* Prices may differ from that shown
As technology advances and more and more seems to be packed into smaller and smaller bits of kit laptop choice has become either very complicated or rather academic, depending on your point of view.
Given that I tend to use a laptop to word process, access emails and surf (but not data heavy sites) the choice of laptop tends to the academic in terms of functionality - almost every laptop available on the market will physically do what I want it to and has the necessary spec. Choice therefore comes down to more "fluffy" things such as the look of the laptop, the feel of the keys and, to a certain degree, perception about value.
hp as a brand are reasonably respected. They're not fancy or hi tech like Sony but they're not quite bargain bucket either. It seemed like a reasonable choice.
I decided, fairly early on in my search, that I would like a numeric keypad to the side of the key board. I do a lot of data entry type work and find the keypads easier to use than the line of numbers at the top of the keyboard. This requirement meant that many cheaper laptops were excluded and I was really looking at something with a 17" (+) screen from either hp or Sony. It seems that a numeric keypad is not regarded as necessary on many laptops - understandable really as it rather limits how small a laptop can get.
Having just had a Sony and been unimpressed by the durability of the system I decided to give hp a chance. The laptop was cheaper than the equivalent Sony model and seemed to offer everything that I needed....
Finished in a high gloss black the hp is unlikely to win any style awards. It looks reasonable out of the box but the gloss finish soon attracts fingerprints and dust so, if you're into appearance you might always want to keep a polishing cloth to hand!
Open the laptop is streamlined in appearance and the tracker pad which flows seamlessly from its surround is a nice feature adding to the simplicity of the laptop. That there is no gap between the tracker pad and its surround means that there's no place for the dust or grime of everyday use to get stuck. A big plus!
***On the Screen***
The 17" screen is more than adequate for the use to which I put it. The colour reproduction is good and handles video and photos well although, in comparison to the Sony and Toshiba that we own this is clearly not as good.
Screen glare is not too bad although you can get some good reflections going on a sunny day. Viewing angles are also extremely limited both left to right and up and down. I've found that I can get the screen right but if you tend to share a computer or want to show others what you are doing you'll need to huddle together to optimise viewing. This might, however, be a plus point if you don't want others to see what you're up to.
The keyboard and numeric pad were the pull of this model initially. The keys on the full sized keyboard felt responsive and reasonably robust. Unfortunately, that feel doesn't transpose into reliable typing. Although the keyboard still feels comfortable to use with the key movement being set at what I consider to be the right level there is an issue when it comes to actually producing the letters. It's not unusual for me to find that random letters are missed out of words when typing at speed. It appears that the sensitivity of the keyboard is not quite set up correctly. I could understand if it were the same letters each time that refused to appear but it appears reasonably random (and so doubtful that it's poor typing on my part).
The other issue I have with the key work is one that I would never have considered before this particular computer and that is the lack of dedicated function keys. There is no easily accessible volume control or web or media function keys. Whilst the functions can be accessed through the keyboard I've found this to be more cumbersome than is perhaps desirable. Sure, the keyboard looks refined but to me this is at a cost.
The tracker pad is reasonably sensitive although not overly so and can be switched off via a small button above the pad. The left and right "click" keys on the tracker pad also function well although there is a lack of feedback from them. The tracker pad has an indicated scroll bar on it which I find far clearer and easier to use than the unmarked bars that the likes of Sony posess.
***Sound and Vision***
Integrated Altec Lansing Speakers provide reasonable sound and the volume control provides for a reasonable range. The sound is rather lacking in bass which might be an issue if you like to use the laptop for music or flims. For occasional use or gaming it's not too bad.
I'm not a gamer so comment on the video chips and graphics cards can't really be made however when I have played or viewed DVDs or streaming video the pictures have been more than acceptable. In truth, however, I think there are few poor modern offerings out there - what you notice are those laptops with graphics that stand out from the crowd. This isn't one of those.
More important, in my opinion, these days than the base spec of computers (as most users will find that 95% of computers will have the necessary processing spec) are the connections that the computer offers.
The hp offers 3 USB ports, an HDMI connection, VGA slot, Ethernet, phone line, headphone and microphone sockets. There's also a 5 in 1 card reader and DVD drive (with lightscribe facility). The whole is WiFi enabled and there's a built in webcam.
Connection to our existing WiFi environment was easy and the computer is now happy talking to other members of the family.
The 250GB Hard drive is more than adequate for my needs and supports well the functionality that comes with the Windows Vista Premium Home Edition that is pre-loaded. 3072MB RAM copes well with all that I throw at it opening Word and Excel documents simultaneously and allowing for multiple window browsing. Graphic intense programmes are all ably supported and, to date, the only delay I've noticed is when running Fireworks with Excel simultaneously when both were operating rather complex procedures. The dual core processor also helps speed things along.
Battery life is reasonably good for a laptop and you should expect to get a decent couple of hours under battery power.
***On the Move***
This is, in my opinion, a laptop that's better suited to home use than to the traveller. The weight of the computer is not small (possibly due to the large screen) and that, coupled with the fact that there is no catch to keep the screen down when folded means that I wouldn't really recommend this as a truly portable device.
***Under Starter's Orders***
The laptop boots up with an incredible speed from off and if you make use of the sleep and hibernate functions the start up is even quicker. This is particularly useful if you just want to look something up in a hurry - no waiting around here.
Sound from the idle unit is low and the laptop doesn't seem to suffer from overheating (which became an issue for the Sony Vaio).
***...and They're Off ***
Alas, where the start off the gun is good the finish is not so great. Shut down seems to take forever on occasions and when you combine in the auto-sleep function that is activated when you close the lid you can run into problems. The sleep function is great but it seems to interfere with the shutdown such that if you seek to shutdown the computer and then shut the lid before the process is complete the computer will not shut down, and, worse, may then hang on start up.
I've also had a couple of issues of the computer refusing to start (or to respond in use) necessitating removal of the battery in order to force a re-boot. For a computer under a year old I'm not that impressed with this.
I've found this computer to be perfectly adequate for my needs and at sub £400 it offers value for money. It's not without its issues, however and for some the shortcomings of the keyboard and the unreliability of shut down might just be an issue too far. For gamers it's OK but probably not good enough. As a portable device its lacking.
Compared to the Sony Vaio that this replaced it doesn't stand up. Compared to a Toshiba it's much faster but lacking in the vision.
Recommended with reservations