by Aaron Betts, Maryland USA
As a busy medical student, I was looking for a portable notebook computer that would fit easily into my bag and would not weigh me down. I did not need an expensive, top-of-the-line computer for high-demand applications or gaming. I simply needed a computer for writing emails, browsing the internet, writing papers, creating Power Point presentations, working with Excel spreadsheets, syncing with a PDA, watching DVD movies, and listening to music. My new computer had to have a built-in wireless card, a DVD-ROM drive, a long battery life, an audio output port for connecting headphones or external speakers, and USB ports. The most important feature, however, was a price that a student can afford. I was willing to forego some features in order to keep the price below $1000. I considered several popular computer models, including Dell Inspiron, Sony Vaio, Toshiba Satellite, and IBM ThinkPad. Most of these brands came with price tags that placed them just beyond my reach. Although I knew that Hewlett Packard and Compaq made affordable computers, I associated these brand names with heavy, bulky notebooks. After a few weeks of searching for an affordable computer that satisfied my demands, I discovered the Compaq Presario V2000 and its Hewlett Packard cousin, the DV1000. I checked out both of these models at a local office supply store. I was surprised to find the HP and Compaq names on smaller, more compact notebooks. Much has been written about the similarities and differences between these two computers. For my needs, the only obvious advantage I saw in the DV1000 over the V2000 was the Quick Play feature, which allows you to watch movies or listen to CDs without going through a complete Windows start-up. Because I could not see myself using this feature very often, I decided to buy the slightly less expensive Compaq V2000, which is marketed as the “take it anywhere” model in the Presario line.
Compaq Presario v2000 Notebook
I found that I could get the best price on a V2000 by ordering a custom notebook on the HP website. Customizing the V2000 allowed me to save money by downgrading some of the options that were not very important to me. I saved even more by taking advantage of HP’s student discount. The major decisions in customizing my V2000 were the operating system, the processor, the display, memory, hard drive size and speed, CD drive, battery, and wireless option. The configuration I purchased is as follows:
- OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows XP Home
- PROCESSOR: Intel Pentium M 710 — 1.4 GHz
- SCREEN: 14.0″ WXGA Widescreen (not the BrightView)
- MEMORY: 256 MB SDRAM (1×256)
- HARD DRIVE: 40 GB 4200 rpm
- CD DRIVE: DVD/CD-RW combo drive
- BATTERY: 6-cell lithium ion
- WIRELESS: Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG WLAN (without Bluetooth).
The HP website seems to always be offering specials or rebates. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a coupon code for additional savings. At the time that I placed my order, HPShopping was offering free shipping, a $30 rebate on custom notebooks, and a free upgrade to the DVD/CD-RW drive. Shipping to most states in the US does not incur a sales tax. The total on my computer with the student discount was $920.26, and the $30 rebate brings it down to $890.26. I also purchased the 2-year Express Repair extended service for an additional $99.99. In the course of shopping, I also talked myself into buying the HP Deskjet 5850 wireless inkjet printer for $101.24. Purchasing the computer and the printer at the same time entitled me to an additional rebate of $50. I was very happy with these prices, but the only drawback to ordering a custom notebook on the website is that it may take a few weeks to deliver. My computer took 13 days from order to delivery.
Form & Design
The V2000 is well-designed and sharp-looking. The inside of the notebook is silver, and the top and bottom are black plastic. The specs from the website report the weight as 5.21 lbs, and the physical dimensions as 13.15 in. x 9.1 in. I was pleasantly surprised when I first picked it up — the computer looks as though it should be a lot heavier than it is. The widescreen design allows for a very functional screen size that does not make the computer too bulky or heavy. The thickness of the computer is greater at the rear (1.53 in.) than it is in the front (1.29 in.). This puts the keyboard at a slight upward angle, which turns out to be a comfortable ergonomic feature. But it may look strange when you first close the display and notice the top is not level.
