by Zachary Blum
The holiday season of 2006 was filled with intense price competition between resellers for low-budget notebook sales. Online and brick and mortar stores alike battled for this market segment aggressively with mostly low-spec or low-quantity systems. The HP Compaq Presario V6000Z was a member of that competition, but unlike many of its competitors this model was available for build to order. There weren’t any lines to wait in or crowds to brave. Plus, this 15" laptop features a Mobile AMD Semprom CPU which offers the power-saving technologies Intel leaves off their Celeron M line. The V6000Z is built to be a general purpose notebook suited for general productivity; not anything overly demanding like gaming. It’s a budget model that provides all the basics without sacrificing portability or battery life.
Compaq v6000z (view large image)
- Mobile AMD Semprom 3500+ (1.8 GHz, 512 MB Cache)
- 15.4′ WXGA Widescreen (1280×800, non-glossy/brightview)
- NVidia GeForce Go 6150 (borrows 64 MB of RAM)
- 1024 MB DDR2 RAM (2 Dimm)
- 40 GB 5400 RPM SATA Hard Drive
- DVD and CD-RW combo drive
- 802.11b/g wireless
- 6 cell battery
- Windows XP Home Edition (Windows Vista Express Upgrade Promotion)
- Microsoft Works and Money
- Standard finish (no swirl imprint)
- 2 USB 2.0 ports
- 1 VGA output
- 1 S-Video output
- 1 Lock slot
- 1 Modem/Phone port
- 1 Network/Ethernet port
- 1 Expansion card slot
Reasons for Buying
What led me to looking at HP notebooks was the fact that I didn’t have to deal with all the holiday traffic and crowds. Also, the price promotions and free upgrades HP was offering in the middle of December were exactly what I was looking for. This purchase was not for myself, however. Together my dad and I wanted to purchase a budget notebook for my mom. We didn’t have a lot of money to work with and wanted to keep things as inexpensive as possible. Our target price was to be no more than $550 (after rebates). Also, we made the decision to purchase a little late in the season. After some research, especially on this site, I found HP to be running the best offers at the time. I was particularly interested in the free upgrade to 1 GB of RAM HPshopping.com was offering the week of 12/13/2006.
Compaq v6000z package contents (view large image)
Initially I started looking at the Compaq models because they were priced lower than the HP models on HPshopping. The V3000Z was the least expensive at the time I was looking, however the screen was 14" inches and the RAM was at 512 MB. Making a significant upgrade to the hard drive to increase performance was out of the question, so I examined other models to see if I could get more RAM for almost the same price. This led me to the V6000Z and V6000T. These two were priced very similar. The difference was that the Z model had AMD processors and the T model had Intel processors. I made the decision to go with AMD after researching the power-saving technologies offered by both the Sempron and Celeron lines. I liked the variable clock speed ability the Sempron had over the Celeron, which lacked such a feature (speed-step is on Pentium processors). That and an inexpensive cache upgrade is what sold me on the Z model. Also, at the time there was a promotion for a free upgrade to 1 GB of RAM.
I purchased this system through http://www.HPshopping.com after doing heavy comparison on offers from other manufacturers and also resellers. I opted for 2 day shipping and completed my order the evening of 12/13. I hoped that my order would arrive before Christmas day, but it ended up arriving 2 days after, which was ok because there wasn’t a guarantee that it would arrive before Christmas and the actual estimate was for it to arrive late in the first week of January. The total price for the system came up to about $650, but there was a $100 mail-in-rebate. I really don’t like mail-in-rebates although HP tries to make it less painful by having an online service to start the rebate process from their website. They say this will speed processing and hopefully it will. You still need to mail away some barcodes and your packing list though.
The system arrived via FedEx. I was really surprised when I got the initial tracking notification and the system started its FedEx journey in China. This isn’t a bad thing, but as someone who has purchased Dell’s in the past (which get transported to Texas before being shipped) it was a bit different. Again, not a negative though and FedEx did race it here. I liked the speed of the delivery because it was much faster than I anticipated. The notebook arrived with foam cushions on either side of its width and a box sitting atop it. The foam prevented both the outside box and inside box from touching the system, which was also wrapped in plastic. Basically, the packing is exactly what you’d expect to find.
Inside the box sitting next to the notebook is a quick-start poster, the AC adaptor (AKA power brick, which is actually more like a rice crispy because it’s small and light), a short phone cable, and a bunch of advertisements and instruction booklets. There were no restore CD’s provided. HP instead charges extra for these but does place an 8 GB restore partition on your system’s hard drive. I’m itching to get rid of that when Vista arrives. 8 GB seems excessive to me because I have Windows CD’s. However, some of the HP software is pretty nice.
