Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA

Share Button

 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.

Share Button

Review: Asus U36J

Share Button

Review: Asus U36J

Asus’ attempt at an ultraportable laptop might not have made the same splash in the technology world as Apple, Sony or Dell, but the U36J has a couple of good features that make it a likeable alternative, and the perfect accompaniment to the daily commute or a weekend away.

Outwardly, the U36J is an unassuming, black rectangle. In fact, the chassis is similar to that of the Sony VAIO C Series. We don’t mind the matt-black executive look, but it will put off anyone who likes a bit more colour sitting on their desk.

The 13.3-inch screen is bright and crisp, although the thick black bezel and ugly protruding hinges are slightly distracting.

Fortunately, Asus has become quite adept at giving their laptops great usability and the U36J is no exception. The isolation-style keyboard is superb, with plenty of space between keys, meaning we rarely hit the wrong keys when touch-typing. Because this is such a slim laptop, the keys are tucked in close to the chassis and there’s little travel when typing.

The touchpad has the same smooth plastic surface as the palmrests and works well. Asus has included a fingerprint scanner between the mouse buttons.

Staying power

Performance-wise, the U36J gave us some impressive results that make its low price tag even more appealing. The Intel Core i5 M460 CPU delivers 2.53GHz of speed bolstered by the 4GB of memory.

This kind of spec is great for general performance, but the integrated GPU means no heavy gaming on this laptop. But you should be able to run some older titles and do light photo editing.

tech labs

TechRadar Labs

Battery Eater ’05: 226 minutes
Cinebench: 8611
3DMark 2006: 3516

In terms of software, the U36J comes pre-loaded with around 15 native Asus applications. Although there is no optical drive, there are three USB ports, one of which is the faster USB 3.0 connection. Both an HDMI and VGA port mean you can attach a second monitor or HDTV to the U36J and an Ethernet port means you don’t have to settle for the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection. There is also an SD/MS Card slot for expanding the memory.

Two of the biggest positives we drew from the U36J though are the battery life and the price. During our intensive tests, the Asus recorded a strong score of 226 minutes, but we think that with sensible everyday usage you should easily be able to get over four hours out of this laptop and probably more if you use the included battery management software.

We’d expect to pay around £800–£900 for this type of machine, seeing as the Sony C Series and MacBook Air are both nudging a thousand pounds. Instead, you can get it for only £700.

Overall then, while this is certainly not the best ultraportable you can buy, it is the best value for money. So if your cash is tight this month, we’d recommend giving the U36J the once over at your local computer store before buying something pricier.

Share Button