The HP Compaq Presario V3000 inaugurates a new look and feel for HP's Presario line of laptops. Departing from the familiar silvery design of previous Presario models, the V3000 is dark gray (and subtly pinstriped), with a high-gloss finish that HP says is particularly scratch resistant. Looks aside, however, the Presario V3000 sticks to the same basic script as previous Presario models (including the V2000 that it will replace): you get a strong set of components and most of the features that a basic home user will want for a competitive price (it starts at $950). HP has upped the ante with the V3000's processor options, however: you can configure it with either an Intel Core Solo or Core Duo or, when it debuts, AMD's dual-core processor. If you're looking for a slightly stronger set of multimedia features for a similar price, check out the Dell Inspiron E1405, which starts at $700 (we haven't tested the E1405 yet, but we have reviewed the very similar XPS M140).
Measuring slightly more than 13 inches wide, 9.5 inches deep, and just shy of 1.5 inches thick, and weighing in at 5.5 pounds (6.3 pounds with its compact AC adapter), the thin-and-light Presario V3000 is portable enough for regular travel and is one of the more compact models in HP's portfolio. Competitive models with 14.1-inch wide-screen displays, such as the Inspiron E1405, the ThinkPad z60t, and the VAIO FJ, are roughly the same size and weight.
The Presario V3000's keyboard has relatively large keys that are comfortable enough to type on for extended periods, though the ThinkPad Z60t's keyboard, which is a bit less jammed together, remains our favorite in this class. The Presario V3000's touch pad and mouse buttons are sizable, but the glossy touch pad felt a bit slippery for our taste. That said, we appreciate the touch pad's vertical and horizontal scrolling functionality, and we approve of the Presario V3000's touch pad on/off button, which eliminates rogue cursor movement when working with an external mouse. The Altec Lansing stereo speakers, located above the keyboard, deliver audio that's moderately loud and of decent quality, though lacking on the low end; unfortunately, the sound becomes hopelessly muffled when you close the laptop lid. The Inpsiron E1405, whose speakers sit along its front edge, delivers superior audio whether its lid is open or closed. While we like the Presario V3000's new light-touch multimedia controls, which offer audible feedback similar to the iPod's clickwheel, we prefer the Inspiron E1405's more complete set of controls, which, again, are conveniently placed along the front edge for closed-lid access.
Our Presario V3000 test unit had a 14.1-inch wide-screen display with a standard 1,280x800 native resolution. Configured with HP's BrightView technology, which is just a glossy coating that overlays the display, the Presario V3000 delivered acceptable video quality; while the screen was considerably brighter than the ThinkPad Z60t's, the picture wasn't as crisp as we would have liked.
For the needs of a typical home user, the Presario V3000 incorporates almost all of the necessary features, ports, and connections. You get three USB 2.0 ports, one four-pin FireWire port, S-Video out, VGA out, a connector for HP's optional expansion base, an IR port for a small, optional wireless remote, and a port for the AC adapter, which glows blue when the laptop is being charged--a neat feature, but still short of the magnificence of Apple's MagSafe plug. Networking connections include 802.11a/b/g, Gigabit Ethernet, and a 56Kbps modem; there's also a handy switch that turns the wireless radio on and off to conserve battery power. Though it lacks a standard Type II PC Card slot, the Presario V3000 has an ExpressCard slot as well as a handy 5-in-1 memory card reader. For comparison, the Inspiron E1405 has a very similar set of connections, plus one additional USB 2.0 port. Our Presario V3000 test unit came with a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive that read and burned CDs, but only read DVDs; when we laid our right hand down on the case above the optical drive, the CD that was playing buzzed noisily.
Our test unit was configured with Microsoft Windows XP Professional, but you can also opt for XP Home; with the Inspiron E1405, you can get both of those or XP Media Center Edition. With the Presario V3000, HP also throws in a decent bundle of software, including the basic productivity Microsoft Works suite; a few disc playing and burning apps; its own QuickPlay multimedia program, which can play CDs and DVDs whether or not Windows is booted; and a handful of wireless and tech support utilities.
At $999 (after a $50 rebate), our Presario V3000 test unit came with a solid set of specs for the price; essentially, you're getting a Core Duo configuration for the price of an otherwise similar Pentium M configuration from this time last year. Specs on our test system included a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor, integrated Intel graphics, 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM, and a 60GB, 5,400rpm hard drive. We built a very similar Inspiron E1405 configuration for about $975 (after a $250 instant rebate). The Presario V3000 turned in a very respectable performance in CNET Labs' benchmark tests, running right with the similarly configured Core Duo laptops we've tested during the past few months; it can easily handle word processing, e-mail, and even considerably more-demanding tasks, though without a dedicated graphics card, we can't recommend it for serious gaming. It lasted just short of 4.5 hours in our battery-drain test, which is quite good for a laptop of its size and at its price point. The ThinkPad Z60t configuration we tested turned in slightly superior scores but cost about $1,200 more than the Presario V3000; we have not yet tested the Inspiron E1405.