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HP Pavilion Ze1230 (Athlon XP 1500+ 1.33GHz review: HP Pavilion Ze1230 (Athlon XP 1500+ 1.33GHz

HP Pavilion Ze1230 (Athlon XP 1500+ 1.33GHz

Stephanie Bruzzese
6 min read
HP's business-notebook brand, Omnibook, is a dying breed, but the consumer-oriented Pavilion is still going strong. One of the latest models, the Pavilion ze1200, straddles the line between mainstream (read: budget) and thin-and-light notebooks. Thanks to a wise decision to use a single combination CD-RW/DVD drive rather than two fixed drives, the ze1200 weighs between 6.2 and 6.6 pounds, making it relatively light for its class. And it looks as good as it feels, with a colorful case, an illuminated touchpad and power button, and a great keyboard. Unfortunately the system, with its 1.53GHz AMD mobile Athlon XP 1500+; 256MB of RAM; 4,200rpm hard drive; and shared graphics memory, struggled on CNET Labs' performance tests. The ze1200 series has a lot to offer those with basic computing needs, but others will find that competing mainstream systems such as the Dell Inspiron 2650 and the Gateway 400 provide better performance for the price.

Colorful case.
The Pavilion ze1200 series blurs the line between mainstream and thin-and-light. It has the specs and the price of a mainstream system. But in contrast to many mainstream systems that have three spindles--often including two fixed, secondary drives--the Pavilion ze1230 is a two-spindle system with only a hard drive and a combination CD-RW/DVD drive. This is a smart trade-off; the combo drive provides all the functionality most users will need, without saddling them with the weight of an extra drive. And an external floppy drive is an option for those who really need it.
The result is a mainstream system that students won't mind lugging between the dorm and the classroom. The exact size and weight depends on the model you choose. The entry-level Pavilion ze1210 is the smallest (12.6 by 10.2 by 1.3) and lightest (6.2 pounds) by virtue of its 14-inch display. In contrast, the other two models in this series, the ze1230 and ze1250, come with 15-inch displays. They're also slightly larger and weigh 6.6 pounds. The power adapter adds another 0.9 pounds to overall travel weight.

The illuminated power button and the touchpad.
Aside from the variations in size and weight, all three models in the ze1200 series look the same and have similar features. Aesthetically, it has a modern, attractive design, with a case that's blue, gray, and black. The power button and the touchpad are both illuminated by cool blue light, adding to the system's sophisticated look.
The touchpad has a raised, vertical line about a half-inch away from the right edge, marking off the area that you can use for scrolling. This useful layout prevents you from constantly searching for just the right spot to scroll using your touchpad's software enhancements. You can also scroll with the bar between the two standard mouse buttons, but the Pavilion ze1200 series does not have a pointing stick. A touchpad on/off button above the keyboard helps you avoid brushing it while typing. Four handy programmable buttons sit beside the touchpad button; hitting one will automatically boot up your system and launch the chosen application.

The touchpad and the mouse buttons.
HP has done something different with the Pavilion ze1200 series' keyboard as well. The Tab, Shift, and Enter keys all lack text labels, showing just the traditional arrow symbols instead. It took us a couple minutes to adapt, but we ultimately liked the streamlined look. The keys themselves were a pleasure to use, providing very firm feedback while not making a peep. About the only aspect of the Pavilion ze1200's design we didn't like was the lack of physical CD or volume buttons; you have to use software controls instead.

Combo CD-RW/DVD drive.
The Pavilion ze1200 series' mainstream specs help keep the price down but unfortunately also limit performance too, as explained in more detail in the Performance section. All models use AMD mobile Athlon XP processors ranging from the bottom-of-the-line 1400+ (1.2GHz) to the current flagship 1800+ (1.53GHz). Other features common to all three models include a combination CD-RW/DVD drive and a Via Twister K graphics chip that borrows up to 32MB of main system memory.
We tested the midrange Pavilion ze1230, which included the Athlon XP 1500+ (1.3GHz); 256MB of memory; a 20GB hard drive; and the larger, 15-inch display. The active-matrix screen was easy on our eyes, although we'd prefer a higher native resolution than XGA (1,024x768).
The Pavilion ze1200 series has the single fixed drive only, but since it is a combo drive, chances are you won't miss the second fixed drive found in other systems in this class. An external USB floppy drive is available for $49. The biggest drawback to the fixed drives typical of the mainstream class is that you can't swap them out to insert a second battery or hard drive.