Compaq Presario v2000 Front side view (view larger image)
Compaq Presario v2000 Back side view (view larger image)
Compaq Presario v2000 Left side view (view larger image)
Compaq Presario v2000 Right side view (view larger image)
The design of the V2000 has a few minor flaws. First, the power cord connects to the back of computer. This can be cumbersome when you need to go to AC power. Second, there is a little slack in the door for the CD drive on the right side panel. I notice it when I pick up the computer from the sides. In order to protect the CD drive door when I travel with the computer, I bought a new bag that came with a protective laptop sleeve. The only other significant design issue is the thickness of the unit. It is slightly thicker than I initially expected. Using the protective sleeve adds even greater thickness to the unit. This takes up precious space in my school bag.
Compaq Presario v2000 screen (view larger image)
The screen size is where the V2000 earns my respect. The 14-inch widescreen design gives a screen height comparable to a standard 12 inch or 14 inch screen, but the width of a 15 inch display. This keeps the dimensions of the computer small and portable while providing a display that is very functional and easy to use. The widescreen design allows me to see the entire width of a document, even when working in landscape mode. It also allows me to easily view two documents side-by-side. I have also discovered that I can play a DVD movie in a small window in the corner of the screen and still have enough usable screen area to work on other applications.
The V2000 only has two custom options for the display: widescreen or widescreen with BrightView. The BrightView screen is a more reflective surface that provides more vivid color and higher contrast. Although I read many glowing reviews of the BrightView screen, I decided against it. I was concerned that the increased reflectivity of the brighter display would cause problems with glare and increased visibility of dust and fingerprints. Also, the BrightView screen seemed to be an additional cost that I did not think was absolutely necessary for my needs. At the time that I bought the computer, the BrightView option added $50 to the price. Since that time, HP has dropped the price to $25 for this upgrade. I do not regret choosing the standard display, as the image quality is sufficient for most of my needs. The only time I really notice the shortcomings of the standard display is when I watch DVD movies. The DVD video quality is a little washed out and grainy, especially when viewing in full screen mode. If I were buying the V2000 at today’s prices I would probably spend the extra money and get the BrightView.
The V2000 comes with JBL stereo speakers mounted on the front panel. The audio quality is great for watching movies, listening to CDs, or streaming audio. I am very pleased with the quality of the sound at all volume ranges. I hooked the computer up to a set of external speakers, and it sounded even better. Like most notebook computers, the audio quality of the V2000 cannot compete with your home entertainment center. But for a computer, the audio is pretty impressive.
Processor and Performance
At first I considered ordering my V2000 with a Celeron processor to save even more money. But after doing a little research, I decided that this was one area where I did not want to downgrade too much. I decided to go with the least expensive Centrino option, which at the time was the Pentium M-710, 1.4 GHz. I also selected the least expensive hard drive option (40 GB, 4200 rpm) and the minimum amount of memory (256 MB). At first I noticed that the performance of the computer was not as snappy as I would have liked. Some programs and windows seemed to take a long time to open and close. I tinkered with the visual effects and startup options to minimize the number of processes that were running in the background. This seemed to help somewhat, but it became obvious that I had underestimated the amount of memory that I would need. Luckily, the V2000 has two memory card slots, and I was only using one slot with the 256 MB that I ordered in the initial configuration. I installed an additional 512 MB card into the second slot. I purchased the additional memory card from a local computer store for about $60 after rebate. The memory upgrade has greatly enhanced the computer’s performance. Programs seem to open and close a lot faster and I no longer feel that the computer is running a few seconds behind me. Furthermore, I was able to get a 768 MB of memory for less than it would have cost me to order the initial configuration with 512 MB. I do not regret my choices on the processor or the hard drive size. After the memory upgrade, the performance is snappy enough for my demands, and I still have 30GB of free space available on the hard drive.
