by Johnny Hsu
Since acquiring Compaq, Hewlett-Packard has faced many challenges after the much publicized merger in 2002. Surprisingly, HP continues to push the Compaq brand quite heavily, and the Presario line of notebooks continues to maintain its strong presence in the consumer computing market. Some critics contend that HP is no longer known for its innovation and invention. Instead, HP seems to be in a position of playing catch-up and re-invention. Fortunately, the company remains a great source of technology and produces many quality computers. The new Compaq Presario V2000 is a great example of a quality product that we expect from HP/Compaq. The V2000 is targeted at users who desire a small, lightweight, effective, low-cost notebook computer.
HP is rather late in targeting this consumer segment. Other foremost computer manufacturers have already entered the market with small, portable, useful computers. Apple’s iBook notebook line is immensely popular with students and professionals. Sony and Dell have also released their offerings into the niche market of light-weight notebooks. Now, HP is offering the HP DV1000 and Compaq V2000 to put up a fight with their competitors.
The Compaq V2000 is the sibling to the HP DV1000. Many features and specifications are shared among both, and you may want to consider both models if you are interested in a new notebook.
What I was Looking for
Before I get into my review of the V2000, I would like to convey what I wanted in my new notebook. I hope this will help you understand the aspects that I value and what features I felt were of great importance.
I recently started the fall semester of my graduate school program. I already own a few laptops, so I felt that I would just take one to classes and I could avoid the hassle of buying a new computer. Unfortunately, I soon realized that my big, clunky Dell Inspiron was not the best thing to toss into a book-bag. It really felt that I was lugging around a huge ten pound brick for no reason and I needed two bags; one for my books and one for my computer. Initially, I had bought my laptops because I liked sitting in front of the TV while browsing or bringing a computer along on a road trip. I never had the need to walk around with the laptop while carrying a stack of schoolbooks.
I started looking around for a new notebook that was very light, was able to run the Windows operating system, and was not too expensive. The basic tasks that I was looking to accomplish were word processing, some basic graphics tasks, and web-surfing. Gaming and heavy-duty number crunching were not high on my list of priorities.
I was rather disappointed to discover that the current batch of small notebooks and Tablet PCs were rather expensive. I didn’t need the advanced video cards and super-displays offered by Sony or Dell. I stumbled upon the HP DV1000 – but I wasn’t very impressed by it. I didn’t see a good value after seeing the initial price, and the reviews that I read. The content available about the DV1000 made it sound like a portable entertainment device. Compared to the V2000, the DV1000 sells for about $100 more.
When I investigated more, I found that that Compaq had just released the V2000. This laptop seemed perfect. The weight was okay – but it was not the lightest notebook out there. At first, I was unsure about the size. It seemed that the V2000 was still rather large – the widescreen display isn’t really a space-saving design. As long as I could throw the V2000 into my bookbag, and as long as the v2000 could run the apps that I wanted to run, this notebook would fit the bill. Best of all, the price was more appealing. With the academic pricing offered through HPShopping, this notebook with an effective feature-set cost about $1200.
My Notebook Specifications
I feel that I should post the notebook specifications that I ordered with my V2000. I think this will help you to better understand my thoughts about performance or screen quality when I describe them in my review.
Processor: Intel(R) Pentium(R) M Processor 705 (1.5 GHz)
Display: 14.0″ WXGA BrightView Widescreen(1280×768)
Video Card: Intel(R) Extreme Graphics with productivity ports
Memory: 512MB DDR SDRAM (1x512MB)
Hard Drive: 40 GB 4200 RPM Hard Drive
CD/DVD Drive: 8X DVD Drive
Wireless Networking: Intel(R) Pro/Wireless 2200 802.11BG WLAN
Operating System: Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Home Edition
Additional Software Package: Microsoft(R) Works/Money
Battery: 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
The stated price of these options was $1,229.00. This excludes any rebate, student discount, or tax. Shipping was free. If you are a student and you look for rebates, I’m sure you’ll soon realize how this notebook makes for a great value.
|This notebook is 4 inches taller and|
2 inches wider than a college textbook.
I was greatly impressed by this notebook when I first took it out of the box and turned it on. The notebook looks great and has an interesting, but still attractive, color pattern. The lights and buttons are all well-placed and give the laptop a very nice appearance. Immediately, I could feel that this notebook was sturdier than my Dell Insprion 8500. The size of the notebook was a tad bit larger (in all dimensions) than I was expecting – but it’s not so large that it starts to drag you down.
