Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA

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 Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA

The Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA won’t win any awards for its looks, but does offer the things we look for in a budget machine. It’s solid with a decent screen and great speakers, and the sort of internal specifications we’d expect at this price.

However, even though this is a budget machine, we’d still appreciate something a little nicer to look at.

The Compaq is a solid black brick seemingly devoid of colours, shades or textures. It’s boring and uninspired but, as mentioned above, solidly built – with only a small amount of flex detectable around the chassis.

We were also pleased to discover that it’s not as heavy as it looks, but it isn’t the lightest at 2.5kg.

Leaving the aesthetics behind, usability is perfectly acceptable. The keyboard has wide buttons and a good depth of travel but, despite the amount of space on the chassis, feels cramped. There’s no numeric keypad or quick-access hotkeys to be found, but, like most laptops, you can alter volume and media playback by holding down the Function key and using the F-keys.

While the touchpad is responsive, it’s also the exact same shade of black as the rest of the chassis and therefore wonderfully camouflaged.

Where the Compaq picks up again is with the screen. It’s got a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, meaning you can enjoy 720p HD videos – although the full 1080p experience is out of reach. We found that although the screen was very bright, it wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen elsewhere. The Super-TFT coating helps, but ultimately we’d pick this for working on documents rather than watching Avatar.

Having said that, the Altec Lansing speakers are very good indeed – so we’d definitely be listening to music while we worked.

£350 won’t buy you the greatest components on the market, but the basic user will find everything they require here. The first-generation Intel Core i3 processor is backed up by a capable 4GB of RAM and a standard integrated graphics chip that will handle video streaming from iPlayer or YouTube but stops short of advanced editing suites.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 184 minutes
Cinebench: 7839
3DMark 2006: 1464

There’s a DVD rewriter and a standard 320GB hard drive for storing programs and media.

Compaq

Better battery

Pleasantly surprising was the 184-minute battery life the Presario posted on our benchmarking tests. It’s good to see budget laptops lasting more than three hours and, with careful usage, we reckon you could squeeze even more out.

The only noticeable omission in terms of connectivity is the lack of an HDMI port for connecting to a high-definition external monitor or TV. You’ll have to make do with the standard VGA Out connection or buy an adapter for one of the three USB ports.

There’s an SD Card expansion slot and an Ethernet port in case you don’t want to use the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection to access the internet.

The Compaq Presario CQ57- 366SA is a perfectly acceptable budget laptop, with special mention going to the battery life and speaker system. It doesn’t look, or perform, like a standout laptop and there are alternatives – such as the Acer Aspire 5742 – but if you’re searching for a basic machine for the next year or two this is a good pick.

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Packard Bell EasyNote TS11

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 Packard Bell EasyNote TS11

ThePackard Bell EasyNote range might not be as front-and-centre as Dell’s Inspiron or HP’s Pavilion brands, but nevertheless has established itself in our minds as a home for mid-level laptops at budget-level prices.

And we’re happy to report that the EasyNote TS11-HR-695UK is a similarly reliable slice of mid-level computing goodness.

It shares the same floral pattern as other Packard Bell EasyNote laptops. There are also a range of colours to choose from, but the pattern is harder to pick out on the black model than the red or white versions. The pattern continues on the palm rest inside the laptop, although the keyboard and rest of the chassis is matte black.

The keyboard itself is a full-length affair with an additional numerical keypad and a couple of extra hotkeys thrown in. The chicklet keys are great for typing on and the overall experience is excellent. There are no issues with odd-sized buttons as common keys like Enter, Backspace and Shift are all well-proportioned and where you would expect to find them.

The touchpad has the same glossy coating as the lid and palmrest and is a little on the sensitive side, although you can adjust this in Windows. It’s not the largest around but the single click button works well.

Impressive performance

Unlike the bigger TS13 models, the EasyNote TS11 sports a smaller, Intel Core i3 CPU which works to keep the cost down. However, in terms of performance, we were impressed at the 8159 score this machine posted following our benchmarking tests. Even though it’s the budget choice, this dual-core chip will give you a smooth experience when multitasking.

Thanks to a capacious 6GB of RAM we had no problems quickly working around several documents, even with multiple web pages open and music streaming.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 249 minutes
Cinebench: 8159
3DMark 2006: 4346

Graphics are handled by the integrated graphics chip bundled onto the Sandy Bridge CPU and provides a reliable, if basic, experience. You can safely manage older games and a spot of photo editing but beware of anything more demanding.

Connectivity is similar to other laptops at this price point. There are three USB ports for peripherals and HDMI and VGA connections for external displays. You can use the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection or the Ethernet wired port for connecting to the internet and there’s a Kensington security slot for locking the EasyNote TS11 securely.

There’s no doubt that the EasyNote TS11 is a friendly machine. From its decorative pattern, to the social networking hotkey, this seems like a safe choice for a mid-level laptop. Beyond that, though, there’s some serious performance underneath. For this price point we reckon the Packard Bell EasyNote TS11 stands as a secure and reliable purchase.

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Review: Lenovo IdeaPad S205

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Review: Lenovo IdeaPad S205

The Lenovo IdeaPad S205 is a small and light laptop, but in order to keep this machine highly portable, some compromises have been made.

