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Firstly, I'm an engineer who uses and designs, develops embedded software targeting various types of electronic products and in completely varied industries(transport, defence, consumer electronics etc). Therefore, I have an extremely in-depth view and awareness of all things "computing" and technology-based. So if you are about to purchase laptop( not just this model), feel free to email me via this site and I'd be able to guide on various matters hardware and software, in much detail. :)
I'm intentionally putting some effort in to this review - because if I can help ONE person(or 1,000s!) at least choose the right laptop for their needs , without spending a fortune, then my purpose in writing this review with some technical focus, would've been achieved!
As for this laptop(which I lovee!) , I bought my Compaq 610 about 6 weeks ago , for £399 on the most famous auction site on the planet. I found it to be excellent value for money, given the technical specification.(see below please).
The main specification(for my specific model (minor changes in specs are possible dependant on your laptop's serial number , even if it's based on the same model number !) ), was:
*** CPU : Intel Core 2 Duo Processor (" GHz clock speed, 2 MB Level 2 Cache and a 800 MHz FSB!)
*** Chipset : Mobile Intel GME965
*** RAM/Memory : 3 GB in total. comprising of 1 x 1024(I GB) and 1 x 2048(2GB) DDR2 RAM - with 2 SODIMM slots supporting dual channel memory.
*** Internal hard drive : One 320 GB Drive with an R.P.M. (and this is really important for reasons I will explain below) of 7200 ! (most laptops under £500 will come fitted with a 5400 R.P.M(Rotations Per minute)
*** Display/Screen : a 15.6 LED HD with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (meaning it's a "widescreen" screen), with Anti glare
*** Webcam : 2 MP(mega pixels) (good for all basic needs, teleconferencing, chatting with family /friends abroad etc)
*** Graphics : Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 - which is good enough for ALL basic /intermediate computing tasks, including photo editing and even most *basic* games.
*** Ports: comes with (a rather handy ) 3 external USB ports( to connect all your devices/printers/phones etc), usual audio input/outputs one Ethernet port(RJ-45)
*** Wireless technologies: Intel 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi(as usual) PLUS Bluetooth 2.1(meaning you can connect your Bluetooth devices to this laptop without needing any adapter)
*** Power/battery : 6-cell Li-Ion battery than can last up to a whopping 5 hours!
Now, given this spec above and the price I paid (£399 brand new , including free postage), here the points worth noting for any would-be-buyer of this laptop(or any laptop for that matter) from various perspectives!
1) Perspective One - PERFORMANCE (Hardware) : This is a technical review with layman's explanations, so buckle up your seat-belt! :)
For the uninitiated in physics and technology:
Milli second = 1/1000th of a second (10 to the power of -3 ) = 1 thousandth of a second
Micro second = 1/1,000,000 of a second (10 ^ -6) = 1 millionth of a second
Nano second = 1/1,000,000,000 of a sec(10 ^ -9) = 1 billionth of a sec.
Kilo hertz = a thousand cycles per second(1,000)
megahertz = a million cycles per second(1,000,000)
gigahertz = a billion cycles per second(1,0000,000,000)
So, from a performance perspective , for a price tag of £399, a genuine Intel Core 2 Duo CPU with an 800 MHz front-size-bus(FSB) REALLY is a good deal - along with the DDR 2-800 3 GB Memory, which on my machine has an access time of 0.4 - 0.5 n/s(nano seconds). Of importance here, is the FSB speed, the Front Side Bus is the "road/highway" that sits on the Motherboard , and connects your CPU(Processor), to your RAM(memory) and Hard drive(where the data sits).
Now, most sub £500 laptops generally come with a 633 MHz FSB - not 800! What this means is that, no matter how fast your CPU is, and no matter how fast your RAM chips are, because your FSB(the connecting highway) is only running at 633 MHZ(and remember the speed of your CPU is measured in GIGAHERTZ, NOT Megahertz), there will always be a bottleneck, and the consequent slowdown of your PC. It's kind of like having a Ferrari and trying to drive it down a congested motorway! Not much good huh?
