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Compaq Evo review:

Compaq Evo

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The Good Solid performance; long battery life; reasonable price; includes both touchpad and pointing stick.

The Bad MultiPort creates a bulge in case lid; no FireWire port; battery life isn't as good as that of other Pentium M notebooks.

The Bottom Line The Compaq Evo N620c offers solid performance and an acceptable, if mundane range of features for a thin-and-light notebook. It's excellent for business travelers craving long battery life.

This configuration is no longer available from HP.
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CNET Editors' Rating

7.7 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Battery 8.0
  • Support 8.0

Companies big and small turn to Hewlett-Packard's Compaq Evo line to equip their workers with notebooks. The N600 series of thin-and-light systems looks bland at first blush, but these notebooks are sturdy, thanks to their magnesium frame, and can stand up to daily abuse. The Evo N620c has two components that make up Intel's new Centrino architecture: the Pentium M (PM) processor and the corresponding Intel 855 mobile chipset. But Compaq opted for a wireless chip from Agere, rather than Intel's version. The Evo N620c is nothing to sneeze at elsewhere; its 1.5GHz PM processor; 40GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and 512MB of RAM offer serious performance at a price that's noticeably lower than that of other Pentium M notebooks. Make no mistake: this is one serious notebook that's ready for work. Clothed in a basic black, textured-plastic case that covers a superstrong magnesium frame, the Compaq Evo N620c is utterly anonymous, save for a few blue-and-silver accents.

Its tidy, squared-off appearance helps it blend into a boardroom, an airline club, or an office cubicle. At 1.4 by 12 by 9.8 inches and 5.5 pounds, the Evo N620c is trim and portable, too. Its modest power adapter adds just 8 ounces. If you leave the optical drive at the office and use the empty weight-saver module, the Evo N620c can hit the road at a svelte 4.8 pounds; that's within 1 ounce and just fractions of an inch of IBM's ThinkPad T series and half a pound lighter than Toshiba's Tecra M1.



The Evo N620c design leaves beauty to be desired, but it's very businesslike.


The Evo's MultiPort is handy but creates an unsightly bulge.


A bulge on the right side of the N620c conceals the system's MultiPort module, which houses the Evo's wireless-data radio, but alternatively and at an added cost, it can accommodate a Bluetooth short-range communications device. Because Compaq uses Agere wireless hardware rather than Intel's Calexico (an Intel Pro Wireless mini-PCI card), the Evo N620c can't use the Centrino name or logo. That's not a major problem, except that the complete Centrino package should make for slightly better battery life.

The Evo's single-bay design can accommodate a wide variety of devices, from optical drives to a floppy drive, a hard drive, or a second battery. Unfortunately, although the drives are supposedly hot-swappable, in our tests, the optical module didn't quite fit properly. The secondary battery fit like a glove, however, and boasted a convenient five-LED power gauge.




Drives that fit in this bay are hot-swappable, but we wrestled with the optical module.


The keyboard is precise, with a bit too much flex and not enough key depth.


With 19.3mm keys, the N620c's keyboard is precise, quiet, and sharp, but it flexes when the typing gets intense, which can lead to missed keystrokes. Worse, its keys have a scant 2mm of depth, making it hard on the fingers. While the white-on-black lettering doesn't work well in dark environments, the Evo N620c offers both a pointing stick and a touchpad for those who can't decide which they hate more. Whether it was charging, running full blast, or sitting idle, the Evo N620c we tested kept cool with a single, quiet fan on the bottom that ran intermittently.


If the design of the Evo N620c is unmemorable, its features and configuration are hard to forget. This notebook combines the speed of a thoroughbred with the work ethic of a draft horse. Our test model featured Intel's new, battery-friendly Pentium M processor, running at 1.5GHz; a high-performance 40GB hard drive that spins at 5,400rpm; and 512MB of 266MHz memory chips. If that's not enough, you can configure the N620c with a 1.6GHz processor, a 60GB drive, and up to 2GB of RAM.

The N620c lags only in graphics; its ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics accelerator is a generation out-of-date, and the 32MB of video memory it carries comes up short. Still, we found the Evo's XGA resolution on a 14.1-inch screen to be sharp and crisp. The system can show 2,048x1,536 resolution in full color on an external monitor. One quirk: during our testing, we found that the keyboard brightness-adjustment key had little or no effect on the screen.

The Evo N620c's ports are a handy mix of old and new. You'll find two Type II PC Card slots and a pair of USB 2.0 plugs, as well as the mundane but useful parallel, serial, and PS/2 outlets and an S-Video plug. The system has communications covered, with a V92 modem, a gigabit Ethernet, an Agere 802.11b (Wi-Fi) data radio--as opposed to the Centrino-completing Intel minicard--and an IR port in the front. On the other hand, none of the outlets are covered, and like the Dell Inspiron 600m, the Evo N620c lacks a FireWire port for high-speed data movement.



Note the missing FireWire port, available only with an add-on port replicator.


