HP's mainstream Compaq Presario 2100 series is one of the most chameleonlike notebooks around. It goes from a frugal $899 mainstream system (a mail-in rebate good through December 1, 2003 cuts the price by $100), with basic specs such as an Intel Celeron or an AMD Athlon processor and a 14.1-inch display, to a packed $2,266 desktop replacement, with an Intel Pentium 4-M CPU and a 15-inch screen. Things only get better from there, with the ability to add more cutting-edge options such as a DVD/CD-RW combo drive and integrated wireless. Be aware that the Presario 2100's lack of a cutting-edge graphics chip prohibits peak performance; still, it provides enough speed and battery life for the average tasks of a home user. If you yearn for a desktop replacement with even more features and speed, check out the .
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Floppy drive and ports are on the left edge.
The Presario 2100 series is a well-crafted mainstream notebook, and our only major complaint with the design is the loud fan that kicks in on occasion. The 7.2-pound notebook measures a slightly wide 13 by 10.7 by 1.6 inches, which is reasonable when you consider that every system in the series comes with a big and bright 14.1- or 15-inch screen, an integrated floppy drive, and a built-in CD, DVD, or DVD/CD-RW combo drive.
We're particularly partial to the unusual blue lights that complement the Presario 2100 series' power button and the standard touchpad (no pointing stick option is available). A button above the touchpad turns the pad on and off, helping you avoid accidentally moving the pointer by bumping the pad. We also like the way the right side of the touchpad is sectioned off by a vertical line, indicating the part of the software-enhanced pad that you should use for scrolling. Two mouse buttons form a smile shape underneath the pad. Finally, the wide keyboard features a familiar, desktoplike layout, with Insert, Delete, Home, and End keys huddled in the upper-right corner.
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|The right side of the touchpad can be used for scrolling.|
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|The keyboard features a familiar, desktoplike layout.|
The Presario 2100 series comes with a full assortment of ports and slots. Its right edge sports one PS/2 port and whichever secondary optical storage drive you choose. The back edge includes two of the slower USB 1.1 ports and one port each of serial, VGA, Ethernet, S-Video out, and parallel. On the left edge are the floppy drive, a 56Kbps modem port, a FireWire port, one Type II PC Card slot, headphone and microphone ports, and three buttons for volume up, down, and mute. The front edge features an IrDA port.
The Presario 2100 series' extensive configurability is a nice change from the limited options that are typical of mainstream notebooks. You can currently choose between AMD mobile Athlon XP, Intel mobile Celeron, and Pentium 4-M processors running from 1.6GHz to 2.5GHz. Your four hard drive choices are 20GB, 30GB, 40GB, or 60GB. The active-matrix display comes in two sizes and two native resolutions: 14.1 or 15 inches at an average 1,024x768 pixels, as well as another 15-inch option with a finer 1,400x1,050 resolution. All memory consists of fast 266MHz DDR SDRAM starting at 128MB and going to 1,024MB. You can also order either integrated 802.11b or the extrafast 802.11g wireless networking, although you'll have to rely on software wireless controls because the system lacks a convenient wireless On/Off switch. The model we tested included a 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M processor, 512MB of memory, and a 60GB hard drive.
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|The Presario's media bay is not swappable.|
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|Screen size choices are 14.1 or 15 inches.|
The laptop's two internal bays ship with a built-in floppy drive and your choice of a CD, a DVD, or a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. Due to the fixed nature of these drives, you can't swap them out for other modules such as a second hard drive or a battery. The only other static component in this series is the ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chip that borrows up to 64MB of video RAM from main memory. If your head is swimming from all of these choices, HP also offers several preconfigured versions of the Presario 2100.
HP offers a satisfying selection of software with the Presario 2100 series. The penny-pincher's option includes Microsoft Works 6.0, along with, Quicken Financial Center, , and Encarta Online. The company also provides the more full-featured Microsoft Office Small Business Edition and Professional office suites. Systems including CD-RW and DVD/CD-RW drives ship with . HP understandably supplies only one operating system with this home-oriented notebook, and it's Windows XP Home.
Mobile application performance
The Compaq Presario 2100 performed below average compared to previous 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M systems that we've tested. This performance deficiency can be attributed to its ATI Radeon 340M graphics adapter, which borrows 64MB of main memory and cripples the system's performance. The Presario 2100 scored even lower than the 2.2GHz desktop Pentium 4 Toshiba Satellite Pro 6100. The system, however, ranked significantly higher than the Fujitsu LifeBook E series, which has the same processor and uses a similar graphics adapter. The bottom line is that the Presario 2100Ã‚'s greedy graphics adapter prevents the system from achieving its full potential. If youÃ‚'re looking to buy a system for mobile performance, you should look elsewhere.
Mobile application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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).
The Presario 2100 tied the LifeBook E series for a disappointing second place in maximum performance tests. The Satellite Pro 6100 with its slower Pentium 4 processor beat both machines by 16 points overall. Once again, this lack of performance is due the ATI graphics adapter found on the Presario 2100 and the LifeBook E series.
Maximum application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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
Because its graphics adapter borrows 64MB from system memory, the Presario 2100 scored very low in 3D performance tests. By comparison, the Satellite Pro 6100 scored comfortably above average for a 2.2GHz Pentium 4 system, thanks to its Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go with 32MB of its own memory. If you plan to spend most of your downtime gaming, we recommend that you skip the Presario 2100.