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HP Compaq CQ50-115NR review: HP Compaq CQ50-115NR

HP Compaq CQ50-115NR

Michelle Thatcher Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops
Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.
Michelle Thatcher
4 min read

Note: This review is part of our Back-to-School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.


HP Compaq CQ50-115NR

The Good

Attractive design; slimmer and lighter than competing systems.

The Bad

Poor performance; lousy battery life; no media control keys; lacks an expansion card slot.

The Bottom Line

The entry-level Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR looks great, but you can get better performance and battery life for your money.

We were excited when HP announced the revival of the Compaq Presario brand earlier this year. Here was the promise of a family of basic, entertainment-oriented laptops at extremely low prices (starting at $499). Once we got our hands on the $649 Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR, we were impressed with its high-end look and feel. But looks aren't everything, and the Presario CQ50-115NR couldn't fulfill its upscale promise on our performance and battery benchmarks. We could forgive pokey performance if its price undercut the competition, but we tested a $649 Dell Inspiron 1525 that outperformed the Presario CQ50-115NR. And for just $30 more, you can buy our entry-level pick for this back-to-school season, the Sony VAIO NR430. We'd recommend either system over the Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR.

The Compaq Presario CQ50 looks more expensive than its $649 price tag. In fact, it looks remarkably similar to its corporate sibling, the HP Pavilion dv6915nr. The key differences: the Compaq Presario lacks the HP's Imprint finish, opting instead for a monochrome black lid, and it replaces the HP logo with a large silver Q in the center of the lid. Another key difference between the two models is size; the Compaq Presario CQ50 is both slimmer and lighter than the Pavilion dv6915nr. The Presario CQ50 is also slimmer and lighter than the other budget systems in our back-to-school roundup, which only adds to its upscale look and feel.

The full-size keyboard on the Presario CQ50 feels solid and responsive. The touch pad is made of the same glossy material as the wrist rest, which, while aesthetically pleasing, doesn't allow your finger to easily glide. Aside from the power button, you'll find only one button on the Presario CQ50's keyboard deck: an LED-lit on/off button for the laptop's wireless radio. All other controls--play/pause, track forward, and volume controls, for example--are Function keys on the keyboard. We'd have appreciated independent volume controls, at least; even the entry-level Dell Inspiron 1525 includes touch-sensitive media controls.

The Presario CQ50 features a 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display with a 1,280x800 native resolution. That resolution is typical for this size, though some vendors, including Dell, offer a finer 1,440x900 resolution option on configurable models. Brightness and color saturation were great for both productivity work and watching movies, though blacks tended to look a little washed out. The display features a glossy screen coating but wasn't as prone to glare and reflections as other glossy screens we've seen.

The Compaq Presario CQ50 provides a minimal allotment of connections, even for a budget laptop. The laptop lacks an expansion port of any kind, so you're barred from adding functionality like a TV tuner. The built-in Altec Lansing stereo speakers are adequate for music and movies, but not amazing.

We tested the $649 Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR, a retail-only fixed configuration that incorporates a generous 3GB of RAM and a low-cost 2.0GHz AMD Turion X2 RM-70 dual-core processor. Though that's one of AMD's latest processor models, it didn't have enough oomph to compete with laptops based on Intel's Core 2 Duo processor on CNET Labs' benchmarks. We could forgive the lag if the Presario CQ50 were less expensive than the competition, but you'll pay less for Dell's entry-level Inspiron 1525-121B; our favorite in this budget category, the Sony VAIO NR430, provides significantly better performance and battery life, plus a few more features, for just $30 more than the Presario.

The story doesn't get any better when it comes to battery life. On our drain test, the Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR fell just 9 minutes shy of the 2-hour mark, which is below average for a mainstream system. Worse, four of our 15.4-inch entry-level back-to-school laptops outlasted the CQ50 by 37 minutes or more.

Though purchased at retail, HP's basic one-year parts-and-labor warranty applies to the Presario CQ50. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and an online knowledge base and driver downloads for this specific model can be found at HP's support site.

Multimedia multitasking test (in minutes)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR

Video Playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
Compaq Presario CQ50-115NR
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:
Compaq CQ50-115NR
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz AMD Turion X2 Mobile RM-70; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8200M G; 200GB Seagate 5,400rpm.

Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T2390; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 200GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

Dell Inspiron 1525-121B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T2390; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 160GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T2390; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 160GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.90GHz AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-60; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon 3100; 160GB Toshiba 5400rpm.