"If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63."
HP Compaq 2230s (FW116PA)
A small and affordable business laptop.
- Small and portable, built-in optical drive, very good keyboard
- Only 1GB RAM, would benefit from a slot-loading DVD burner, fingerprint reader is placed on the palm rest, no webcam
It has a few flaws, but the 2230s is a capable laptop for business users. It has good speed, plenty of security options, and it's a portable size, but it could use more RAM and some design tweaks.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
HP’s Compaq 2230s is a fully featured, 1.8kg laptop for business users that has an affordable price tag. It’s a 12.1in laptop with a built-in optical drive, and it has plenty of security features for locking down the computer and encrypting your data.
Indeed, there is a focus on security: you are prompted to activate security at the BIOS level, as well as within the operating system. A fingerprint reader is also present. It took a long time to register our prints (you have to enrol two fingers) and the application actually froze during the enrolment process. It worked after we restarted the notebook and we were able to log on by swiping instead of typing.
The guts of the laptop include an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU, which runs at 2.26GHz, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, integrated Intel graphics and a 160GB hard drive. It won’t fare well in memory-intensive applications, and you’ll need to keep an eye on your memory usage if you tend to multitask while editing photos and using e-mail programs such as Lotus Notes. If not, things could get very sluggish.
As for straight-line speed, the dual-core P8400 CPU is more than adequate for running business applications. To give you an indication of its speed, it managed to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s in 1min 15sec, which is exactly what we were expecting of its CPU. It’s no slouch.
The laptop feels relatively solid overall, but it’s not without its design quirks. The location of the fingerprint reader on the palm rest can be annoying if you haven’t set up security, as your palm will brush the reader and invoke a pop-up telling you that either haven’t set up security or that you need to re-swipe. Not only that, but after a while, resting your palm on the reader does feel uncomfortable. This in contrast to the palm rest itself, which is constructed of smooth, hard plastic, and feels good to the touch.
The left side of the laptop is where the DVD burner sits, alongside USB, 56Kbps modem and Gigabit Ethernet ports. The DVD burner rattled violently when it spun some of our DVDs at top speed, but it was much better behaved when spinning CDs. The placement of a USB port right next to the drive means that if you install a novelty or over-sized USB key it will impede the disc tray and you’ll have to unplug it before you hit eject on the drive. A slot-loading drive would suit this laptop much better — in terms of style and function — but it would increase its price.
The laptop’s 12.1in screen, which has a native resolution of 1280x800, isn’t the best either. It resides on L-shaped hinges that allow it to tilt back approximately 130 degrees, but the use of this style of hinge means that the overall depth of the laptop is increased. This can make it harder to use on public transport or while flying economy. The vertical viewing angle of the screen is also limited, so you’ll have to adjust the angle perfectly to avoid contrast issues while reading text.
One thing that we love about this laptop is its keyboard. It feels like it's nailed to the chassis and the keys produce plenty of travel and zippy bounce. There aren't any keys in awkward positions, and most keys are full-sized, except for the cursor and Function keys. It really is a pleasure to type on.
The touch buttons above the keyboard also work well, and they are illuminated. These buttons let you quickly adjust the volume and the status of the wireless module, as well as launch the Info Centre and the Presentation Tool. The Info Centre offers shortcuts to some of the laptop’s security and drive settings, while the Presentation Tool lets you quickly configure the display devices attached to the D-Sub port.
The laptop’s touchpad is also a joy to use, and its buttons are soft, meaning they don’t make a clicking sound when you press them.
An HDMI port is present on the right side of the laptop (but it will cut off the edges of the screen when outputting a 1920x1080 signal to a TV), along with two USB 2.0 ports, the afore-mentioned D-Sub port, and SD memory and ExpressCard/34 slots. The only thing missing from this laptop is a webcam. It’s not an essential feature, but as there is plenty of space on the screen’s bezel it is odd that HP has omitted it.
Away from an outlet, the laptop’s 4-cell battery lasted one and a half hours in our DVD rundown test, which isn’t anything to write home about for a 12.1in model. Because of the way the screen opens, there isn’t an option for a larger battery pack; if you need more juice while travelling, you’ll have to opt for a second battery.
Wireless networking is facilitated by an Intel WiFi Link 5100 adapter, which supports 802.11n speeds.
The 2230s didn’t get overly warm while we used it, and its extraction fan only kicked in now and again, so it wasn’t too loud either. Our overall impression is that this laptop should suit anyone who is after a small unit that has plenty of built-in features for connectivity and security, and good speed, too. Its style and design are not perfect; it could use a better optical drive and at least one more gig of RAM, but that would also put up the price.
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If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.
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