prevent this however this could have opened up more problems. Everything else about this notebook does its job perfectly.
I really can’t say enough good things about this laptop. Sure there’s room for upgrades but it has most definitely superceded my expectations of it. It fits in perfectly to my lifestyle and performs everything that I needed it for with ease. I was not expecting to get such good results from gaming and this is one aspect that I was really pleased with.
As you can probably feel from the review, I’m a big fan of this notebook and am glad I purchased it. I would strongly recommend this to anyone looking for a notebook with lots of features, lots of power, and one that doesn’t bust the bank. This would be great for a student looking for something that can handle office applications but has enough power to handle most popular games.
- Great widescreen display.
- Excellent integrated wireless.
- Crisp sounding laptop speakers.
- Built in Memory card reader is a nice bonus.
- Easy to brush over touchpad.
- Slow hard drive and lower RAM can cause slow load times.