by Jason Ashmore, Maryland USA
HP L2000 Special Edition Lance Armstrong notebook (view larger image)
Over the past several years I’ve had a variety of different notebook computers in my possession. Among them have been an IBM ThinkPad, Compaq Armada, and a couple of Dell machines. They were all decent units, however all were work issued and as a result none of them quite suited either my personality or user style all that well. Since I’ve come to rely so heavily on having a notebook computer on hand for my personal use, I decided it was about time to choose and purchase my own. For the past several months I’ve been browsing specs, reading reviews and trying to find the overall best bang for my buck. As soon as I saw the first press releases regarding the HP Special Edition Live Strong L2000 I knew my search had ended.
Here’s how I chose to spec my new machine (* = an item I upgraded from standard configuration):
- * AMD Turion(TM) 64 ML-37 (2.0GHz/1MB L2 Cache)
- * 14.0 WXGA BrightView Widescreen (1280×768)
- ATI RADEON(R) XPRESS 200M w/productivity ports
- * 512MB DDR SDRAM (1x512MB)
- 60 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
- DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive
- 54g(TM) 802.11b/g WLAN w/ 125HSM/SpeedBooster(TM)
- 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
There really aren’t that many customization options for this machine available. I chose to bump the CPU up to the ML-37 rather than keep the stock ML-28. In addition I opted for the BrightView upgrade and I also chose to configure my memory with one 512MB stick rather than two 256MB sticks. My reasoning for this was that I wanted to order an additional 1GB stick from an online retailer at a later date and save a substantial amount of money over upgrading it via HP. The only two upgrades I passed up were for the DVD burner and Bluetooth. I have an external USB 2.0 DVDR and already own a USB Bluetooth dongle so I couldn’t justify paying extra for either of those options.
I have been using a notebook pc as my primary computer both at home and work for a couple of years now. It’s safe to say my notebooks are honest to goodness desktop replacements. I was an early adopter of 802.11 wireless networking at home and as a result have become very accustomed to the level of portability and overall convenience that a wireless enabled notebook pc offers. As a result I use my notebooks for everything various things such as simple word processing, spreadsheet number crunching, basic photo processing, light gaming and more. In a nutshell, I need a jack of all trades notebook pc. I have a pretty beefy desktop machine I use for video editing and so on, but my overall goal is to have to venture upstairs to use it as little as possible.
Reasons for Buying:
Author of this review is pictured above, proof positive that he is indeed a cycling fanatic
I am a cycling fanatic and all around Lance Armstrong fan. There is no doubt that this being a Special Edition Live Strong machine was a significant factor for me personally when choosing this model. When I say serious cyclist, I do mean it, I’m on my bike 5 or 6 days a week minimum all year round. It’s safe to say I’m pretty much glued to OLN channel for the entire month of July when they broadcast the Tour de France. As a matter of fact, I’m watching tour coverage now as I write this review! That having been said, I honestly didn’t make this purchase based solely on it’s affiliation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. For one, I had been reading great things about the AMD Turion series of processors and was excited with the prospect of getting my hands on one. I’ve always liked AMD as a company, but had never really had an excuse or need to purchase an AMD based machine until now. Of all the major computer manufacturers, HP seems to be one of the few fully embracing AMD solutions, which was another a factor in my choice. Additionally, I’ve always had great luck with other HP products such as their iPaq Pocket PCs, so I was very confident with their quality. I have had machines from HP’s major competitors and wasn’t really 100% happy with any of them, so I was ready to give HP a shot. In addition to offering an AMD solution, the L2000 also offers an ATI RADEON XPRESS video solution. I have had nothing but great luck with ATI products to date and was very pleased to have an ATI video solution option, even if it was integrated. During the course of my online research I found most people reporting the ATI solution was superior to the integrated Intel graphics solution counterpart. The final factor that pushed me over the edge was simply the pricing. In shopping around I was having difficulty finding a comparatively priced and configured machine elsewhere. Since the machine already had my attention based on the Live Strong Theme and it also seemed to be quite respectable under the hood, I was sold. I ordered the L2000 the very day it went on sale!
Where and How Purchased:
The L2000 is not yet available in retail stores so I ordered it directly from HP via hpshopping.com. The entire process of ordering was quick and simple. I was able to configure it to my liking and place my order in less than 15 minutes. My total price came in at $1,124.00 before my company EPP (Employee Purchase Program) discount. I’m pretty confident that for the price I got a great value and a pretty damn cool machine. It’s also worth noting that HP was pretty quick in shipping me my machine. I actually had the L2000 in my hands prior to the estimated build date.
