HP Compaq F500 Series Review

by ZaZ Reads (179,837)

 

by Ted Lynch

Overview

The Compaq F500 is a series of notebooks from HP featuring AMD CPUs. This particular model under review, the F560US, has the AMD Sempron CPU while others in the model line have Athlon TK Dual Core CPUs. The F500 series is squarely planted in the budget end of the notebook spectrum. The F560us has a minimum of features and style, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re on a limited budget. You’re probably going to see a lot of the F500 series between now and Christmas. I know Circuit City has the similar C717NR, which comes with the Pentium Dual Core instead of an AMD CPU, on Black Friday as a doorbuster item. Stores will probably use them as a way to entice you into the store with a low price after rebates hoping you’ll buy other stuff as well. That’s how they got me to buy. The F560us’ best features are the pleasing glossy screen, simple look and low price. It also has some less than stellar attributes as well. We’re going to look at it all in detail in this review.

Reason for Buying


Compaq F560us (view large image)

I like my ThinkPad R60 a lot, but the screen on it is relatively dim. It’s really my only major complaint about it. Sometimes the R60′s higher resolution SXGA+ screen causes me eye fatigue after using it for longer periods of time, especially when I am tired. I had just reviewed the Toshiba A215 and seen some other notebooks with bright glossy screens which made me want one too.

I decided to look for a notebook with a glossy screen for when I was tired of looking at my dim ThinkPad. I will mainly use it for Internet, music, burning a few discs, Office and maybe a little light photo editing – the same things I do on my ThinkPad. I don’t need a lot of performance; heck a Pentium III would probably suffice for what I’m doing. I was looking for something inexpensive with a good glossy screen. Originally, I looked at the Fujitsu A6025 at NewEgg when they were offering a $200 rebate on it. I suspect the Fujitsu would have provided a bit better quality and performance with the Core Duo, but they ran out before I could buy. I was surfing the net late one night and came across a deal for the F560US for $350 after rebate. I bought the Compaq on a whim and hoped for the best.

Specs

Here are the specifications of the model at the time of purchase.

  • Model: F560US (GF593UA)
  • CPU: 25W AMD Sempron 3500+ 1.8GHz 1600MHz FSB 512K L2 Cache
  • Chipset: Nvidia
  • Memory: 512MB DDR2 P5300 2 Slots, 1 Open 2GB Max
  • Hard Drive: 80GB 5400RPM Fujitsu (MHV2100BH) SATA
  • Screen: 15.4" WXGA 1280 x 800 Glossy
  • Optical Drive: LiteOn DS8A1P DVD+/-RW/-RAM
    • 8x DVD+/-R, 4x DVD+/-RW, 4x DVD+/-R DL
    • 5x DVD-RAM
    • 24x CD-R,16x CD-RW
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce Go 6150 128MB Shared
  • Network: Broadcom Wireless BG, Nvidia 10/100 Ethernet, Modem
  • Inputs: 86 Key Keyboard and Two Button Trackpad with Scroll Zones
  • Buttons: Power and WiFi On/Off Switch.
  • Ports:
    • 3 USB 2.0 Ports – Two Left Side, One Right Side
    • S-Video and VGA Out
    • Line-In and Headphone
  • Other: Microphone Integrated into LCD Housing
  • Battery: Six Cell
  • Dimensions:
    • Width – 14.1”
    • Depth – 10.1”
    • Height – 1.5”
  • Weight: 6.6 Lbs.
  • Operating System: Vista Home Basic
  • Warranty: One Year

Build and Design

If there is a theme to the design on the F560, it would be simple, in design and features. You get just what you need and nothing more. Every time I look at it, it sort of reminds of Kim Jong-il wearing his workers party suit.


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The top of the F560us.jpg

The F560′s case is made of plastic. It does not have HP’s new Imprint Finish technique, so it’s not shiny and pretty, but does not attract the smudges that the new look glossy notebooks do. The case is black on the outside with a dark gray keyboard area and black keyboard. The case features rounded edges and has a lone Compaq logo adorning the lid of the notebook. All in all quite simple I would say, but on occasion attracting less attention is a good thing. The F560 has a 15.4" screen and weighs about six and half pounds. It’s probably not a notebook that should be carried on a daily basis, but taking it out now and again is certainly doable. The size of the notebook is quite similar to that of my R60, it’s just wider due to the screen and a bit heavier.

 


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Back to back with the R60.

The quality of the F560 is good. I think the build quality taken in context of the cost ($350) is very good, but if you need something more durable, you should probably be spending more money if you can. On a side note, most of the more recent budget notebooks I’ve seen lately have been a step up in quality. Higher grade plastics and more rigid frames seem to be more the norm than they were a few years ago. Hooray for us budget users.

