Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
In our Back-to-School retail laptop roundup, we've taken a look at a few real bargain-basement machines. Along with the Toshiba Satellite L305-S5955, the Compaq Presario CQ60-417DX comes in at less than $400. Although it's fifty dollars more than the Satellite L305-S5955, it also has a larger, 15.6-inch, higher-resolution 16:9 screen, comes with a Windows 7-upgrade-eligible Windows Vista Home Premium OS, and has a keyboard and touch pad that were far more comfortable for us. But, you should be forewarned: both systems are nearly identical otherwise, and both come with a pretty bare-bones Celeron 900 processor that isn't much more powerful than the average Netbook.
However, for only $29 more, you can get a laptop with a significantly better dual-core processor in the Dell Inspiron 1545-012B, so the underpowered processor at the CQ60-417DX's core can't be overlooked. For your entry-level computing needs, we recommend looking elsewhere.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$399|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Celeron 900|
|Memory||3GB, DDR2 800 MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.9x9.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.3 / 7.1 pounds|
One thing the Compaq-branded HP Presario CQ60-417DX isn't is lightweight: at more than six pounds, it's a handful. However, while the notebook's hardly a looker, its design is at least to be credited for being under-the-radar and unobtrusive. A black glossy lid emblazoned only with a large silver Q opens up to a keyboard area that's half-glossy silver plastic and half matte black plastic. A full tapered keyboard and number pad fills the available real estate and feels nice and comfortable, as does the well-shaped touch pad. The design grew on us--once your finger dips into the glossy recessed well of the touch pad, it's easy to navigate across the 15-inch screen.
It's no surprise that the chassis feels good; it's the same as the recently reviewed HP Compaq CQ60-215DX, which we pointed out was using the same chassis as the higher-end HP G60-235dx. But those machines both had reasonably useful dual-core processors, and the Celeron 900 shoved into the CQ60-417DX isn't even close.
Other than the keyboard, there are only two other buttons on the keyboard tray: an LED-lit power button and a Wi-Fi button, both set front and center in the perforated plastic that covers the speakers.
The CQ60-417DX 15.6-inch LCD has a 1,366x768-pixel resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. According to Compaq, the "BriteView technology" helps increase the contrast and sharpness on the screen. Regardless of whatever BriteView entails, the screen does look pretty good under most conditions, a benefit for a laptop this cheap. The speakers are also louder than average, though not audiophile quality.
|Compaq Presario CQ60-417DX||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
You can't get any more bare bones in terms of ports when it comes to the Compaq Presario CQ60-417DX--VGA-out and USB ports are all you'll get, along with Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and a DVD burner. The minimalism is out-of-place in a laptop world where even $299 Netbooks throw in SD card readers. There's also no Bluetooth. A port that would normally be for HDMI has been covered over in plastic--not that you'd use it much with such an underpowered processor, but it's still a tease.
The hard drive capacity, at 160GB, is Netbook-level for 2009, although having 3GB of RAM at least keeps it slightly above the otherwise spec-identical Toshiba Satellite L305-S5955.
The 2.2GHz Intel Celeron 900 processor has been around for a while. We saw it in the first generation of Netbooks before Intel released the Atom CPU. As you might imagine, if it's not great for Netbooks, it's not going to be great for a full-size laptop.
While the GMA 4500MHD graphics do allow for some decent 720p video streaming, the Presario CQ60-417DX performed woefully in our multimedia multitasking test, and not much better in iTunes and Photoshop tests. The dual-core Dell Inspiron 1545-012B multitasked in less than half the time.