Build & Design:
HP L2000 lid (view larger image)
Of course the Live Strong logo, yellow trim and Lance Armstrong signature are all special design elements unique to this machine. The L2000 also comes packed with the now famous Live Strong Yellow Band, A set of very cool yellow ear buds and a cool zipper bag for cables or anything else you may want to carry along with the pc. I personally absolutely love the prominent Live Strong logo on the back and I think the yellow trim on the keyboard just adds to the overall aesthetics of the unit. The overall design quality seems simply top notch. I find the L2000 to be much more solid feeling than my company issued Dell Latitude. First off, the flat black finish of the L2000 just simply looks classier than the silver of my dell. Everything from the hinges on the screen to the latch itself seems to be both well thought out and built. Despite feeling very sturdy overall, my L2000 is surprisingly light weight and it fits easily into my backpack notebook case. There are also several extra touches in the design such as the on off button for both the wireless card and the touchpad. I have already found myself using both of these on a regular basis. When at work I like to turn off wireless completely as we’re not allowed to run our own wireless networks and I prefer to not even have my card picked up during their audit scans. I also like to turn off the touchpad when doing a great deal of typing. Again, these features seem very well thought out and implemented and are just plain very nice extra touches. One other thing I found somewhat different with the L2000 over my past notebooks is the fact that all the ports are on the sides rather than having any on the back. I wasn’t sure what I would think of this at first, but as it turns out I think I prefer this configuration. Having the USB and FireWire ports on the sides make them much more convenient and accessible. This particular layout seems to work very well for me personally.
Signed by Lance Armstrong himself, kind of (view larger image)
The above pic shows my new L2000 is just slightly wider than my Dell Latitude (view larger image)
HP L2000 screen with BrightView option (view larger image)
Having not seen the BrightView feature firsthand, I took a chance and opted for the upgrade anyway. Since it was only a $25 upgrade and I had read a lot of good things about it, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. As it turns out it was money very well spent. The screen is amazingly bright and glossy. Viewing my digital photos and watching DVDs are a real treat on this screen. When I set this screen side by side with my Latitude the Dell’s screen seems flat and kind of dull in comparison. It’s also worth mentioning that this is also the first widescreen notebook that I’ve owned. I knew it would be great for DVD viewing, but I was surprised how nice the widescreen is for such normal tasks as editing spreadsheets and so on. Another great thing is, despite the widescreen, the machine itself isn’t much wider than the other notebooks I’ve had.
L2000 Altec Lansing built-in speaker (view larger image)
When I unpacked my new machine I was very pleasantly surprised to find it sported Altec Lansing speakers. I had somehow overlooked this feature when combing over the specs. The sound is remarkably rich and the volume is great for a notebook. I’ve been getting by with just the built-in speakers quite happily so far. If you’re really picky about sound quality you may want to consider external speakers, but I’d suggest waiting to give these a listen rather than buying them right away.
Processor and Performance:
Thus far the L2000 has been performing great for me during my day to day tasks. It seems pretty snappy when running Office, Internet Explorer, iTunes, my Polar training software and even Adobe Photoshop. I didn’t purchase this machine for gaming, so I haven’t had any first hand experience gaming on it. What games I do play aren’t typically heavy on the 3D side, so I’m guessing it’ll do just fine there too.
Since my anecdotal information is hardly enough to make an informed purchasing decision, here’s how the L2000 stacked up in the routine benchmark tests.
We use the program Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed. The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy. Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark. Below is a comparison chart of how the HP L2000 with it’s Turion ML-37 2.0 GHz processor stacked up to other notebooks when running this calculation:
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|HP L2000 AMD Turion 64 ML-37 (2.0GHz)||1m 54s|
|Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M)||2m 40s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 28s|
|Futuremark PCMark04 Scores|
|IBM T43 (1.86GHz)||HP L2000 (2.0GHz)|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression||3.33 MB/s||3.08 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption||27.19 MB/s||30.54 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression||23.4 MB/s||24.13 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing||10.88 MPixels/s||12.09 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning||1914.17 MB/s||1465.35 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check||2.82 KB/s||3.0 KB/s|
|File Decryption||54.11 MB/s||60.31 MB/s|
|Audio Conversion||2496.87 KB/s||2621.42 KB/s|
|Web Page Rendering||5.27 Pages/s||4.76 Pages/s|
|DivX Video Compression||51.71 FPS||47.09 FPS|
|Physics Calculation and 3D||159.19 FPS||74.18 FPS|
|Graphics Memory – 64 Lines||868.44 FPS||499.71 FPS|
|Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores|
|3DMark Score||–||467 3DMarks|
|CPU Score||–||2768 CPUMarks|
|GT1 – Return To Proxycon||–||2.1 FPS|
|GT2 – Firefly Forest||–||1.4 FPS|
|GT3 – Canyon Flight||–||2.2 FPS|
|CPU Test 1||–||1.5 FPS|
|CPU Test 2||–||2.3 FPS| HD Tune Benchmarks Minimum Transfer Rate 14.4 MB/sec Maximum Transfer Rate 30.7 MB/sec Average Transfer Rate 24.9 MB/sec Acess Time 17.7 ms Burst Rate 64.2 MB/sec CPU Usage 5.6%
Keyboard and Touchpad
L2000 keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
The keyboard layout and overall feel is great. There are no unintended flex or similar issues that I’ve noticed. In fact, this keyboard feels better than some full sized desktop keyboards that I’ve used. I must admit missing the nub/joystick style pointing device (pointing stick). The touchpad on the L2000 isn’t bad by any means, it’s just that I’m used to the other style pointer that you find on an IBM ThinkPad or Dell Latitude, so it’s taking me some time to adjust to it. I’m hoping that in a few weeks time I won’t even notice the difference. The touchpad is plenty responsive, dealing with the different hand positioning involved is the only thing throwing me.