I was very impressed by the screen. The display is very crisp, and has good visibility. Colors look very nice and small text is easy to read. It’s definitely not the best display available, but it is much better than what I was expecting. One interesting thing is that the screen does not dim if you unplug the V2000 from the AC adapter. I’m unsure how this will affect battery life.
The keyboard felt very nice and offered very good feedback while typing. I think it’s great that the V2000 has a full-sized keyboard instead of a fractional keyboard. The touchpad worked great, and I liked its location. When your fingers are set on the home-row keys, the touchpad is closer to the right hand than to the left. This lets my thumb slide down to it without my hands leaving the home-row. This will probably annoy left-handed users since this means that the touchpad is farther away from the left hand.
I also appreciate that this notebook doesn’t become too hot during use. I’ve had some notebooks that generated so much heat where I felt like my legs were getting burned. Even when plugged in – the V2000 never heats up too much where it is uncomfortable to have on your lap. Additionally, the V2000 does not need a loud fan to keep cool. I hardly notice the cooling fan kick in on the V2000.
s Last, I was surprised by the huge bags of supplemental documentation and resources that Compaq includes with the V2000. I appreciate that they still ship the original operating system, application CD, and even the Windows Security Pack CD in the event that the owner needs to reformat or repair their computer. Their documentation is also very thorough.
One area where I was disappointed was the color of the top part of the V2000’s outer case. The images that I had seen of this notebook made it seem like the top and bottoms were made of some shiny metal or even a glossy plastic. But, the top and bottom is merely a matte black plastic color. Of course, this is entire cosmetic, and easy to get over once you open up the laptop.
Like all new computers and notebooks, there is a short setup procedure you must go through when you first activate your notebook. Compaq’s documentation tells you many, many times that you must have your notebook connected to a telephone line if you wish to do the setup properly. I was rather annoyed by this since I have no land-line in my apartment. Fortunately, you can skip all required steps that require a modem. I am unsure what long-term affects this may have since I cannot repeat those steps now that I have the Internet settings configured correctly for my home network.
Additionally, the setup process also forces you to listen to some annoying music. You cannot mute the V2000 during setup, so you get stuck listening to it until you finish your setup – or you plug in some headphones to stop the music from coming out the main speakers.
|If you get wireless built in, this button|
will activate the wireless functionality
After completing the setup procedure – the first task I tried to accomplish was to set up the wireless network card to access my home network. As much as I hate to admit it, I was stymied for a few minutes trying to figure this out. For some reason, I couldn’t get Windows XP to detect my home network. I even resorted to reading the manual and instructions, but they didn’t mention anything useful about my problem. It turns out that I forgot to push the wireless network button on the V2000. I had never used a notebook that had a push-button to activate or deactivate the wireless card. I really wish Compaq had labeled the button – or at least put something in the documentation about the button. Basically, I just felt really dumb for a few minutes. Once wireless was turned on – the wireless button takes on a peaceful blue glow. It took me 5 seconds to connect to my local wireless LAN.
Compaq bundles the obligatory “free” software titles that clutter your new computer’s desktop. One free software title that I am rather irritated with is the Microsoft Office 2003 demo. I understand that it would be great to have access to Microsoft Word on your brand new computer, but it makes it very tedious to install your own copy of the software. On the bright side – it seems that Compaq is very confident in the V2000 running Office 2003.
I have a very strange habit when I get a new computer. I must reformat the hard drive and use the supplied recovery discs to see if I can restore the computer back to a working condition. In the past, I have had problems with recovery items not working right. I want to know what hiccups and problems that I should expect before I am placed in a tight position and must do a reinstallation.
To my delight, setup is amazingly easy. The Windows XP disc that is shipped guided me through the setup process without any problems. The enclosed Drivers and Applications CD was also very easy to use; reinstalling my wireless drivers and Bluetooth drivers took about 20 minutes. Last, the Windows Update DVD worked great. I must commend Compaq for their work in providing these recovery and restoration utilities.
How the Notebook Performs
I threw a variety of tasks at this notebook to see how it would handle under the workload that I was anticipating. Remember, I’m just using this notebook for school use; please don’t expect me to try a gambit of tests like what you see in PC World or CNET.