The case on the F560 is made of smooth plastic. While it’s not the kind of notebook that can withstand major accidents, it feels as though it can take the minor scrapes and dings that most notebooks experience during their lifetimes. The frame feels rigid, though there is one small spot on the right side that creaks slightly when picked up from the edge. Fit and finish on the F560 is solid. There are no gaps where there shouldn’t be nor any misaligned parts.

The screen is secured to the base using one long hinge which almost runs the length of the notebook. It feels very stiff, if anything stiffer than my steel hinged ThinkPad — though not by a lot and my ThinkPad has a years use on it. The lid does not offer a lot of protection as it ripples most places you put pressure on it. The F560 does not have a latch to secure the lid, but the last inch or so it puts a lot of downward pressure on the screen. It sort of makes a thud when you close it. I don’t think there’s much chance it’s going to open by itself. Time will tell if it holds up.


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The F560 making some new friends, the ThinkPad R60 and the 17” MacBook Pro.

Screen

The screen on the F560US is, in my opinion, the best thing about it. It is a 15.4” glossy screen. It has 10 brightness levels which can be adjusted via the keyboard. I know there have been a lot of complaints about the screen quality of HP notebooks in the NBR Forums and a lot of other manufacturers as well. Perhaps I won the screen lottery, but the screen on the unit I received is fantastic. The screen is clear and bright. The colors on it are rich and vibrant, seeming to leap off the screen. There is no grain or sparkle. Light leakage is very minimal, much better than the norm I would say. There were no dead/stuck pixels on the unit I received.


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The F560 showing the “The Iron Giant”.

The screen on the F560 is WXGA(1280×800). I used to be a bit of a screen resolution junky. In the past I always wanted a higher resolution so I could cram as much as I could onto the screen as possible. After having owned three ThinkPads in a row with their relatively dim matte screens, I’ve since moderated my stance. Brightness and readability have taken on a greater importance, as long as a I have a decent mechanism to scroll with which the F560 provides via the trackpad scrolling zones. Viewing angles on the F560 are thin like most notebooks. The glossiness can be annoying at times, but I’ve learned to live with it as a trade off for the extra brightness of the screen.


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A screen brightness comparison.

In the shot above, both screens are set to their maximum brightness. While the Compaq certainly looks brighter, I don’t think the picture does justice to how much brighter it seems in person.

Performance & Benchmarks

Sempron and performance are usually not used in the same sentence, especially where Vista is concerned. Out of the box performance was quite sluggish due to having Vista in conjunction with the low amount of memory and the bloatware. Even HP suggests 1GB of memory as the minimum for Vista, but sells a notebook with less memory, Hmmm… I truly feel sorry for anyone who has to use this notebook as configured with 512MB. It’s not horrible and maybe someone who doesn’t know better wouldn’t mind, but after having had better it can be irritating. After using Vista Home Basic and making a few upgrades, I decided to dump Vista in favor of XP which at this point offers superior performance. I will detail all of this later in the software section.

All of the benchmarks were run while using XP, not Vista which came with the machine. I doubt it wouldn’t have made much of a difference as it’s not really a performance machine, but it’s something to keep in mind when reviewing the benchmarks.

wPrime

wPrime is a CPU benchmarking utility. It uses a multithreaded technique which can better differentiate between CPUs with multiple cores than Super Pi which is single threaded. Being that the Sempron has one core, it doesn’t score very well.

Notebook / CPU

wPrime 32M time

CompaqF560us (AMD Sempron 3500+ @ 1.8GHz)

95.532s

ThinkPad R60(Core Duo T2300e @1.66GHz)

53.434s

Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @2.2GHz)

37.299s

HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)

40.965s

Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz)

76.240s

Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)

42.385s

Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)

37.705s

Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz)

38.327s

Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)

38.720s

Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz)

42.218s

Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz)

42.947s

Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz)

44.922s

Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz)

45.788s

Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz)

46.274s

Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz)

47.563s

 

 

Super Pi

Super Pi calculates Pi to two million digits and is a good test for single threaded apps. Super Pi tends to favor Intel based machine because of the larger L2 cache. Having said that, the Sempron did better in Super Pi than I had expected, at least bringing it up to the performance level of the Pentium M.

Notebook

Time

Compaq F560us (1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3500+)

1m 47s

Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500)

0m 54s

ThinkPad R60 (1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300e)

1m 26s

Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)

0m 58s

Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)

1m 01s

Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)

0m 59s

HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100)

1m 09s

Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)

0m 59s

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)

1m 03s

Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300)

1m 24s

Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)

1m 34s

HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52)

2m 05s

HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)

0m 59s

Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)

1m 02s

 

 

PCMark05/3DMark05:

And bringing up the rear is the F560. While the PCMark scores for the Sempron don’t look all that great, for typical everyday tasks like Office, Internet, Movies and Music, the F560 seemed just as fast as my ThinkPad, at least with XP installed. Maybe things weren’t quite as snappy, but my ThinkPad has a faster drive. The F560 is not a gaming machine, but the score was 651 in 3DMark05 if you were interested.

