HP's Compaq Presario line of laptops traditionally has fewer multimedia features than the flashier HP Pavilion systems, and the $524 (after rebate) Compaq Presario V5000T hews to this precedent, offering a stripped-down set of specs for basic productivity at a budget price. HP offers plenty of customization options for users who want some more kick, and even better, the underpowered 1.46GHz Celeron M410 in our review unit has now been replaced with a selection of Intel Core Solo and Core Duo CPUs. This raises the base price to $629.99 (after rebate), but it is a worthwhile upgrade from a performance standpoint and helps it compare favorably to other reasonably priced systems, such as the Dell Latitude D820.
The Presario V5000T's black-and-silver case measures 14.0 inches wide, 10.3 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick; it's about average for a mainstream model. The edges are nicely rounded, softening the look for a more consumer/business crossover feel. At 6.6 pounds (the AC adaptor adds another 0.85 pound), it's not something you're going to want to lug around on your shoulder all day, but the system is definitely portable enough for a daily commute. The mostly plastic construction did feel somewhat flimsy in places, especially the button that releases the latch holding down the screen when the laptop is closed.
Typing is easy, thanks to a big, comfortable keyboard with full-size keys and a large touch pad with handy horizontal and vertical scroll zones. A selection of standard ports and connections are offered, including three USB 2.0, one mini-FireWire, VGA and S-Video outputs, and an ExpressCard slot. While our review unit did not include them, a traditional Type II PC Card slot and a six-in-one memory-card reader are now standard. The built-in speakers are provided by Altec Lansing, and the sound quality was reasonably good, but music and movies will inevitably be better served by headphones or external speakers. Wireless connectivity is provided by a built-in Intel a/b/g network connection. You can add a Bluetooth option for an extra $19.
The 15.4-inch WXGA wide-screen display has a lower native resolution than we're used to at 1,280x800; many 15.4-inch screens have a 1,650x1,080 resolution. A BrightView screen option is available for an extra $25; this option keeps the same resolution but, predictably, bumps up the brightness. The glossy coating a BrightView screen gets may not be to the taste of some people, business users in particular. The wide aspect ratio offers a good amount of screen real estate, but the image looks slightly washed-out. Playing back a DVD movie gave us acceptable image quality, and with graphics provided by an integrated Intel 950 GMA, the Presario V5000T is not going to do much for high-end gamers. This is a machine that is best used for office tasks. For a more entertainment-oriented HP laptop, try a Pavilion model, such as the dv2000t.
The Presario V5000T's basic specs are low end to be sure, but pretty much everything about it can be upgraded. While the included 512MB of RAM might have been fine a year or two ago, it makes more sense to invest the extra $75 to bump it up to 1GB. HP offers an option to knock the RAM down to a mere 256MB for a paltry savings of $50, but we'd strongly advise against that. Our review unit came with the smallest available hard drive, a 40GB 5,400rpm drive. Incremental upgrades are available, from 60GB ($35) to 120GB ($175).
To keep costs down in what is intended as a budget system, the default optical drive is a basic DVD/CD-RW combo drive. It's easy enough to swap in a DVD burner for $50 or a LightScribe DVD burner for $75. HP's proprietary LightScribe technology can burn grayscale text and images onto the top of specially coated optical media. You can get fairly professional-looking results, and the cost of media has come down to about 50 cents per DVD.
Our review unit included a 1.4GHz Intel Celeron M410 CPU. The lowest-end CPU currently available is the 1.85GHz Intel Core Solo T1350. Upgrading to a Core Duo T2050 is only $45 more, while maxing out the CPU--to a 2.16GHz Core Duo T2600--will run you an additional $295. It's no surprise that the Celeron-based version of the Presario V5000T we tested did not particularly shine on CNET Labs' benchmark tests, coming in well below other recent systems, such as the Toshiba Satellite P105-S6024, in the Photoshop CS2 test but holding its own on the iTunes test. With a newer but still single-core Core Solo, you can expect a performance boost--and that goes double for the dual-core Core Duo. Battery life clocked in at a paltry 2 hours, 24 minutes, with the default 6-cell battery, not nearly enough for a cross-country plane trip or an on-the-go workday. A larger 12-cell battery is also available, but it's heavier and sticks out from the bottom of the system.
HP backs the Presario V5000T with a one-year warranty, which you can extend to three years for $185. Phone support is via a toll-free, 24/7 hotline, and the HP Web site has plenty to offer for resourceful troubleshooters, with help that includes downloads of the latest drivers and software and well-organized FAQs.