- Playing Music
I fired up Winamp and started playing some music while I did the following tests. I am impressed with the audio qualities of this notebook. In my opinion, this notebook has the best speakers of any that I have owned. Sound is loud and crisp – and there are no crackles or static. If you don’t want to disturb people around you, the headphone jack is also conveniently located in the front of the laptop.
- PDF Documents
It seems that more and more documents are now available in the Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file format. I have been frustrated on some computers when reading Acrobat files. Either the load times take forever or browsing the documents is choppy. I found a 170 page PDF document that had many images and regular text. Opening this document didn’t seem to strain the system much. Also, navigation through the document was very fast.
- Word Processing
I’ve never come across anything that really taxed my system in Microsoft Word. However, I can declare that Word 2003 loaded very quickly on my V2000.
- Presentation Tools
I obtained some PowerPoint presentations that had about 200 slides (I really don’t know who has to suffer through these presentations). There wasn’t any problem with viewing the slides or making changes.
In Excel, the first task I tried was to load up a 50MB Spreadsheet. This spreadsheet had some market research and many rows of raw survey data. Loading the spreadsheet took a bit of time (about 8 seconds), but the response was fairly snappy once the file was loaded. I had no problems navigating the various workbooks of my spreadsheet. In a new spreadsheet, I generated 10,000 random numbers which I then placed into a histogram chart. Again, there were no problems and the system responded just fine to my commands.
- Checking Email
I’m one of those packrats who downloads and keeps his email for months after receiving the message. For what purpose, I cannot tell you – but I do have lots of messages. Loading the backup messages into Outlook Express was easy, and browsing email was great.
I have a 4 mega-pixel camera – which saves images at a resolution of 2272×1704 (24 bit color). I know this isn’t the most extreme test that I can run – but I went ahead and opened 20 pictures (the image files were located on my hard drive) to see how long it would take. Loading the pictures was rather slow – I’d guess about 1 second for each picture. I think that having a faster hard drive would speed things up.
Also, on occasion, I commit some very lack-luster efforts at producing images for the web or for some presentations. I usually use Photoshop for this. Rather than do the obligatory “gaussian blur” test, I just opened up one of my larger Photoshop files and felt how it responded. This file had about 25 layers, but the image itself was only 640 x 480 I randomly tried out some Photoshop tools, and randomly applied various filters and action-sets. For this level of photo/image editing, the V2000 performed fine. I suspect that graphic designers who do high-end work will need to find a machine with better performance.
I’m sure that the topic of gaming ability is important to many students. However, please be advised that the V2000 is not a good gaming machine. I obtained a copy of The Sims(R) and Halflife(R) to test out the V2000’s gaming ability. Both games installed and were playable, but the performance was definitely poor. However, casual gamers will be pleased to know that they can still visit http://games.yahoo.com or play simple flash-games without any issues.
|Be sure to observe how far back you can open your|
screen before you hit the power plug!
No product is perfect, so here’s my list of concerns so far.
One thing that puzzles me is that I cannot lay this notebook “flat.” In a few photos I’ve seen, there appears to be a view where the notebook is open to its fullest, and it is lying flat where the screen and keyboard are facing upwards. I cannot do this with my notebook. To an extent, I have a feeling that this situation is intentional. The reason is that the power-plug is located on the back part of the notebook. It is the only port found on the back of the unit. If you have the notebook plugged in, the screen will actually push against this plug if you try to open the screen all the way. I think Compaq may have altered the hinge to prevent the screen from knocking off (or breaking) the power connector. I believe that to prevent users from calling in with broken power adaptors, Compaq simply prevented the hinge from opening where it’ll cause any damage.
The second “gripe” that I have is the poorly designed power AC/DC adapter. It’s big, clunky, and the wires fall everywhere. Compaq does not offer a strap or a convenient spool for the cord to wrap around. This makes carrying the charger a bit more difficult than I would have liked.
The third thing is probably due to me being old-fashioned. I would like to have an Infrared (IR) port on my V2000 notebook. I still use a Palm Pilot (R) quite often, but the budget Palm devices do not have Bluetooth support. The ability to do a Hotsync via IR would be a nice feature.
Impressions After One Week of Use
I’ve been able to use this notebook for a week now. It has worked perfectly when I needed it, and I am very satisfied with this purchase.
|The V2000 has a vibrant and clear screen|
- Battery Life
Battery life has been better than I was expecting. I simply purchased the 6 cell battery (the default battery). It lasts about 3.5 hours and the notebook performs very well no matter if it is plugged in or not. As I mentioned earlier, the display remains very bright and vibrant even if the laptop is not plugged into a wall socket. So, even at a good screen brightness, the battery seems to perform rather well.