The computer gets a little warm during routine use, but not beyond what I would expect for a notebook computer. The cooling fans kick on occasionally when running high-demand applications or multiple processes. The cooling fans are slightly louder than I originally expected, but it is not a significant issue. The cooling fans activate periodically when playing DVD movies or listening to music directly from a CD. This can drown out the audio if you are listening at low volumes.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Compaq Presario v2000 Keyboard and Touchpad view (view larger image)
The keyboard and touchpad are among the nicest features of the V2000. The keys have a comfortable, springy feel. The widescreen design accommodates a wider keyboard layout. Above the keyboard there are several buttons: main power, wireless button, and volume controls. I like the placement of these additional buttons because they are close enough that they are easily accessible but still separate from the main keyboard. The touchpad and mouse buttons work extremely well. The touchpad also has a region that serves the same function as the scroll wheel on a mouse. The only problem that I have noticed with this feature is that my right palm sometimes brushes the touchpad when I am typing and the screen scrolls a few lines. This is easily remedied by turning the touchpad off when typing long documents or when using an external mouse. The touchpad control button sits between the space bar and the touch pad. There is an orange LED that lets the user know if the touch pad control is on.
Input and Output Ports
There are multiple ports on both side panels of the computer. The left side panel contains the following ports:
- PMCIA slot
- USB 2.0 port
- Phone line and Ethernet ports
- Expansion base port (expansion base is sold separately)
- VGA monitor video output
In addition to the CD drive, the right side panel contains the following ports:
- 6-in-1 memory card reader
- Firewire port
- Two USB 2.0 ports
- S-Video output
The front panel contains the audio output, the microphone input, the display release button, various status lights, and stereo speakers. The AC power input port is located on the rear panel. Overall, I am impressed with the input and output port options on the V2000. It is nice to have three USB ports, and it is even nicer to have them on both side panels. My only complaint with configuration of the ports is that the AC power input is not very convenient to access on the rear panel. I would rather have the AC input port on one of the side panels, and have one of the less frequently used ports (VGA monitor or S-Video output) moved to the rear panel.
I ordered my computer with the Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 (without Bluetooth). The wireless card can be turned off directly from the keyboard by pressing the wireless button. There is a blue light on the wireless button that tells you when the card is turned on, and there is also a blue indicator light on the front panel that lets the user know when the wireless card is turned on. The wireless card has worked for me every time, and I am happy with its range and performance.
There are two battery options on the V2000: 6-cell lithium ion or 12-cell lithium ion. Because I was trying to minimize both the cost and the weight of the computer, I ordered the V2000 with the 6-cell battery. With everyday use, I can get almost three hours out of the 6-cell. This has worked out very well for my demands. I mainly use the computer at home, the school library, and at coffeehouses. Because I never seem to be very far from a power source, the battery life of the 6-cell has worked well for me. However, for those who need a longer battery life and are not bothered by a little extra weight, the V2000 can be ordered with a 12-cell battery (instead of the 6-cell) for an additional $25.
Operating System and Software
The V2000 comes with either the Home or Professional editions of Windows XP. The operating system was already installed when the computer was delivered, and the operating system disks were included with the manuals. The computer was delivered with a thin “Getting Started” manual. The more comprehensive manual is on a CD that comes with the computer.
Warranty and Customer Support
Although I was on a quest to keep the cost of this computer as low as I could, I purchased an additional warranty so that I could have a little extra peace of mind. I bought the 2 year Express Repair coverage for $99.99. The warranty information was delivered in a separate box with the extended warranty information, a warranty sticker, and mail-in registration forms. I have not had a chance to evaluate this coverage yet because I have not had any problems with the computer.
Although the Compaq Presario V2000 is not the smallest and lightest notebook on the market, I am happy that I bought this computer. The widescreen design gives the V2000 a significant functional advantage with little impact on its portability. Despite a few minor design concerns (the AC input on the back panel, the CD drive door, and the thickness), I would recommend this to computer to someone who wants a middle-of-the-road computer for decent price. The custom options allowed me to build a computer that suited my basic needs while keeping the cost within my range. The custom options are also flexible enough that more sophisticated users can upgrade to more powerful options. This makes the V2000 well-suited to a wide range of users.
- Compaq Presario v2000 Review by Johnny Hsu
- Compaq Presario v2000 and HP dv1000 Comparison Review by Mitch Gates
Pricing and Availability