Hewlett-Packard Australia Compaq Presario V3500 (V3641AU)
- Sturdy and scratch-resistant chassis, comfortable to use, has plenty of useful ports
- Despite the dual-core Athlon CPU, it was very slow in our tests; DVD playback was choppy when the notebook was running on batteries; doesn't ship with a recovery CD, it only has a recovery partition
This notebook isn't powerful, but it has many useful features and good build quality for its price. It's easy to use and well-suited to anyone who wants a portable computer for everyday tasks.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Bright blue lights, a glossy screen, plenty of ports, a latch-less lid and scratch-resistant exterior allow the HP Compaq V3500 to make a positive first impression. The next impression will depend on how patient you are because the initial setup process takes over 10 minutes to complete before the notebook can be used for the first time, and then its general performance is sluggish.
It doesn't have the zippiest of processors. It's based on AMD's Athlon 64 X2 TK-55 -- a dual-core CPU that runs at 1.8GHz -- which isn't as quick as any of Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs. It scored 51 in WorldBench 6, which is a low score for a dual-core CPU-based system. Additionally, it'll take up to 2min 45sec to encode WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. That said, this notebook isn't meant to be used for gruelling applications. Users after an inexpensive notebook for Web surfing, word processing, listening to music and watching video files will find it more than sufficient. Whereas users who want it for advanced photo and video editing will be let down (it will take a while to render finished projects), but small editing tasks will be handled without any problems.
Accompanying the CPU in the engine room are 1GB of DDR2 RAM and integrated NVIDIA GeForce 7150 graphics. The graphics chip shares up to 64MB of system RAM, but it's not powerful enough to run any games, as its score of 3998 in 3DMark2001 can attest to it. It's fine for viewing digital photos on the 14.1in widescreen display, which has a native resolution of 1280x800. A 5-in-1 card reader (SD/MS/MS Pro/MMC/xD) is located on the left-hand side of the notebook, and it allows for photos to be viewed quickly and conveniently.
In our worst-case scenario battery test, the 6-cell battery lasted 90min, but the system wasn't powerful enough to play DVDs smoothly when running on batteries, despite setting the power profile in Windows Vista to 'high performance'. It had no problems playing DVDs when plugged into the mains; the unit's overall power consumption was measured as being 62W.
As for ease of use, the V3500 has it in droves. The keyboard and wide touchpad are comfortable to use, and feather touch buttons allow for the volume of the very decent built-in speakers to be manipulated quickly. Additionally, these buttons are always illuminated, so they can be located in the darkness. After prolonged use, the notebook will get warm, but not warm enough to become uncomfortable when rested on a lap. Warm air is extracted from the rear by a single fan, which isn't overly loud.
For connectivity, the notebook has three USB 2.0 ports, a mini FireWire port, a 10/100 Ethernet connection, S-Video and D-Sub ports, a 56Kbps modem and a proprietary HP expansion port. An ExpressCard 54 slot is also present, which can accommodate modern expansion cards such as digital TV tuners, 3G data cards and e-SATA cards such as the Belkin SATA II Express Card.
Furthermore, the notebook ships with integrated 802.11b/g networking and Bluetooth. The only thing it lacks is a built-in webcam, but for only $1499, that's excusable.
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Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.
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