 

Notebook

PCMark05 Score

Compaq F560us (1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3500+, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150)

2,297 PCMarks

Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)

4,925 PCMarks

ThinkPad R60 (1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300e, Intel X3100)

2,975 PCMarks

Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)

4,591 PCMarks

Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)

4,153 PCMark

Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)

3,987 PCMarks

Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)

4,189 PCMarks

HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)

4,234 PCMarks

Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)

3,487 PCMarks

Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)

5,597 PCMarks

HP 6910P (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, X3100)

3,829 PCMarks

Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)

3,646 PCMarks

 


HD Tune

HD Tune is a hard drive diagnostic and benchmarking tool. From the scores below, the Toshiba hard drive scores well for 5400RPM drive.


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A screen capture of HD Tune.

 

Drives & Storage

The F560 has the LiteOn DS8A1P DVD burner. It is an 8x DVD burner which also has support for DVD-RAM. A full DVD burn clocks in at 13 minutes while a full CD comes in at around six minutes, both solidly average for a notebook drive. I burned several CDs and DVDs. I had no issues with the discs I burned on it. The drive was a surprisingly good ripper, which is unusual for a notebook drive. It ripped a full DVD in a little over nine minutes. The tray on the drive felt a little flimsy, but did its job well otherwise.

 


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The underside of the F560 with the panels removed.

The Toshiba hard drive spins at 5400RPM and has 80GB of storage. After accounting for the 7GB recovery partition and Vista, there was about 50GB of free space left on the drive. Performance on the drive was good. There is one 512MB sodimm of PC5300 memory on the F560. Both the hard drive and memory are easily accessed by taking off a panel located on the underside of the notebook. I am sure the first thing you are going to want to do if you buy this notebook is upgrade the memory.

Keyboard Area

The F560US has an 86 key keyboard. Being a ThinkPad owner, I knew the keyboard on the Compaq would be a step backwards. The keyboard is OK, nothing to get overly excited about. While it is fairly firm in most places, it does have some give in some spots, particularly around the J,K,M,I keys. While key travel is good, key depth is shallower than I would like. The keys feel a little cheap, which is not unexpected, and can be noisy when typing — which I don’t mind. When typing on the keyboard, the cursor has a tendency to move around quite a bit. It was very annoying while working on this review as I’d be typing a sentence then suddenly be three lines above and have to correct it. I do not think I was hitting the touchpad. It was not a driver issue because I had the latest touchpad driver installed. Hopefully, HP will get this sorted out because it was the most vexing aspect of using the notebook.

 


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The keyboard on the F560.

 

The touchpad is wide on the F560 and very smooth. It has scroll zones on the left and bottom of the touchpad. Given the lower resolution of the screen, it makes an effective tool for browsing. You can disable the touchpad with a button on the rim of the touchpad which was helpful when writing the review because the cursor had a tendency to jump. One think I really like about HP’s budget notebooks is the touchpad buttons. On most budget notebook, clicky or noisy buttons seem to be the norm, but not on HP’s notebooks. The have very quiet and pleasant action with just the right amount of force needed to use them. I know this is a pet peeve of mine that most people probably wouldn’t notice, but I like to give credit where it is due.

Battery & AC

The F560 comes with a six cell battery. There is a 12 cell battery option if you need more time, but since I will mostly be using it at home, it’s not a big issue for me. Setting the screen to half brightness with WiFi on doing normal tasks like Office and Internet, I was able to get 2:22 minutes of battery life going from 100% until in went into hibernation. Two plus hours of battery life seems fair given the machines budget nature. The screen is so bright on the F560, you could turn it down more and eke out some additional time if needed. The AC brick is petite, which is always a plus for portability. It does use a three-pronged plug which may sometimes make finding a suitable outlet more difficult.

Heat & Noise

For having a rather low wattage CPU, the F560us does run kind of warm. Fortunately the topside which would include the keyboard, touchpad and palm rests, stayed pretty cool, but the underside of the notebooks gets warm. It was never uncomfortable to use, even without pants, but it definitely runs warmer than my ThinkPad. The warmest spot seemed to be beneath the hard drive bay which is odd since when I had the drive in my ThinkPad, it ran very cool. The main vent is located on the rear. With the extra heat on the F560, the fan does run from time to time. It’s loud enough to hear even over say some music you’re playing, but it is not so noisy as to be bothersome. I personally don’t notice these things often, but I recognize it may bother others more. If you are using it somewhere people may be more sensitive to noise levels, it may be an issue.

