Compaq's new budget notebook brings together a lot of useful capabilities in an attractive package and at an affordable $1,199; a $100 rebate good through the end of January 2002 could make it an even better deal. But the low-cost CPU and graphics system that went into the package mean you'll get no better than middling performance. Compaq's new budget notebook brings together a lot of useful capabilities in an attractive package and at an affordable $1,199; a $100 rebate good through the end of January 2002 could make it an even better deal. But the low-cost CPU and graphics system that went into the package mean you'll get no better than middling performance.
A snazzy look
The first thing you notice about the Presario 700US is its flashy look: a sleek, black shell with a silver band that wraps all the way around the edges. When you open the notebook, you see a crisp, bright, 14.1-inch, 1,024x768 LCD and a slightly oval touchpad just above two navigation buttons. Loud, clean-sounding JBL Pro Audio stereo speakers with a satisfyingly deep bass range run all the way across the front edge. The speakers extend down the front lip of the notebook, so you can listen to music with the lid closed (your forearms will cover part of the speakers when you type, though). The keyboard rattles a bit, but the keys are all comfortably big enough for a clumsy touch typist.
The Presario 700US is far from petite, but it's still comfortable to pick up and carry. The configuration we tested weighs 6.75 pounds (7.5 with the AC supply) and measures 1.64 by 12.4 by 10.6 inches. It includes an 8X DVD drive and comes with Microsoft's Works 6.0 and Money 2001, plus a one-year subscription to Encarta Online.
A plethora of ports
Compaq equipped the Presario 700US with a plethora of ports: Ethernet and a 56K modem; a PS/2 port for an external mouse or keyboard; two USB ports; and S-Video, parallel, and VGA ports. It also has our old friend the floppy drive and a single Type II/III PC Card slot. The 20GB hard drive is plenty big for all but the most devout MP3 collectors.
The Presario 700US's low-cost CPU and graphics system sacrifice some performance for price, but the notebook still managed to keep up with its peers in CNET Labs' tests. The 900MHz AMD Duron-based notebook comes with 256MB of RAM, giving it plenty of breathing room for running its installed Windows XP Home Edition OS. An empty slot can handle an additional 128MB of memory. But the system shares memory with its graphics controller, the S3 Savage with 3D Accelerator, an arrangement that always drags down overall performance. However, the Presario 700US still easily beat the HP Pavilion n5430--an 850MHz Duron-based notebook with just 128MB of memory and the notoriously slow Windows Me OS--by 13 percent. But the WinBook J1, with a 1GHz Intel Celeron and the same OS and memory amount as the Presario 700US, plowed ahead by 7 percent. The Presario 700US fought back in our battery tests, where it lasted an adequate 149 minutes, 11 minutes longer than the J1 and 18 minutes longer than the Pavilion n5430.
A wealth of support
Compaq makes it easy to live with the Presario 700US. A foldout booklet covers the notebook's features, battery management, and other basics and includes a CD with detailed electronic documentation. The system comes with a typical one-year warranty and a year of free, toll-free, 24/7 telephone support. If you prefer virtual support, you can e-mail Compaq techs or immerse yourself in the extensive archives of online discussion groups.
The Presario 700US's stylish looks conceal a merely average notebook. But it provides all the features any mobile knowledge worker needs. And for the price, it delivers decent performance as well.
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1)
Longer bars indicate better performance
Battery life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Editor's note: CNET recently upgraded its system benchmarks to BAPCo's SysMark 2001. All the systems mentioned in this review were tested using the new benchmark and cannot be compared to systems tested using previous benchmarks.
Compaq Presario 700US
Windows XP Home; Duron 900MHz; 240MB SDRAM; S3 Graphics Twister K Compaq 16MB; Toshiba MK2017GAP 18.6GB 4,200rpm
HP Pavilion n5430
Windows Me; Duron 850MHz; 128MB RAM; Trident CyberBlade XP 8MB; 20GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP; mobile Celeron 1000MHz; 248MB SDRAM 100MHz; Trident Video Accelerator CyberBlade i1 AGP 8MB; IBM DJSA-220 18.6GB 4,200rpm
The Compaq Presario 700US's 900MHz Mobile Duron, 256MB of memory, and Windows XP Home Edition easily outran HP's Pavilion n5430, which had a slower mobile Duron processor, less RAM, and a slower OS. But the WinBook J1, with the 1GHz version of Intel's low-cost Celeron (and the same OS and RAM amount as the HP), beat the Pavilion n5430 by 7 percent. The Compaq's average 149-minute battery life is still better than that of the shorter-lived competition.