Hewlett-Packard Australia Compaq Presario C710TU
- Cheap, well featured, good battery life, inexpensive, affordable, cheap
- Slow performance, lacks PC Card or Express Card expansion slots
It might not be fast, but it sure is affordable. At under $700, this 15.4in notebook is ideal for students, workers, anyone really, who wants a basic machine for perusing the Web and typing up documents, or even for viewing and storing digital photos.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Inexpensive and fully-featured, HP's Compaq Presario C710TU is suitable for basic tasks such as Web surfing and office document creation. It's based on an Intel Celeron M 530 CPU, has integrated Intel 965 Express graphics and runs on 512MB of RAM.
These specifications are weak, so some of you might be surprised to find out that it runs Windows Vista Basic, and this choice of operating system is also surprising considering the notebook's price -- $699 (after $150 cash back, which can be redeemed from HP). If you're thinking that Windows will struggle to run capably on such a configuration, then you're right, for the most part. As long as you use good old 'msconfig' to rid the system of its unnecessary start-up programs, the notebook will run fairly well, but sometimes menus and dialogue boxes will take a while to show up and disappear, while program windows will close with a whimper. Of course, multitasking is out of the question on this model.
Because the Celeron is a single-core CPU and the system only has 502MB of RAM available for use (10MB is gobbled up by the integrated graphics), running multiple programs at once will result in a noticeable slow down in performance, to the point of frustration. Stick to one task at a time when using this notebook and you will be fine. Even listening to music while working on an office document can cause the CPU to reach 100 per cent utilisation, which will stall the system. In our WorldBench 6 test, the notebook scored 48, which is very slow (Core 2 Duo notebooks regularly score over 70 in this benchmark). And don't even think about playing games on it (it'll play back DVDs smoothly though).
However, it's pretty much the perfect notebook for anyone on a budget who doesn't want to sacrifice good features and usability. It has a 15.4in glossy widescreen display with a native resolution of 1280x800, which is a good-sized resolution for users who have less-than-perfect eyesight, unfortunately it doesn't have very good contrast at the 16:10 aspect ratio. In the same vein, the keyboard has nice, large keys, which make it easy to type on. However, the location of the touchpad is in a position that inadvertent thumb swipes while typing a document will often have you dragging and inserting text in random locations within your document. Perhaps aware of this problem, HP has placed a switch on the touchpad, which allows it to be turned off while you're typing.
For connectivity, the notebook has three USB 2.0 ports, one 10/100 Ethernet, D-Sub, S-Video out and modem ports, as well as 802.11g Wi-Fi and a memory card reader for SD, MS/MSPro, MMC and xD cards. Photos from a camera with a large resolution (10-megapixel, for example) can be viewed easily on the notebook (during our tests, it wasn't slow to draw photos on the screen), but comprehensive editing is out of the question due to the slow CPU and lack of RAM.
For storage, an 80GB hard drive is installed (it includes a hidden partition that can be accessed if you need to restore the system to its default configuration), which is plenty for storing documents, photos and some music files, and a multi-format DVD burner is also installed. You can easily upgrade the hard disk at a latter date, if you find you want more space you can upgrade the memory capacity to 2GB, too.
At 2.5kg, the notebook isn't too heavy, and it's built solidly enough, but we did manage to chip the chassis while transporting it in a backpack. Overall though, if you treat it with respect, you won't have any problems. The notebook was enjoyable to use (except for the accidental swipes of the touchpad during the writing of this review) and its battery lasted well over two hours during general use, which is a good result for a such a big and inexpensive model. If you're on the lookout for a new and cheap computer, it's hard to go wrong with this one.
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