Again I’m going to dedicate a section to the bloatware on this system. I know manufactures do this to lower prices, but it does get really annoying to boot into Windows for the first time and have to wait 5 to 7 minutes for all the garbage to load up and have to go through all the windows that pop up. You’ll find Norton, Vongo, and some HP software like a wireless network assistant, auto-update program, and a quick-launch button configuration utility upon starting the system up. There’s also a bunch of ISP offers like AOL plastered on your desktop. Removing most of these is rather easy. It also looks like HP provides some Wild Tangent games they’ve purchased for you and some picture album software. I only decided to remove some useless or annoying programs and left a bunch like the HP photo stuff and games. So far my mom has really liked the included HP software, especially the photo album tool. While installing replacement anti-virus and spyware software I had copied over from my other system I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my software installed.
Build and Design
Compaq v6000z lid (view large image)
The V6000Z comes in a very dark grey color. I want to call it charcoal-like in color. Some of the pictures online made it look silver and that’s just not what it looks like. It also really likes fingerprints. I did not opt for the imprint finish on this notebook since this was such a budget-conscious purchase. Upon starting up the notebook you’ll notice blue lights for the "feather-touch" volume controls as well as media button (which boots up a DVD player that only responds within Windows). There’s also a blue light on the power button and a blue ring that surrounds where the power adaptor plugs in. Blue indicator lights for the caps lock, scroll lock, and touchpad are right next to their appropriate buttons. There’s an orange light for the Wi-Fi on/off switch which is analog and can be toggled even when the system is off.
v6000z QuickLaunch buttons (view large image)
One unusual thing to note with this system is that the indicator lights are very tiny and located at the bottom left of the system when open. They sit right where your left wrist would go so it’s not hard at all to cover them up. They’re also so small you don’t always notice them. The casing of this system seems to be tough plastic too. It doesn’t like to flex, but it will behind the screen if you really try to make it. Overall I was happy with its sturdiness. It’s much stiffer than the Inspiron 6000 my brother has.
The dimensions for the main body of the laptop are: 14 inch wide x 1 inch tall x 10 inch deep. The entire thing seems to be made of sturdy plastic that’s the dark grey everywhere except on the bottom where there’s black. There’s no latch to secure the screen when closed. However, the joints where the screen tilts back are stiff and prevent the screen from bouncing around much when open or being accidentally pulled open when closed. You’ll want to be careful the first time or two you close the screen because the bottom of the system may lift a little. Also, during the ordering process if you want to get additional ports (like IEEE 1394) you’ll have to get both the graphics card upgrade and the imprint finish. That was more than I wanted to spend.
Also, it’s worth noting that this system and its power supply are very light. I was surprised when I felt the weight of the power supply. It’s not much heavier than its casing. The power supply is also very small and has the dimensions of: 1 inch wide x 1 inch tall x 4 inch deep.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Compaq v6000z keyboard (view large image)
The keyboard on the V6000Z features keys that are flat and have squared edges. There’s no flex on my keyboard and the keys are nicely responsive. The Ctrl and Fn keys are also in the positions I prefer them to be (Ctrl to the left of Fn). The touchpad on this system is also large and responsive. The scroll features seem to nearly always work. The only thing I don’t like is that the touchpad seems to be a fingerprint magnet like the rest of system’s casing. Also, the buttons on the touchpad are really annoying because you have to press them down so far. It takes some getting used to because they sink into the system rather than normal. I found tapping to be much easier for me to get used to than clicking the buttons.
Compaq v6000z touchpad (view large image)
Input and Output Ports
On the front is a wireless on/off switch plus indicator light, a microphone input, a headphone jack, and the indicator lights for power, HDD access, and charging.
On the right side of this system you’ll find a USB 2.0 port, the power port, a lock slot, the DVD/CD drive, and a PCMCIA expansion card slot.
On the left side is an S-video output, VGA output, "Expansion Port 3" connector, the phone and network connections, plus a second USB port. The main intake vents are also located underneath the S-video and VGA ports.
Just the battery.
Compaq v6000z bottom view (view large image)
Access to the memory is located in the center of the unit. The battery release latch is also here as well as a panel to give you access to the hard drive. The main cooling fan can also be seen here.
On this particular purchase I did not buy the BrightView screen. I got the regular screen since the only difference seemed to be $25 more for the glossy screen. I was pleased to find that there weren’t any dead or stuck pixels. Every pixel on the screen appears to be fine and there’s no sheen to the screen either. It’s just a regular LCD. The lack of the gloss coating helped save money and reduce glare/reflections, but picture quality on gloss screens always seems to be a bit more eye-catching for some reason. The non-gloss is fine for my mom’s needs though. There’s also not any noticeable light leakage on the bottom of the screen. Sure, blacks can seem a little uneven and the corners of the screen on the bottom look a little darker depending on how tilted your screen is, but these are all normal.
