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The Omnibook XE2 is now an end of line model and the remaining ones can be found at favourable prices. Not being state of the art this laptop will suit people who need a mobile extension to a home PC at a reasonable cost. Power users will benefit from higher specification, higher priced machinery. *The specification. 12.1 inch HPA screen. 32Mb SDRAM SODIMM memory. ( maximum 256 Mb). Trident Cyberblade graphics card up to 8Mb shared memory. 5Gb IBM hard disk. Parallel port, serial port, VGA output (graphics), PS2 mouse/ keyboard input. One PCMCIA port, one USB port. Integrated 24x CDROM, integrated 3.5 inch floppy drive. Audio system (stereo) and Polk Audio speakers. Touch pad. V90 56k modem. AMD 550 Mhz K6-2+ CPU. Weight about 6lbs with battery. Windows 98SE and some minor programmes which have to be paid for! Most users will discard the software other than Win98 and it's best to start from scratch with whatever takes your fancy. No major free software at this price I'm afraid. Let's take the individual elements and see how they come together as a whole. The HPA screen is not as bright or contrasty as the more expensive TFT screens whatever advertisements try to convey. HPA screens are also a lot more difficult to view from an angle other than directly in front of them, this does make it a little harder for others to see what you are doing though. The 32Mb of memory supplied is truly inadequate for running anything other than Win98, thankfully there are two memory slots with only one populated. The spare slot is just begging for another 128Mb of memory (mine had its prayers answered). The Graphics subsystem is adequate for the task of running the fitted screen at a resolution of 800x600, but if you have enough memory let it have the full 8Mb, mine achieved a score of 630 in 3Dmark 2000! I didn < br>9;t expect 3d mark to run at all so this MUST be a bonus. Five gig of hard disk space seems poor by today?s standards but choosing programmes with care will prove that 5Gb is enough; I won't be editing video on this machine after all. I mailed HP asking what the maximum hard disk size the XE2 will take. It has only tested drives up to 6Gb but believes the BIOS will allow up to 10Gb but won't guarantee it will work. So if I upgrade Ill make sure I can return the drive if it won't work. The XE2 has all the usual ports most of us expect, sadly it has only one PCMCIA and USB port, however, having an integrated modem most people will get by well enough on one PCMCIA slot and USB hubs can soon cure a shortage here. There is also a useful output to connect to a desktop CRT monitor which works well enough with 8Mb of video memory allocated. The CDROM is a Teac 24x device which has read every CDR or CDRW I?ve thrown at it, so no complaints here, the floppydrive is er.....a floppydrive. The audio section is a respectable ESS codec wired to two Polk Audio speakers that sound quite tinny. Thankfully there are microphone and headphone sockets provided, through external speakers the sound card is not bad. On the front centre palm rest is the touch pad, I hate the things so the PS2 mouse input is a godsend. The modem is again an ESS offering and is pretty good even compared with my Diamond Supra PCI cards in my other machines. It connects at 44k quiet reliably compared with 45-46k on the Supras. The Supras do download noticeable faster though as I would have expected. I doubt a PCMCIA modem would be much faster and certainly not worth spending money on. There is an updated modem driver on HP?s website for those who have problems with the original (I didn't). There is an active driver update site with drivers for Win 2000 for those that want to use that operating system. Now to the CPU. The AMD K 6 s eries has come in for criticism and some is justified. This processor is not as good at floating point maths as Celerons, PIIIs Athlons and Durons but the integer performance is respectable. This CPU will perform normal Windows tasks very well if you give it a sensible amount of memory ( 32 + 128 Mb is fine). It won't, however, do Seti units, CAD work and such like as well as the other CPUs I?ve mentioned. The final component not mentioned is the battery. This is a 9.6 volt 4000 mAH nihm job not the more expensive Lith -ion found on more expensive Laptops. Lith -ion runs longer and has virtually no memory effect compared to any other type. Nickel-Metal hydride (NiHM) batteries do suffer memory problems which means they need to be discharged once every three months or so. A utility is available from the HP site to facilitate this but seems a little brutal. I would respectfully suggest running the battery down fully in Windows then boot from a bootable floppy i.e. emergency start-up disk and leave the machine until it cuts off on its own. By all means use the HP utility but try to make sure the battery is in a low state of charge first--- it does get hot using this utility. Running time depends on many factors with any Laptop battery, the AMD Power Now system appears to help though. This hardware/ software combination allows the CPU to step-down power output when demand is low and therefore saves battery power, in theory. In practice I get between 1.5 to 2 hours from my battery, which is acceptable for the way, I use my machine. The XE2 comes with a charger/ mains supply, as you would expect, it is also multi voltage, 100-240 volts 50-60 hz so with a suitable socket adaptor should work in any country. Reading between the lines I believe the modem is also multi-national capable, but would need to confirm this with HP. A modem cable is also included in the box. So, how does it all fit together? The brief for this mac hine is a budget Laptop that will run Windows applications, is internet ready, has adequate disk space and is a complete package for those with a