Barely more expensive than a decently configured Netbook, the $449 Compaq Presario CQ60-215DX looks like a good bargain at first, with its 16:9 screen and separate number pad, but this is a case where spending a little more can pay big dividends.
The AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-62 CPU gave us the very slowest performance in the entry-level category of our current retail laptop roundup, and the battery lasted for less than two hours. Interestingly, this laptop is built into the exact same chassis as the HP G60-235dx, our favorite current entry-level retail laptop. For $599, that system gives you a faster Intel Dual-Core CPU, a bigger hard drive, more RAM, and even an HDMI output (that port is covered over on the Compaq version).
|Price as reviewed||$449|
|Processor||2.0GHz AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-62|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB Nvidia GeForce 8200M|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.9 inches wide by 9.9 inches deep|
|Height||1.7 inches high|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.2/7.1 pounds|
Physically almost identical to the HP G60, this Compaq model distinguishes itself by having a black keyboard instead of a silver one, and a big "CQ" logo on the back of the lid instead of an HP logo (although we think the Compaq CQ is a much snazzier logo than the HP one). Both have a large hinge running the length of the display, and a one-piece wrist rest, where the touch pad is simply an indented area of the keyboard tray, not a physically separate piece of plastic.
The keyboard tray takes advantage of the slightly wider 16:9 form factor to squeeze in a separate number pad, something not possible on 15-inch laptops with 16:10 displays. The keys on the number pad are a little on the narrow side, but usable, and the keyboard itself is comfortable for typing, but flexes a bit too much toward the middle. There are no media control or quick-launch buttons, so you'll have to control functions such as audio volume through function-key commands.
The 15.6-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is standard on this screen size (and comparable to the 1,280x800 found on 16:10 models). It's readable, but some documents and Web pages will require scrolling, and the glossy screen can reflect glare from light sources easily.
|Compaq Presario CQ60-215DX||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Despite sharing a plastic body with the HP G60, this Compaq model loses one nice extra that more expensive model had: the HDMI port.
Most of the laptops in the entry-level section of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup (covering laptops up to $599) have AMD processors. These systems, for the most part, were slower than the two entry-level Intel-powered systems we tested (including the HP G60). The Compaq Presario CQ60-215DX was dead last in two out of three of our benchmark tests (although it fared much better in our iTunes encoding test). Unlike some of our previous low-end Intel versus AMD comparisons, it wasn't a total blowout, but we still recommend sticking with the Intel-powered systems in this price range.
The CQ60 ran for 1 hour and 47 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is below the minimum of 2 hours we'd expect from even an entry-level 15-inch laptop. Once again, this system's doppelganger, the HP G60, was a much better performer, lasting 2 hours and 20 minutes on the same test.
HP includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive, and we do not recommend them.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)