Note: This review is part of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
With a glossy lid and relatively trim profile, the Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr looks more expensive than its $549 price tag. Unfortunately, looks aren't everything: the Presario CQ50-215nr couldn't fulfill the laptop's upscale promise on our performance and battery benchmarks, in part due to its low-cost Athlon processor. We could forgive pokey performance if it came at a dirt-cheap price, but we also tested a $400 Acer Aspire 5735-4624 that outperformed the Presario CQ50-215nr. And if you're willing to spend $649, you'll get better performance and battery life as well as a more thorough feature set from a Dell Inspiron 1525 or Gateway T-6330U. We'd recommend any of these other three systems over the Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr.
|Processor||1.9GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-60|
|Memory||2GB at 667MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB, 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB Nvidia GeForce 8200M G|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.1 x 10.1 x 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.8 / 6.6 pounds|
The Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr looks remarkably similar to its corporate sibling, the HP Pavilion dv6915nr. The key differences: the Compaq Presario lacks the HP's Imprint finish, opting instead for a monochrome black lid, and it replaces the HP logo with a large silver Q in the center of the lid. Another key difference between the two models is size; the Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr is both slimmer and lighter than the Pavilion dv6915nr. The Presario CQ50 is also slimmer and lighter than the other budget systems in our holiday roundup, which only adds to its upscale look and feel.
The full-size keyboard on the Presario CQ50-215nr feels solid and responsive. The touch pad is made of the same glossy material as the wrist rest, which, while aesthetically pleasing, doesn't allow your finger to easily glide. Aside from the power button, you'll find only one button on the Presario CQ50-215nr's keyboard deck: an LED-lit on/off button for the laptop's wireless radio. All other controls--play/pause, track forward, and volume controls, for example--are Function keys on the keyboard. We'd have appreciated independent volume controls, at least; even the entry-level Dell Inspiron 1525 includes touch-sensitive media controls.
The Presario CQ50-215nr features a 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display with a 1,280x800 native resolution. That resolution is typical for this size, though some vendors, including Dell, offer a finer 1,440x900 resolution option on configurable models. Brightness and color saturation were great for both productivity work and watching movies, though blacks tended to look a little washed out. The display features a glossy screen coating but wasn't as prone to glare and reflections as other glossy screens we've seen.
|Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr||Average for mainstream category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr provides a minimal allotment of connections, even for a budget laptop. The laptop lacks an expansion port of any kind, so you're barred from adding functionality like a TV tuner. In comparison, the Acer Aspire 5735-4624 trumps the Presario in expansion, offering an ExpressCard slot and a multiformat card reader. The Acer does the Compaq one better in the networking department as well, providing draft N Wi-Fi in addition to 802.11b/g. The Presario's built-in Altec Lansing stereo speakers are loud enough to fill a typical dorm room, but their tinny sound can be quite grating.
The fixed configuration of the $549 Compaq Presario CQ50-215NR, which is available only in retail stores, is the definition of entry level. Given the laptop's low-cost, 1.9GHz AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processor and just 2GB of 667MHz RAM, we were not surprised to see it lag behind other entry-level systems on CNET Labs' benchmarks. We could forgive the lag if the Presario CQ50-215nr were less expensive than the competition, but the Acer Aspire 5735-4624, currently $400 at Best Buy, consistently outperformed the Compaq. What's more, the Presario CQ50-215nr seems to waste its discrete graphics card, posting just 11.3 frames per second at 1,280x800 resolution on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark. Barring a dramatic price drop, we can't recommend the Presario CQ50-215nr.
The Compaq Presario CQ50-215nr lasted just over an hour and a half on our video playback battery drain test, below the average for a mainstream system. All the other entry-level laptops in our holiday roundup, including the Acer Aspire 5735-4674, hit or exceeded the 2-hour mark.
Though it's purchased at retail, HP's basic one-year parts-and-labor warranty applies to the Presario CQ50-215nr. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and an online knowledge base and driver downloads for this specific model can be found at HP's support site.