Wireless & Networking

The F560 has a Broadcom wireless card. I had no issues with the card in either XP or Vista. I had planned to dual boot my machine with XP and Linux or make it my Linux box, but the Broadcom card complicates things. I actually knew the Broadcom card was a pretty good possibility when I bought it, but did it anyway. Broadcom cards have poor Linux support. I’ll probably still do it, but I’m not in a hurry.

Ports & Connections

Being a budget notebook, port selection on the F560us is miserly. It does not have a PC or ExpressCard slot, nor a card reader which is standard equipment on most notebooks. Having said that, I don’t have a problem with the minimal ports if it helps keep the price down. USB ports are the only ones I use with any regularity. Three is enough for me. In all the notebooks I’ve had or used over the years I can only think of one situation where I used a slot card, that was when notebooks I used lacked an internal WiFi card where I had to use an external card. That’s obviously not a problem on the F560. Owning three ThinkPads in a row, I’m sort used to not having a card reader and have an external reader if needed. The left side of the F560 has two USB ports, a modem and ethernet jacks, S-Video and VGA ports.


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The left side of the F560.

The front of the F560 has the wireless on/off switch, and the headphone and microphone jacks.

 


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The front of the F560.

The right side to the F560 has a USB port and power connector.


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The right side of the F560.

Sound

The F560us has a pair of Altec Lansing speakers located between the screen and the keyboard. The sound quality is good for a notebook, better then my ThinkPad which has poor speaker placement. I’d rate the sound quality on the better side of average of notebooks I’ve heard. It gets fairly loud without distorting too much to go along with a little bit of bass. While the speakers will never rival a good pair of headphones, it is certainly good enough for DVDs or listening to some music.

Software

The F560us comes with Vista Home Basic. I kind of like the look of Vista Basic over the Aero look of the other versions of Vista, just my personal preference. Either way it’s a nice change of pace from XP which we’ve all been using for so long. There was a fair amount of bloatware on the F560 like the Office Trial and Vongo though I have have seen other machines with more. I tried to make a go of Vista. I did a clean install of Vista using my Anytime Upgrade Disc. I did all the system tweaks hoping to speed things up like turning off start up items and superfetch, and disabling indexing and system restore. I added a faster 7200RPM hard drive and another 512MB of memory. I had hoped these tweaks and additions would help make Vista run more smoothly because I have run Vista Business on my R60 with 1GB of memory and it seemed to run decently. Perhaps an additional 1GB of memory would have done the trick, but in in the end I think the Sempron CPU is just too slow to power Vista properly. Apps would hang when clicked on like when using a slower hard drive. Doing any CPU intensive tasks like installing software or coding audio really bogged it down, even with the faster hard drive. I decided Vista had to go.

XP here I come. One problem with installing XP on the F560 is because the machine never was sold with XP, HP does not supply XP drivers for the machine. I found that using the XP drivers for the Compaq V6000, which was offered with XP, provides most of the XP drivers for the machine. The graphics driver for the Nvidia 6150 is one that does not work. However, googling for the Nvidia 6150 XP drivers will provide solutions. You will need to slipstream the SATA drivers for XP to get it to install correctly or Service Pack Two works as well. After getting XP installed, things ran much better. It seems just as fast as my ThinkPad when doing everyday tasks like Internet and Office.

Warranty & Support

The F560 comes with a one year hardware warranty along with 90 days of software support if you register the notebook with HP. You get 30 days of software support otherwise. Given the notebook’s low price, it seems reasonable. I purchased the notebook with my American Express card which extends the warranty an additional year or probably about the notebook’s useful life to me. I am not one who calls support often. I usually fix things myself. I haven’t had the opportunity to use HP’s support services as of yet. When I have in the past for myself or someone else, I have always found them to be helpful and friendly.

Like the vast majority of notebooks sold today, the F560us does not come with recovery discs or a Windows disc. HP gives you the option to burn off a set of recovery discs which will restore your machine to its factory state, bloatware and all. It is not a Windows disc. When you make the recovery discs, it gives the option of making one dual layer DVDs, two single layer discs, or seven CDs. I chose the single disc for simplicity.

Conclusion

Let’s face it, if you’re considering the Compaq F560us, either times are tough or you’re cheap. I would place myself into the latter category. In either case you’re probably going to have to make some trade-offs. I wanted a notebook with a nice bright glossy screen as a contrast to my darker screened ThinkPad. I don’t need a lot of performance. The Sempron fills that role well. I was willing to live with the lesser quality and performance to get the nice screen. For someone who justs needs a box for every day tasks like music or Internet, doesn’t need superior quality/service and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, I think the F560 offers good value.

Pros

  • Price, Price, Price
  • Gorgeous Glossy Screen
  • Decent Build Quality
  • Good Sound Quality

Cons

  • Poor Performance as Configured
  • Minimal Port Options
  • Noisy and Shallow Keyboard




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