* Prices may differ from that shown
Firstly I would like to say that writing reviews on products such as laptops is not my strong point and this will not be focused on all of the technical aspects but instead my everyday use of it and how I find it as my main computer.
My last laptop, one from the Toshiba Satellite range was getting slower and slower and I knew it was on its way out, much to my annoyance. I had some photos and documents saved on the hard drive so I ordered a USB drive in order to back up everything. However, before this had a chance to arrive, my Toshiba died. I was rather annoyed but had owned it for two and a half years and it had certainly be used well as I was then in my third year at university and I also spent a lot of time online, writing reviews, chatting to my friends and also researching for my course.
I took it to a local repair shop and was told that they would try to look at it within a few days but chances were, it was gone. This angered me just a little more as on it I had saved an essay which was due in in 4 days time and also everything I had for my dissertation (yes I know, I know, back up your work). In my panic I decided to take it into PC World where they told me what to do in order to try and fix it (for some reason they couldn't help as they were too busy despite it being aThursday lunchtime and there being plenty of staff milling about). I came to the conclusion it was definitely dead and the salesman agreed suggesting that I go and pick myself a nice new laptop. However, after their 'help' I decided to go elsewhere.
Being a student I was on an extremely tight budget. I was working but was saving to move within the next few months so I was looking for something that was affordable. However, I also wanted a brand I was familiar with and thought I could trust. I ended up buying a Compaq Presario CQ56 from Tesco with the model number 102EA. I knew a little about the brand - we had had a desktop computer of the same make for a few years and my best friends laptop was a Compaq so I decided to give it a go. I paid £299.99 for it last January and thought this was a very reasonable price for a well known brand. It is worth noting here that Compaq is a division of HP which reassured me a little more.
I rarely list specifications for products but feel that this is the type of product that does need this detail in order to help potential buyers make informed decisions, especially if you are a bit more literate with all of these terms than I am!
CPU Speed 2.3
Hard Disk Size 250
Battery Lithium Ion
Camera Resolution 640 x 480
CPU Family AMD V Series
Graphics Device ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
Hard Disk Interface SATA
Hard Disk Speed 5400
L2 Cache 0.512
Memory Size 2048
Memory Type DDR3
Microphone In Port 1 x Microphone In Jack
Model Name CQ56 102EA
Number of Hard Disks 1
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 HP (64 bit)
Optical Drive Type DVD RW SM (DL)
Power Supply 65W AC Power Adaptor
Primary Battery Cells 6
Processor Number V140
RF Network Standard IEEE 802.11
RF Standard b/g/n
Total Hard Disk Size 250
Screen Resolution 1366 x 768
Screen Size 15.6
Screen Type HD LED BrightView Display
VGA Port 1 x 15 pin D Sub
Audio Features Generic, stereo
Integrated Microphone Yes
Keyboard Full size keyboard with One touch launch keys and Action keys
Network Card Data Link Protocol Fast Ethernet
Network Card Speeds 10/100
Network Interface Options Integrated
Pointing Device Touch Pad with On/Off button and 2 way Scroll pad support
RJ-45 Ports 1 x RJ 45
Wireless System Wireless LAN
==Setting it up==
Once home the laptop was extremely easy to set up and I was online within minutes. I found it a real relief that it was so easy as I get very annoyed with new purchases when they take forever to set up and they won't connect to your broadband etc.
I had a couple of things that I needed to set up with my laptop - for example my printer. My printer is a wireless HP all in one which I thought that as being made by the same people, it may be easier to set up with this laptop compared to the last one which took about 10 hours (and no I am not exaggerating)! This time the printer was easier to set up and I got it working within a couple of hours however it is worth noting that since then I have moved and the printer and laptop had lost their connection so after trying a few times I'm using it with the lead which defied the whole point of paying extra for wireless but never mind!
Other things I needed to connect/install included iTunes with my iPod and my digital camera software. This was very simple to do and was up and running in just a few minutes.
One thing I did do within a week of having the laptop was backing up the system using DVD-R's. This took a fair few hours but was easy to do as you just put the disk in and leave it to it and it also ran smoothly meaning it was easy to do other things on the laptop at the same time.
When I bought the laptop in January 2011 I was fairly pleased with the appearance, it is black with a large silver Compaq logo on the lid. One thing that I do love is the pattern on the plastic casing on the inside - it has a sort of diamond pattern which I think looks nice but it also provides a comfortable place to rest wrists when typing.
The laptop has a 15.6 inch screen so it is of a standard size. A lot more netbooks are being made now so it looks a little large in my opinion but is still quite stylish. The inside of the laptop seems very square with all buttons being square or rectangular which I feel gives it quite a masculine feel.
==Using the laptop==
At the time of purchase I used the laptop for two purposes primarily - Word Processing and the internet. However, I did also use other aspects including Powerpoint and accessories.
The laptop came with Windows Starter 2010 which was good enough to an extent but being a student I needed to use Powerpoint and really did need the more complex version of Word because the starter version only allows particular aspects of the programme which, halfway through writing a dissertation wasn't really enough! Luckily, we had a copy of Windows 2007 that I used otherwise I would have struggled to find the money for a new disk so that was lucky.
Initially, I loved the laptop and was really impressed with the run speed and how quick it was to start up etc. However, over time it has become slower and slower despite automatically performing all the updates and having anti virus software which removes uneccesary files and things weekly. I do have a few bits and bobs saved on the hardrive but not a lot, certainly not enough to make it so slow.