Ports on left side.
In keeping with its contemporary design, the Pavilion ze1200 series lacks legacy ports such as serial and PS/2, including only microphone, headphone, 56K modem, and Ethernet on the left edge. The remaining ports--FireWire, two USB, parallel, and VGA--are on the back panel. One glaring omission is integrated 802.11b wireless (Wi-Fi). You can add wireless on your own via one of the Pavilion ze1200's two Type II (one Type III) PC Card slots. But the ze1200 series doesn't feature the more convenient option of an integrated antenna and an internal mini-PCI slot to house wireless hardware.
Like most consumer notebooks, the ze1200 series comes with a heap of software. To cut costs, HP opts for Corel WordPerfect Suite; we'd rather see a version of Microsoft Office XP. You also get Quicken 2002, Norton AntiVirus 2002, and CyberLink PowerDirector and HP RecordNow for tasks such as video editing and CD burning.

Mobile application performance
Although the Pavilion ze1230 has a relatively speedy processor, the Athlon XP 1500+ (which is designed to deliver performance similar to that of a 1.5GHz Pentium 4-M), it struggled to keep up with other system in its class. It's not too surprising that the Dell Inspiron 2650 and the Gateway 400 easily outscored the Pavilion ze1230; these two systems have faster processors and superior graphics acceleration. But even the ThinkPad R32, part of IBM's value line, with a more evenly matched 1.6GHz P4-M and 4,200rpm hard drive, handily outperformed the Pavilion ze1230. The Via Twister K graphics chip, which was set to borrow 16MB of system memory, is the main culprit here; the other three systems all have dedicated video memory.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 Performance Rating  
Dell Inspiron 2650
IBM Thinkpad R32
HP Pavilion ze1230
System configurations:
HP Pavillion ze1230
Windows XP Home; 1.3GHz AMD Athlon XP 1500+; 240MB SDRAM @ 133MHz; S3 Graphics Twister K HP 16MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm
IBM ThinkPad R32
Windows XP Pro; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium 4M; 128MB DDR SDRAM @ 266MHz;ATI Mobility Radeon 16MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm
Dell Inspiron 2650
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium 4M; 256MB DDR SDRAM @ 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce 2 Go 32MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

Battery life, however, was a different story for the ze1230. Its big, 4,000mAh, 14.8-volt (59.2 watt hours), lithium-ion cell helped push it toward the top of the class. Its excellent score of 208 minutes easily bested that of the Inspiron 2650 and the ThinkPad R32 and fell just short of the Gateway 400's leading score of 225 minutes for this class. This combined with the system's relatively light weight make it a reasonable choice for frequent travelers on a tight budget.
Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 Battery Life (minutes)  
HP Pavilion ze1230
IBM Thinkpad R32
Dell Inspiron 2650
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both applications 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).
System configurations:
HP Pavilion ze1230
Windows XP Home; 1.3GHz AMD Athlon XP 1500+; 240MB SDRAM @ 133MHz; S3 Graphics Twister K HP 16MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm
IBM ThinkPad R32
Windows XP Pro; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium 4M; 128MB DDR SDRAM @ 266MHz;ATI Mobility Radeon 16MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm
Dell Insprion 2650
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium 4M; 256MB DDR SDRAM @ 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce 2 Go 32MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

We hope HP decides to adopt Compaq's toll-free tech support plan to replace its long-standing, irksome policy of toll-based phone support. If you don't feel like footing the phone bill, try browsing the knowledge base, FAQs, and additional troubleshooting info on HP's support site. The Pavilion ze1230's one-year parts and labor warranty and return-to-depot service are a bit more tolerable for a budget system, though still not exemplary.
HP follows the lead of many manufacturers today by preloading the helpful manual onto the system itself.

HP Pavilion Ze1230 (Athlon XP 1500+ 1.33GHz

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 3Battery 8Support 6
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