At just 1.4kg and with a dinky 11.6-inch screen, the IdeaPad S205 looks more like a netbook than a laptop. It’s designed to be as portable as possible, and you barely even notice it when the compact body is stashed in your bag.

Thankfully, it’s solidly constructed, with only a slight hint of flex. We certainly weren’t worried about it breaking when we threw it into our backpack and wandered around town.

The plain black design of the interior is nothing special, although we liked the unusual and subtle boxy pattern on the lid. Despite the reduced size, the IdeaPad is still surprisingly chunky.

This is due to the battery, which protrudes from the rear of the machine and pushes it upwards. As a result, this laptop is almost as thick as the 17.3-inch Toshiba Satellite C670D. However, that raised rump means the keyboard is tilted at a more comfortable angle for typing.

Lenovo has managed to fit an isolation-style keyboard on to the compact body, which is perfect for touch-typing thanks to the gaps between the keys.

Some sacrifices have been made – such as the squashed Shift, Tab and Return keys – but the best has been made of the tiny space. However, we did get annoyed at the indented Ctrl key, which we constantly miss-hit when using Windows shortcuts.

Lenovo ideapad s205

The palmrests are understandably slim, so your palms dangle off the bottom when you’re typing. It’s a minor quibble, although the slender palmrests also means the touchpad is pretty small. Still, considering the shrunken chassis, the IdeaPad is surprisingly usable.

Basic performance

However, in our benchmarking tests we found the Lenovo was seriously lacking power, like the much bulkier Toshiba. In fact, the IdeaPad uses the same AMD processor as the Toshiba, and matches its 4GB of memory. The result is very basic performance.

Thankfully, we had no problem running office software, browsing the web and so on. The integrated graphics can also cope with standard-definition movies and you can edit your photos with simple design packages.

However, when we tried watching a high-definition film it came out as a slideshow presentation, displaying a frame every few seconds. Only basic web games such as Bejewelled actually ran at an acceptable framerate. That said, if all you need is a laptop for checking emails, enjoying your family photos and running basic software, and you value portability over performance, this laptop may be the one for you.

Not only is it slim and light, the battery lasts for over three hours when watching movies and for over four hours when browsing the web.

We’re also impressed that Lenovo has crammed 500GB of hard drive space into the tiny chassis.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 182 minutes
Cinebench: 2193
3DMark 2006: 2232

This is enough space to last most users years, and only the Acer here offers more storage. A 5-in-1 memory card reader can be used for extra space.

To sum up, if you need a budget machine for regular travel, the Lenovo is the best options. However, if you’d prefer a laptop with a bit more power, and are willing to carry something a little chunkier and heavier, the Acer Aspire 5742Z will suit you more.

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Review: Toshiba Satellite L730

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This 13.3-inch entertainment laptop is perfect for staving off boredom on the move. The Satellite L730-10G lacks graphical punch, but the compact display is a highlight, while the lightweight body and decent battery life ensure you’ll be entertained wherever you roam.

Despite its smaller screen, the Satellite L730-10G still features a 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. The result is a much sharper picture, so images look crisp and clean. It’s also a bright and vibrant panel, making this one of the best displays for movie watching.

We enjoyed simply browsing our photo collection and watching films, although the integrated speakers are lacking in power. We recommend you invest in some decent headphones.

Most recent laptops use Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processing technology, but this portable is powered by one of Intel’s older Core i3 processors. However, the difference in our benchmarking tests was minimal. If you love to multitask, browsing the web at the same time as you watch a film and chat with friends using messenger applications, then the Samsung can handle it.

Even with a paltry 2GB of memory on board, we witnessed little slowdown while running several tasks at once.

Weak graphics

However, the integrated graphics are quite weak. This means that you can only run the most basic multimedia tasks such as viewing and editing photos, and watching high-definition (HD) films. If you want to mess around with your home movies or play games, you should look at the Acer Aspire 5750G and Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 173 minutes
Cinebench: 7632
3DMark 2006: 1502

The 320GB hard drive provides a standard amount of storage space to carry around your files and media collection. It can hold hundreds of standard-definition films or thousands of albums and photos.

However, some other laptops offer double the space for a similar amount of you hard earned cash. If you need a laptop for the whole family, a larger hard drive is recommended. However, if you need a mobile machine for carrying around all day, the Satellite is a great solution.

With a weight of just 1.9kg, it is technically classed as an ultraportable laptop. Not only is it the lightest machine here, the battery life is also commendable. We watched movies for almost three hours before the laptop shut itself down, and limiting yourself to more basic entertainment such as browsing the web gives you many hours of life.You certainly won’t need to lug the charger around on the daily commute.

Toshiba l730

The more compact body means that features are a little stingy compared to some of the other laptops here. If you want to hook up a television, you’ll have to make do with a VGA connection, as there’s no HDMI port.

There’s also no memory card reader. However, one of the three USB ports supports sleep-and-charge technology, which means you can charge your mobile devices such as MP3 players even when the laptop is in hibernation.

You also get built-in hard drive protection, which pauses the drive if vibrations are detected. This reduces the risk of hard drive failure, which could result in lost files.

While the Toshiba may lack graphical power and lots of storage, it’s still a good entertainment machine for regular travellers. The sharp and colourful screen is a good way of enjoying movies, while the reduced weight and decent battery life make it an excellent travel companion.

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