The Compaq CQ50-139WM makes other entry-level laptops look positively luxurious. We recently reviewed four entry-level models from Best Buy, and they cost $500 and higher. Wal-Mart sold the Compaq CQ50-139WM for $298 during a one-day sale on November 8, 2008. It's not available online through Wal-Mart's Web site. The price is currently listed as varying by store, but we plugged in more than a dozen ZIP codes in Wal-Mart's store locator before we found a store that had it in stock. A sales associate at the Henryetta, Okla., Wal-Mart told us that they have the CQ50-19WM in stock but that it costs $398. It would seem the $298 price was a one-day-only special offered only at select stores.
So, availability is a question mark, but even at its $400 price, the 15-inch Compaq costs less than most Netbooks. And like a Netbook, the Compaq CQ50-139WM uses a single-core processor, which can't match the performance of a dual-core processor, some form of which is found on virtually any laptop sold these days. (Netbooks generally use a single-core Intel Atom processor, which was specifically designed for such devices; it places a premium on efficiency rather than on performance to extend battery life.)
The Compaq cq50-139wm uses a single-core 2.0GHz Intel Celeron 575 processor, which is a member of Intel's old Celeron line. It's been a long time since we've seen a laptop use a Celeron CPU. For instance, the entry-level Best Buy laptops we reviewed last month use either an Intel Pentium Dual Core CPU (a precursor to the Core Duo and Core 2 Duo chips found in today's mainstream laptops) or, in the case of the $549 Compaq CQ50-215NR, a dual-core AMD Athlon X2 processor.
Other specifications on the Compaq CQ50-139WM include 2GB of DDR2 memory, a 160GB hard drive (SATA drive at 5400rpm), and a DVD burner. It runs Vista Home Basic since the laptop doesn't have the oomph to power a version of Vista that includes the Aero graphic interface. The 15.4-inch display features a 1,280x800-pixel resolution. Your networking options are 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet, and a 56K modem. Connections include three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, and headphone and mic jacks.
Judging from the image on Walmart's Web site (we have not acquired it for review), the Compaq CQ50-139WM is fairly good looking, with a silver wrist rest, and a black keyboard and screen bezel. We haven't tested the machine, but we'd wager it'll suffice if you want it for nothing more than sending e-mail, getting on the Web, and running basic office applications. You are sure to feel a drag compared with a modern dual-core laptop if you use the Compaq CQ50-139WM under heavy multitasking scenarios or to run an intensive (and threaded) graphics application like Photoshop. We'd also wager that it ships with its fair share of shovelware as a way for HP to help offset its low price. Even with those caveats, we expect supplies of this bargain basement 15-inch laptop won't last long, if it hasn't sold out already.