You can't yet add a DVD drive to the Evo N620c.


Compaq offers the choice of two port replicators for those who shuttle between desk and hotel. Both come with AC adapters. The $150 basic port replicator includes Ethernet, serial, parallel, two PS/2, two USB 2.0, external monitor, DVI, and FireWire ports, as well as audio in and out, S-Video, composite video, and S/PDIF. The $250 advanced port replicator adds two MultiBay slots for extra devices and an extra USB outlet; it can't charge a bay battery, however.

Our test N620c came with a capable and moderately swift 24X/8X combo CD-RW/DVD drive. Currently, Compaq doesn't offer a DVD burner for the Evo N620c.

In the sound category, the Evo N620c packs an optical S/PDIF connector to link it with a set of high-end speakers or a digital amplifier. We found this to be odd for a business notebook; most business users don't need or want beefed-up sound. The system's keyboard-mounted speakers delivered audio that, unfortunately, sounded louder than it should have in our tests and was quite distorted. The N620c also includes a sophisticated Andrea noise-reduction microphone, but we couldn't discern any reduction when recording voice, even with heavy background static.

In keeping with its business audience, the Evo N620c comes with little software other than Windows XP Professional. We particularly appreciated Compaq's wireless utility, which, like XP's built-in option, helps you detect and connect to a wireless network. Compaq's version includes a task-tray icon that puts Microsoft's software to shame; it's much easier to use, with tasks all in one place, and it includes a recorder and a graphic equalizer. The HP Mobile Printing program remembers settings for the last 10 devices used.


Mobile application performance
Compared to most of the thin-and-lights based around the Pentium M architecture, the Compaq Evo N620c demonstrates impressive mobile performance. The 1.5GHz Pentium M-based system beat the Dell Latitude D600 and the IBM ThinkPad T40, both of which include the 100MHz-faster 1.6GHz Pentium M processors. It's also very swift compared to non-Pentium M notebooks. Still, the Compaq Evo N620c comes nowhere near the performance of the Acer TravelMate 803LCi, which had the best mobile performance of any Pentium M we've tested so far.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
211 
Compaq Evo N620c
178 
Dell Latitude D600
176 
IBM ThinkPad T40
164 
 
SysMark2002 performance
Although the Compaq Evo N620c came in last in maximum performance, it still had an impressive showing: its overall score was only one point lower than those of its two closest competitors, the Dell Latitude D600 and the IBM ThinkPad T40. The Compaq Evo N620c's office-productivity score was actually a few points higher than those of its two closest competitors, thanks to its fast 5,400rpm Hitachi hard drive. The N620c's Internet-content-creation score suffered a bit in comparison, most likely because of its slightly slower 1.5GHz processor. That said, that the Compaq Evo N620c turned out a solid showing.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
186 
199 
174 
Dell Latitude D600
172 
196 
153 
IBM ThinkPad T40
173 
192 
156 
Compaq Evo N620c
172 
186 
159 
 
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
As always, the 3D score comes down to the quality of the graphics adapter as well as the speed of the CPU. In the case of the Compaq Evo N620c, its ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB graphics adapter and 1.5GHz Pentium M becomes a double-edged sword. The system's specs just cannot compare to the combination of the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB and the 1.6GHz Pentium M, which other Pentium M thin-and-lights use. Though it came in last place, the Compaq Evo N620c still offers decent, although below-average, 3D performance compared to its Pentium M brethren.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
6,365 
IBM ThinkPad T40
4,985 
Dell Latitude D600
4,624 
Compaq Evo N620c
3,871 
 
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop-replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768.

Find out more about how we test notebook systems.


System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Compaq Evo N620c
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm


All of the Pentium M thin-and-lights that we tested showed impressive battery life--each system lasted at least four hours, which is a lifetime compared to the two-hour average of non-Pentium M thin-and-lights. The Compaq Evo N620c stayed alive for more than four and a half hours, a very impressive score for such a fast system. This is due in part to the system's powerful 14.4V, 4,400mAh battery as well as its slightly slower 1.5GHz processor. Like the other Pentium M systems, the Compaq Evo N620c exemplifies great battery life.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
IBM ThinkPad T40
416 
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
289 
Compaq Evo N620c
274 
Dell Latitude D600
242 
 
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Compaq Evo N620c
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm


The Compaq Evo N620c comes with a generous, business-friendly, global three-year warranty. The clumsy ones among us can add a $368 policy that covers all types of accidental damage.

While Compaq hadn't yet completed its manual when we looked at the Evo N620c, the company's Web site is an enormous resource with drivers, updates, and patches, as well as a convenient list of authorized service centers. Oddly, the list of notebooks on the technical-support page doesn't include Evo models, but that's likely a long-lived outcome of the merger between Compaq and HP. The well-attended online discussion group has answers to questions that you might not even think to ask, and the HP engineers who staff the site are rated by the users, so you know whose advice to trust more. At any time--day or night--you can e-mail or call in problems, but you'll have to pay for the call (e-mail is free).

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