Input and Output Ports:
HP L2000 left side view (view larger image)
HP L2000 right side view (view larger image)
HP L2000 front side view (view larger image)
The L2000 offers 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 FireWire, 1 S-video, 1 VGA, 1 Cardbus (PCMCIA slot), standard sound in/out, HP Docking port and a memory card reader that supports MMC/Memory Stick/SD/SM&MMC. Note the memory card reader does not support Compact Flash. Also here’s a friendly word of warning, don’t shove a memory stick duo card in that slot. It won’t stick out enough to easily remove it. I made that mistake and had to use a pair of Tweezers to get it out. You can however use the adaptor that comes with a lot of MS Duo cards no problem in the slot. It’s worth noting there is no Infrared port built in. All the ports included are on the sides of the case rather than on the back. I find the port locations are working great for me, but it is a bit different than I’m used to and could take some getting used to if you’re used to everything being located on the back of the machine.
L2000 under side view (view larger image)
Media card reader slot, USB, FireWire and DVD closeup on front right side
Being a wireless internet junkie makes an internal wireless card an absolute requirement for me. I’ve found the included internal 54g(TM) 802.11b/g WLAN w/ 125HSM/SpeedBooster(TM) to work very well so far. Range has been great and the speed seems to be right where it should be for 802.11g. I can’t really say whether or not the “Speedbooster” feature is doing much, if anything, but the 802.11g speeds I’m seeing are right in line with my other 802.11g devices and is performing as expected. Since I already owned a Bluetooth USB dongle I passed on the Bluetooth upgrade. I have pretty much never used the Bluetooth feature built into my Dell, so I’m guessing the need will seldom, if at all, arise. Unfortunately, there is no Infrared port built in. I’ve had to add an IRDA dongle to my bag of tricks since purchasing this machine. I use a Polar Heart Rate monitor which uploads data to a PC via an IRDA port. My Heart Rate device and training data are such integral parts of my cycling that I simply must have an infrared port on my PC. The good thing about the Dongle is I know can use that on my desktop machine if the need were ever to arise.
So far, so good regarding the battery. I’m getting a solid couple of hours usage during the rare times when I’m not plugged in. I know stepping up to the fastest AMD Turion processor has cost me some run time, but it was a sacrifice I was prepared to make since 9 times out of 10 I am running off of AC power.
Operating System and Software:
I’m used to and prefer running MS XP Pro that I paid the additional charge to upgrade. As far as the rest of the included software goes, it’s nothing very special. MS Works was included as was MS Money. I immediately uninstalled Works and installed MS Office. I use Office in my day to day work and personal life so I have no real time to play around with trying out the watered down Works suite. I am however using MS Money and finding it very useful. In addition to the MS tools there was a copy of Norton with 60 days of updates included. I uninstalled this too in order to install my own Anti Virus software. It isn’t a bad software bundle, but it’s surely nothing to write home about.
I have had no need to call technical support but did receive great service from hpshopping early on. When I first placed the order for my machine I was unaware that my current employer offered an EPP discount as a company perk. This basically meant a $60.00 savings for me. When I found out about that discount I was able to call HPShopping and after explaining the situation and providing my discount code, they credited the amount back to the credit card. That was quick and painless and just overall great service.
Not having a built-in Infrared port is kind of a bummer for me since I need to use one on an almost daily basis. I also miss the nub/joystick style pointing device. I also wish the memory card reader supported Compact Flash.
Overall build quality seems excellent. It’s a great performing machine at an excellent price point. The positives more than make up for any minor gripes. The Live Strong design and special edition features really set this machine apart cosmetically. HP is also donating $50 to LAF for each unit sold.
Were I to do it over again, I would buy this machine again in a heartbeat. As I mentioned I am a HUGE cycling fan and Lance Armstrong supporter. Being able to show my support for the LAF through my choice of Notebook computers is simply awesome. The machine performs very well for my day to day tasks. It seems very sturdy, and the screen is gorgeous. At this point I’m convinced I simply could not have picked a better notebook PC for myself. I’d highly recommend giving the L2000 a serious look, even if you’re not a Lance or Cycling fan, based on the performance and price point. These should be in retail stores within the next month so keep your eye out for them and check them out in person when you get a chance.
Complete Image Gallery
To see all the pictures take of this notebook and some not included in this review, go here:
Pricing and Availability