I’ve had to write a report on the notebook already. For this purpose, the V2000 did great. The screen was easy to read so I could work without feeling fatigued. The notebook doesn’t heat up very much – so it was comfortable on my lap. Also, nothing is crashing or behaving erratically, which makes me very happy.
I plugged the V2000 to a LCD projector to test if I could use it for presentations. There were no problems – and it only took a few seconds to get the display settings right for the secondary display.
A feature that I really like about this notebook is the “mute” button. You can quickly shut down all audio output with the push of a button – and the button remains illuminated to let you know that the computer is muted. I’ve had my fair share of annoying pop-ups and embedded midi files start playing and it’s great to know that it’s easy to make those nuisances less disturbing.
I’m very happy with how quickly the V2000 enters and exits the “hibernate” power-saving mode. It is very nice to be able to begin working on the laptop when you sit down. The V2000 takes about 12 seconds to enter hibernate mode and about 8 seconds to awaken from hibernate mode.
Last, some users may be sad to find that this notebook does not have a slot for CompactFlash (CF) media. There is a built-in 6 in 1 memory card reader, but it doesn’t support the relatively clunky CF format. Owners of the support types (smart media, Sony MemoryStick, etc.) will be very happy. Some vendors sell PCMCIA adaptor cards that allow you to plug in a CF card. If you really want to plug a CF card into your V2000, you’ll have to go out and purchase this accessory.
I simply toss this notebook into my bag and haul it to class. So far, I haven’t seen any marks or scars even though books and pens are probably pushing up against the outer-chassis. Also, the screen seems pretty good at resisting fingerprints and food-stains. I ate some canned peaches while using the V2000, and some of the juice splatter wiped right off.
I have ordered a laptop sleeve to help protect this notebook down the road, but that sleeve hasn’t arrived yet. Generally, the V2000 seems durable – although I won’t find out whether this statement is true until after a few months.
- Future Upgrades?
This notebook doesn’t have very much room for future upgrades. There is one open memory slot (I currently have 1 x 512MB or RAM) and some users may desire an upgraded battery. There is no removable drive bay, and there seems little incentive for a user to attempt upgrading the internal components. There are many possible USB accessory and PCMCIA card upgrades, but nothing made specifically for the V2000. The only addition offered by Compaq is the HP xb2000 notebook expansion base. This $300 accessory will allow you to turn your notebook into a media center.
- The Display
I’m very pleased with the display. It is very bright with good contrast, but the screen is hard on the eyes after prolonged use. At times, I wished that I had more viewing space, but that only seems to apply to spreadsheet viewing.
|This is the 6 in 1 memory reader,|
but there is no slot for CompactFlash Media
Warranty and Support
No real surprises here, you get a 30 day return period and a 1 year parts warranty. If you want better support, you have to pay a bit extra.
I purchased my notebook from HPShopping.com – and their customer service seems impressive. I had quite a few issues getting my order right, and their customer service reps had a good answer and solution for me every time. To give you an idea of the problems that I had – due to my gaff in ordering, there was a point where I had 2 V2000 notebooks in my possession at one time Needless to say, HPShopping has a friendly staff of customer support personnel that is fully capable of resolving difficult ordering problems. However, be advised that their call center hold time is rather lengthy during the daytime. I called at noon and had a 30 minute wait time.
I have yet to have a system problem – so I am unsure how capable the support staff is for techinical issues.
I know I may be hasty in my conclusion (after all, I’ve only used this notebook for a week), but I feel that the V2000 is a great notebook. It has amazing value, and I am very happy that I purchased it. So far, based on my original expectations, I have yet to come across something that I feel that I have to “live with” or “settle for.” The V2000 handles all of my tasks with no issues, and the notebook is great for carrying around. I have become very comfortable with the notebook, and it has lived up to everything that it was advertised for. I did my entire review on this notebook. This included downloading and resizing images from my camera, the word processing of this text, and uploading the requisite files onto a webserver.
I would definitely recommend the V2000 to a student or a professional who do not require a beast of a notebook. The small size and adequate processing power make the V2000 a great complement to users who need a computer on the go
Pricing and Availability