Viewing angles on this screen aren’t too bad. You can always see what you’re looking at from the sides, although the brightness decreases as you move to extremes. Vertical viewing angles are pretty narrow though. It takes a bit of practice to correctly position the angle of the screen so what you’re looking at has constant color and isn’t washed out or too dark. The NVidia graphics chip really struts its stuff here because it allows you to take the default sort of washed out look of the screen and reconfigure it to something much more appealing. I turned up the digital vibrance and contrast a bit and decreased the gamma a little. Brightness really didn’t need much adjusting. Without the NVidia chip you lose the digital vibrance feature, unfortunately. That really saved the day here and makes this LCD better than I had expected. I’m very happy with the display and so is mom. It will take a good 5 to 10 minutes of playing with the graphics settings and viewing images for users to really find their preference.
There is one little weird thing I’ve noticed, however. When running the V6000Z on battery sometimes there’s a quiet whine or buzzing from the lower right side of the screen right under the bezel. If you push on that plastic lightly or adjust the tilt of your screen the sound normally goes away. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not sure what causes it and it’s easy to get rid of.
Speakers and Audio
I really can’t say much about the audio on this system. Having the audio ports on the front is nice because you’ll definitely want to use them if you listen to a lot of music. The V6000Z’s speakers come from two quarter-sized ports sitting just above the right and left sides of the keyboard. The sound is unimpressive and you lose a lot of the lower frequency sounds. Higher frequency sounds can sound crackly which is disappointing. For general use this isn’t bad, but music lovers will definitely want headphones. I typically test the sound using orchestra music. If I can hear all the instruments, feel the drums, and things sound the way they do with a real orchestra then the speakers are good. With the speakers on this system none of the above happens although you can tweak the sound levels in various Media Players to help. A subwoofer might have helped here but this is only a budget system. The sound could be worse. I’ve heard systems twice as expensive as this V6000Z (take my old sold Sony GRZ-630 for example) which had much poorer quality sound output. For the price I paid I really can’t complain here. The speakers are competitive with what’s out there at this price point. The audio chip in this system says it’s a high-definition audio unit but I can’t hear a difference compared to a regular AC’97 system.
Processor and Performance
The V6000Z has the option of Mobile AMD Sempron processors or Turion processors. Because I was on a budget I went for the Sempron. I chose to upgrade from the 3400+ to the 3500+ with double the cache since it was $20. This along with the gig of RAM I thought would be able to offset the slowness of a 5400 RPM hard drive well. I was happy to see that the standard hard drives from HP were 5400 RPM and not 4200 RPM on the V6000Z at the time of my purchase.
I’m happy to say that the responsiveness of this system is much better than I had expected. It’s on par with a Pentium M 1.6 GHz laptop or an Athlon XP 2700+ desktop. The V6000Z is snappy and responsive. Thanks to the amount of RAM it does pretty well running multiple programs too. There’s very little lag when switching between programs. Also, to help you save battery life the processor automatically down-clocks itself when you let it idle. This was a major selling point against its Celeron competitor, the V6000T.
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 v6000z (AMD Sempron 3500+)||1m 49s|
|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|
3D Mark 2005
3DMark 2005 is a benchmarking tool that tests the overall graphics performance of a PC. The Compaq v6000z is quite obviously not a gaming notebook and as such does not measure up well in graphics tests:
|Laptop||3DMark 2005 Score|
|Compaq Presario v6000z (AMD Sempron 3500+)||644 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO SZ2 (2.16GHz Core Duo, NVIDIA 7400)||1,851 3DMarks|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||2,264 3DMarks|
|ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||2,092 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3DMarks|
PC Mark 2005 is a great benchmarking tool for measuring a notebooks overall system performance. Here’s how the v6000z stacks up against some other notebooks, the lack of dedicated graphics hurts the v6000z score but overall it’s not a bad performance:
|Laptop||PCMark 2005 Score|
|Compaq Presario v6000z (AMD Sempron 3500+)||2,287 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,427 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
Heat and Noise
The V6000Z is surprisingly quiet. Even while running the benchmark programs above the fan was just about silent. You could hear it only if you were listening for it in a perfectly quiet room. If a TV is on or if people are talking you won’t be able to hear the fan. During the PC Mark 2005 test there were a few times the fan started to spin up and you could start to notice it. However, it was not obtrusive nor did it make any whining noises. This Is a big improvement over HP’s older blue and grey laptops. A few students in my computer science courses have these models and you can tell when their fans are revving up. With the V6000Z it does a great job of regulating its noise. I also found that propping up the left rear of the notebook also significantly helps the cooling system intake. I tried doing that and about a second later the fan slowed a bit even though the testing had not changed.