On the same token, - and this is even more crucial when it comes to actual "User experience" - in terms of performance, most if not ALL HARD DRIVES are electro-mechanical(meaning they have a motor which is mechanical device), and hence have access-times(also termed latency /seek time etc) measured in MILLI seconds(1/1000 sec). So, what this means is that we (since the modern computer was created) have had this issue to do with performance bottlenecks, caused by the EXPONENTIAL speed difference between the rapidly evolving CPUs(which nowadays process data in NANO seconds) and the exponentially SLOWER electro mechanical hard drives, which store our data - which can only access and retrieve our files/data in speeds of MILLI Seconds(not even micro!).
So having had this bottle neck forever, hard drive manufacturers are constantly trying to find ways to increase the performance of their sluggish hard drives, in order to supply the data to your CPU- in faster times! Now this is achieved using many methods. One of the KEY methods though is faster rotation (R.P.M0 of your hard drive motor, which in turn increases seek-times and the consequent ability for your hard drive to supply the file/data , to the CPU, quicker!
So this is why having a laptop/PC with a 7400 RPM hard drive(or even 10,000 R.P.M) , as opposed to the standard 5400 R.P.M hard drive, is FAR more important, if not crucial(to your ultimate User experience and noticeable performance) - than having an all-singing all-dancing CPU(Dual core, quad core, Intel I3, I5, I7 etc) , or even ultra fast RAM(DDR3 etc).
For, the CPU and memory have to often wait..... for what seems like eons(to them), for the hard drive to dish out the data(like when you click on a MS Word file). And this is something most humans who are not technically aware, do not realise.
So to summarise, for basic Computer users(i.e. Non-gamers and non-graphics designers or engineers), performance is gained , not by investing in an ultra fast CPU or ultra-fast RAM in large quantities(3GB should be more than enough for most users!).
What is needed therefore, is(in terms of laptops) :
-- a high-performance Motherboard with a good FSB speed(800 MHz or higher)
-- a very good hard drive, with at least 8 MB cache and ** AT LEAST 7,400 ** R.P.M
-- Reasonably fast RAM (DDR2, DDR3 etc)
This would mean that when you click on a large MP3 file(or even worse, an MPEG video /movie), or when you surf the net and visit a site you have previously visited(the contents are stored/cached on your hard drive- that sluggish part of your laptop/s anatomy), things are likely to "happen" much faster!
2) Perspective Two - PERFORMANCE (Operating System) : This laptop comes "bundled" with Windows 7 Professional - 32-bit edition. What this means that, the Operating system (that allows you to use the electronics inside your laptop) cannot access the full 64-bit capabilities of modern CPUs, Memory chips/bandwidth, Motherboard /FSB's etc. It would be like having a Ferrari, the best fuel, best support staff, but an ordinary driver - instead of Nigel Mansell(or his current successors) .
But since 32-bit /64-bit operating systems are not that vital to performance (for most of you folks out there who are not technically and/or performance-hungry), I won't elaborate on them any further, but would be happy to answer questions by email etc.
3) Perspective Three - RELIABILITY based on Brand Name and their legacy - HP (Hewlett Packard) Compaq. Now that HP and Compaq have merged, Compaq have gained a MAJOR source of technical and engineering force, in the form of HP, who have been "at it" for very long time, and even manufacture Super computers the size of a room- and all things ELECTRONIC, for high-performance systems. So, they have a good knowledge of high-performance and use (as well know, from HP Printers/scanners), high-quality circuit boards, electronic components and so on. This ALWAYS contributes to the longevity of a product, the batteries.., and hence, the overall user satisfaction.
4) After -sales Service. HP and Compaq have very well structured (and well developed) support structure for their products. You can download drivers, updates etc, at the click of a button, and unlike many other laptop manufacturers who have blossomed in the recent few years, HP is unlikely to stop supporting this model for a long time to come(one hopes!).
So......... based on the price and brand, how much would I score this HP Compaq 610 ?
Well, that depends on your level of technical awareness , coupled with your user needs (what do you use the laptop for), but from an overall perspective(again, taking the low price in to consideration), I would give this laptop the following marks (out of 100%):
**Features : 90%
**Overall Performance : 80% - 90% (given the price)
** battery power and usage-duration- 80%
**Weight and other ergonomic (usability) factors : 80%
**Supplied software : 60%(I feel they should include a free copy of MS office! ;) )
**Support and Updates from HP-Compaq - 90%
**** Value-for-money(relative to other products of same spec) : 100% !!
Hope this helps some of you.
Thanks to all readers!