competent home PC but need something more flexible than a palmtop. The XE2 does all these things well enough. It looks good in dark grey plastic--- no Titanium at this price, sorry. It?s an honest budget Laptop that even plays audio CDs when not booted up! The online manual is capable and the recovery CD is very fast at reloading the basic software. Ok, it won't set the world alight but it is competent at a reasonable price. I could be critical about the lack of software, HPA screen, shared graphics memory etc. But if I wanted improved specification I'd have to pay for it wouldn't I? The XE2 is an ideal tool for the users I've outlined------ if the price is right. Oops, I forgot to say that there is a port replicator available for about £80, if you can find someone to sell you one! 26/03/2003. Well, I've owned this laptop for some time. But being me I have to report back on the progress of this "old" machine. It has had its memory upgraded to the full 256Mb that it can take. No surprise, me being me. I also took the chance to upgrade to Windows XP. Although rather slower than with Win98, this "small" machine worked perfectly. Oh, it now has a 15Gb hard drive, so that question has been answered! This Omnibook XE 2 is, as I said originally, a solid machine. Ok, the cpu is lacking for torturous stuff but the whole machine was well designed, in my anthropoid opinion. This Omnibook should now only be available second hand, buy one if the price is right. It is a sound computer. 26/03/2003. Just a brief note:- Some thoughts on power management. Running Windows XP, I found that the battery lasted a lot less after the new installation. I had also upgrade d the hard dr ive and memory and thought the reduced running time was down to increased power consumption of the new hardware. Not so, the Bios on this machine is quite old and it is perhaps expecting too much for the Bios to understand the new power control protocol of WinXP. So, I disabled the power control functions in the Bios. Result?....... a longer running time for the battery, back to the 1hr 40 min that I got with Win98se. You may need to adjust the "battery low" time frame in power management in WinXP to a higher value as the machine may just shut down without warning. I am experimenting with 40% "battery low" level for first warning and 30% for hibernate/ standby. This may affect the charging regime; I did find that the battery got hot whilst charging prior to this change. I hope to report back. This tip may be valid for other Laptops not designed for Windows XP. Update, 03/04/2003. Power management under WinXP is hit and miss with the last bios issued by HP. The only solution is a new bios. I will e-mail HP and see if it cares to provide one, I doubt it will spend money on what is a legacy product. There is no substitue for an up to date bios that supports new OS convetions. I will try.
I have owned my XE2 Notebook for almost a year now. It is a lower spec model than the one previous reviewed. Mine has an Intel Celeron 433Mhz processor, but more than ably runs to my satisfaction using only the included 32Mb of memory. Mine also only has a 4.2Gb hard drive. What all this goes to prove is not only are Hewlett Packard dedicated to producing solid, high quality hardware, but they are obviously always on the look out to keep their products up to date. The prices across the XE2 range have stayed about the same over the last year, but the specifications have all been constantly updated. Normally I'd say that it is not reasonable to expect the same performance from your notebook as you would a desktop computer, but I don't own a desktop machine anymore as my XE2 does all I need to and that includes using a HP CD Writer, Zip 250 disk and music software that records my guitar and vocals directly to the hard disk.
If you have never owned a laptop computer before then this is the one for you. reasonable screen quality with some really nice features. It comes with a single usb port which makes connectivity a simple affair. Hp's additional components are quite expensive but there are cheaper alternatives. I have added an inexpensive usb to rj45 network card and added my machine to my various networks with great success. It has multiple monitor support which is handy for presentations. The speakers that are built in are good but have a slightly 'tinny' sound. It has some lovely 'save configuration to disk' shutdown features too. All in all a great product but the battery life seems to be limited to about an hour not the 2 hours that hp claim <this could also be because my network adapter uses power from the computer>. If you have the cash BUY IT NOW before the price goes up. *******************update**************** I was asked if i could supply some further information on this product so here goes. The one I have has an AMD k6 2 3d now 500mhz processor, it came with 32meg ram which i have added a further 64 meg to, it has built in floppy disk drive and cd-rom drive, and also has a built in 56k modem. It came with a 5gig hard drive, reasonable soundcard with built in speakers and microphone but with the ability to plug in external ones. it has a port replicator, 1 usb port, 1 ps/2 port, 1 serial port,1 parallel port, 1 pcmcia card slot and a monitor connector. The video card is a good one but it does not have any memory to call it's own you can allocate memory to it from your ram via the bios <I use 4meg when using the built in 12.1 inch monitor and 8 meg when using an external monitor>. I have bought an external usb fast ethernet network adaptor and a 5 port usb hub as i use a lot of usb devices due to my love of 'hot-swapping'. If you are going to upgrade the memory <a must in my opinion> then I suggest you shop around a lot as laptop memory can be extremely expensive <especially hp's own brand>.
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