Heat on the V6000Z congregates at the bottom edge of the keyboard over its entire width. There is also some additional heat towards the top left where the main cooling system and CPU is. The system will keep your hands warm but it won’t get them hot or uncomfortable. During the benchmarks the heat never became annoying or excessive. The system stays much cooler than my old single-fanned Sony notebook but cannot compete with my dual-fanned XPS Gen 2 notebook.
The wireless network assistant HP provides makes it pretty easy for you to connect to a home network to share files and printers. Microsoft needs to update its wireless network configuration in Windows XP because I can’t count the number of average people that get lost using that. Thankfully HP makes it easy.
The actual reception and connection speeds of the V6000Z’s wireless card are competitive. It gets just about as much reception as my Dell running an Intel wireless card. Any differences in performance were negligible. The driver utilities that support the wireless do have a smaller footprint in your memory than what the Intel drivers take up.
I don’t have an exact time for how long the battery lasts. However, I can say that you can comfortably watch a 3 hour movie and have a little time left over if you dim your screen down two clicks. I did a battery test using the third Lord of the Rings movie and had plenty of battery left over for some browsing online for a while (20 minutes or so). For a 6 cell battery I really didn’t expect that much battery time. Depending on how hard you use the system and how bright the screen is you’re looking at anywhere between 3 and 4 hours of battery time with normal usage. That’s plenty of time to watch almost any movie or go wireless for a good amount of time. It’s been very useful for taking this laptop anywhere in the house (or even outside) and just doing whatever online or typing things up somewhere comfortable away from noise. If you’re a college student and you like to write papers in a lounge or at the caf but don’t want to bring along your power brick, then this is a good choice system for you since you’ll get just under 4 hours. During my movie-watching the wireless card was switched on the entire time. Disabling the wireless card could help get battery life over 4 hours for light usage or general productivity.
Operating System, Recovery Utilities, and Vista Upgrade
Because I was on a budget I opted for Windows XP Home Edition. You can also select Media Center and Professional editions for this notebook. All three versions come with a free Windows Vista Express Upgrade Program. XP Home Edition in particular upgrades to Vista Home Basic, which lacks the new aero interface Microsoft has been excited about. The V6000Z comes with a sticker that says it was designed for Windows XP and is Vista Capable. There’s also an NVidia sticker on the system.
HP unfortunately charges extra for recovery discs. At the time of purchase it was an additional $20 to get these discs so I decided not to since I already have a Windows XP Home disc from another system. There is an 8 GB restore partition on the hard drive and you can also have the system burn factory restoration discs from the included utility HP places in the Windows Control Panel. It’s worth noting that the Express Upgrade to Vista is completely free (no shipping and handling charges either) and includes a Vista CD as well as an HP Driver CD. That’s a nice way of getting out of having to pay $20. The entire Vista upgrade online application was painless and didn’t take long.
The V6000Z comes with a standard one year warranty at no extra charge. This was another major selling point over HP’s rival Dell because competing systems from them came with only a standard 90-day warranty instead of the full year. Also, incase my mom didn’t like the system, HP still doesn’t have a restocking fee (at this time) if you return an item within their returns period after you receive your system. Normally I don’t think about these things, but when you’re on a budget and you’re not sure if someone’s going to be happy with their system then this is definitely something to make you more confident about forking over hundreds of dollars.
I have not personally had to contact customer support. My order was placed online and went through without any issues. It also arrived before the date HP promised it by. I am a little nervous about the mail-in-rebate though. HP does have a way for you to get your rebate started online and then mail the needed barcodes and packing list to them. This online tool also confirms the eligibility of your system so it’s harder for you to get a letter back saying something isn’t eligible (but I’m sure it’s still possible!).
- Very quiet
- Better than expected performance
- Power supply is small and light
- Good quality screen
- NVidia graphics chip and driver (helps improve screen color)
- Horizontal viewing angles are good
- Keyboard is firm and responsive
- Touchpad scroll feature almost always works
- Wireless on/off manual switch
- Touchpad buttons sink into the case (takes a lot to push them)
- No latch on screen lid
- Small and easily covered up system indicator lights
- Only 2 USB 2.0 ports (one on each side)
- CD drive eject button placed at an awkward angle and blends into case
If you’re on a budget or don’t need serious performance then you should take a look at the V6000Z. Gamers should steer clear of this model unless they aim only to play non-3D games. If your primary goal is to have a portable system around the house or dorm for productivity, web surfing, taxes (it’s almost that time of the year again), chatting, and other general purpose things while making sure it will work with Vista, then the V6000Z is a good choice especially for entry-level users. It won’t catch anyone’s eye with is looks, logo, lights, performance, or expandability, but it will save you a ton of money.