The laptop takes in total about 10 minutes from turning it on to actually being able to use it. It takes a couple of minutes to get to the password page and then at least 5 minutes to load the computer properly in order to allow you to use it. If you do try and click on anything before this you get the dreaded loading circle and more often than not it will then freeze meaning it needs to be restarted wasting just another ten minutes of your time.
I find using programmes on the laptop without the internet ok. Word takes a while to load but once it has it tends to work fine without any hiccups. However, when first typing you do tend to get the cursor freezing and not typing etc. Powerpoint and Excel work well with them both running quite smoothly and keeping up with what you are doing.
The laptop has a 15.6 inch screen so it is a good size for typing. When bought this was exactly the size I wanted because of the amount of studying and writing I was doing on it at the time. Since then my level of writing decreased and I didn't actually have the laptop for six months due to not needing it. However, since the end of last year I have had it back and now have began a degree with Open University and also began writing a recollection of my journey through mental health so therefore it is being used a lot more now. It also gets used a lot more for earning rewards online with reviewing and daily clicks etc.
Entertainment and media on the laptop is important to me because I love taking photos and listening to music so I do often use programmes to edit photos and also listen to music on programmes such as iTunes and Spotify. The laptop does play DVDs and I have used this a few times and found it fine, the DVDs ran smoothly with no freezing. The photo editing programmes on the laptop are a bit hit and miss I find. They do take a long time to load and once your finally there sometimes they run absolutely fine and at other times you end up with freezing and loading for long periods. However, I tend to use the Photo Viewer more which works absolutely fine. Listening to music is usually ok, I find that online programmes such as Spotify often lose their connection and therefore the music stops despite the internet being fine. iTunes runs a little better but often when I load it it does take some time despite me not having a lot of music on there at all.
Nowadays I tend to use the laptop for the internet more than anything else. To be honest, over the last few months the laptops performance has been getting worse and worse. Again, it seems that sometimes it works fine and other times it wont work at all. For example, a couple of weeks ago it just decided not to connect for a couple of days despite the xbox and mobile phones being fine with our wifi and this morning I turned it on, managed to quickly log into ebay and then began to load another page and it froze. Then I tried to log off to restart the programme but this wouldn't work either. In the end I had to actually take the battery out which isn't very good and to be honest this has happened around twice a day over the last week or so. Watching videos online tends to be quite difficult with files spending a lot of time buffering and also sound and picture not playing alongside one another properly.
The keyboard of the laptop is your standard Qwerty style and I find it extremely easy to type on here and can touch type easily and accurately. The keys take the right pressure to press them in my opinion but I have found a couple of minor niggles. There is a shortcut to both the printer and calculator right next to some of the most regularly used keys - shift and control. Therefore I find that I regularly press print by accident and of course it takes a while for this box to come up so then I have to wait to close it before continuing with what I was actually trying to do.
The touch pad is of a good standard. I find it easy to control the mouse and it isn't overly sensitive but nor is it under sensitive. One thing that I didn't have on my previous laptop is the ability to turn off the touchpad. Now, this is a great idea if you use a mouse however, I do turn it off by accident occasionally (you tap/click twice on the upper left hand corner) which is annoying and initially I couldn't work out why all of a sudden it would turn off!
Sadly, this laptop is very quickly to overheat even when used with a special laptop table or placed on a hard surface such as the coffee table. It gets very hot very quickly and often within 10 minutes of turning it on you can hear the fan in overdrive. In addition to this the surface of the laptop, especially to the left hand side of the touch pad gets extremely hot making it uncomfortable, particularly when typing.
The battery life is not good. I was excited when I bought this because was told by the specification that it had a much longer battery life than my previous one but I haven't been particularly impressed by it. The longest you can expect the battery to last is around an hour and a half or if your very lucky two hours and that is on the power saver option without running any technical programmes or listening to music/watching video etc.
Overall, I find using the laptop ok. When it decides to run correctly then it's a lovely laptop to use which I find easy and comfortable, however when it is running slowly it's a bit of a nightmare and I regularly find myself restarting it whilst in the middle of doing something. However, one thing that I do like at all times is typing on the laptop because I find it quick, easy and comfortable.
I find the laptop ok. Initially I thought it was a good laptop and was pleased with my purchase but over time I have found it has consistently gone downhill. It is 18 months old but has only been used for about 12 months so in my opinion it shouldn't be quite this slow by now. I have tried optimising the running system etc but nothing seems to help so I do believe that over the next few months I will need to buy a new laptop which really isn't financially viable currently but I do need one because of my studying and also my part time self employment. I do think it represented good value for money as it has worked out as costing around 50 - 60p per day so far and for the amount of use it gets I do think this is good however, I don't think the quality is very high at all with slow running, overheating and a short battery life.
I don't think I will buy a Compaq again as, although I thought I would be getting an ok laptop because of the well known name I have been left disappointed. It is still cheap in comparison to others on the market and you will struggle to find a laptop which has the same specification for a similar price however, I would rather pay a little more and get a better quality laptop or pay the same price but get a netbook instead.
Incase you do decide you would like one, this particular model has now been discontinued but there are a lot of new releases in the Presario range which are easy to find in many high street and online stores.