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HP Pavilion Ze4230 (Celeron 1.8 GHz review: HP Pavilion Ze4230 (Celeron 1.8 GHz

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The Good Attractive; affordable; includes combo DVD/CD-RW drive; solid speakers.

The Bad Short battery life; no floppy drive; USB 1.1 ports.

The Bottom Line Bargain hunters should turn to HP's comfy mainstream notebook for its low cost but not for great performance.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Battery 8
  • Support 6

Hewlett-Packard's mainstream Pavilion ze4200 runs on Intel's low-cost Celeron processor, but it comes short on memory and many of the amenities that high-end notebook junkies expect. HP conceived this model for the undemanding user who wants a well-designed system without spending a fortune. Indeed, for around $1,200, the company provides a solid notebook with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, a good-quality screen, a very comfortable keyboard and touchpad, and plenty of ports. The trade-off? Compared to those of other low-cost notebooks, the Pavilion ze4200's benchmarks fall dead in the middle of the pack, and its battery life is good but not great. If your work doesn't take you far from the electric grid, and you don't run multivariate regression analyses before breakfast, however, the Pavilion ze4200 should meet your computing needs.

The Pavilion ze4200's keyboard is quiet and spacious.
Blue, silver, and black, the Pavilion ze4200's sturdy case runs 13 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 1.75 inches thick. These rather bulky dimensions give this notebook a large presence on your desk, and its 6.5 pounds (7.4 pounds with AC adapter) may stretch your tote bag a little. Not that this notebook is particularly obese--these dimensions are normal for a mainstream model. One latch operates two hooks to snugly secure the lid, and a latch on the bottom releases the battery from its slot on the notebook's right side; with a little practice, you could swap batteries without closing the lid or turning the notebook upside-down. All in all, HP made the case very easy to live with.

A 14.1-inch (diagonal) LCD runs at 1,024x768 pixels, which yields a fairly confined view of your work on text documents and spreadsheets. The ze4200's quiet, spacious keyboard, however, avoids that cramped feel, especially with its responsive action and no-wiggle typing. The smooth touchpad has a finger-wide strip set aside for scrolling through long documents. Also, a button embedded just above the touchpad turns off the scroll function so that when you're typing full steam ahead, an occasional dragging thumb won't send your cursor hopping about the page--a nice touch. The touchpad is the only input option, however; no pointing stick is available on the Pavilion ze4200.

The touchpad includes a strip for scrolling through documents.

Five application-launch buttons are programmable.

Just above the keyboard, large, stereo Altec Lansing speakers play surprisingly loudly and and give music a fairly rich sound instead of the tinny noise you find with many notebooks. The speakers share the space above the keyboard with five programmable buttons for launching your favorite apps. Along the left edge of the case, you'll find buttons to control the volume or mute the speakers. For an extra $50, you can order Wi-Fi networking; when you do that, HP also installs an external button to turn the radio on and off.

The Pavilion ze4200 that CNET tested doesn't feature the hottest new components, but it sells for a very approachable price. For around $1,200, you'll get a fixed DVD/CD-RW combo drive so that you can view DVDs or share files and back up your data easily. (Plan on using CDs for backup--the Pavilion ze4200 has no floppy drive.) Unfortunately, with a fixed optical drive, the ze4200 doesn't provide a way to install a second battery. With four-pin FireWire and S-Video ports, the ze4200 lets video enthusiasts hook up a camcorder and a television. This notebook also includes Ethernet, PS/2, and two of the slower USB 1.1 ports, as well as a modem and dual Type II PC Card slots.

Our test unit runs on a 2GHz Celeron and has 256MB of RAM filling one of the system's two memory slots. You can also order the Pavilion ze4200 with two 256MB modules for an extra $100. A 30GB hard drive provides enough storage for anyone but videophiles. With ATI's integrated IGP340M graphics controller, our system's 14.1-inch, 1,024x768 LCD shows even brightness and legible text. DVDs play with very little hesitation, although bright colors look less saturated than we'd like. But overall, the screen quality is acceptable.

The combo drive can be used for data storage.

The Pavilion ze4200 offers a satisfying selection of ports.

HP sells the Pavilion ze4200 series in several variations. For example, a little more than $1,300 buys the Pavilion ze4230, which includes a 40GB hard drive, 512MB of memory, and a 15-inch screen that displays 1,024x768 pixels--but comes with a slower, 1.8GHz Celeron processor. If you order a customized Pavilion ze4200, you can get a 2GHz Pentium 4-M, which should give you markedly faster performance. For an extra $150, you can get a 15-inch screen that displays 1,280x1,024 pixels.

As for software, the Pavilion ze4200 ships with the capable if outdated Corel WordPerfect and Quattro Pro. If you order directly from HP, you can request Windows XP Pro instead of Windows XP Home at no extra cost.

Although the HP Pavilion ze4200 has the highest-speed processor in this test group--a 2GHz Intel Celeron--its video architecture hampers its performance. Its video adapter shares RAM from the system's main memory, which always slows things down. Because of this, the Pavilion ze4200 came in second, 13 points behind the Toshiba Satellite 1415-S174, which houses a slower 1.8GHz Celeron processor. The Pavilion ze4200 did manage to beat the Sony VAIO PCG-FXA63, which uses a 1.4GHz Athlon XP 1600+ processor.

MobileMark2002 mobile performance test
Longer bars indicate faster performance
Toshiba Satellite 1415-S174
HP Pavilion ze4200
Find out more about how we test notebook systems.

System configurations:

HP Pavilion ze4200
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 224MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI RS200M IGP 340M 32MB (shared); Fujitsu MHR2030AT 30GB 4,200rpm

Windows XP Home; 1.4GHz Athlon XP 1600+; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility M1n8MB; Hitachi DK23DA-20 20GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite 1415-S174
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz Intel Celeron; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 16MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

Although the Pavilion ze4200's performance finished in the middle of the pack, it redeemed itself when it came to battery life. With its 10.8V, 4,500mAh battery, the Pavilion ze4200 stayed alive for 2 hours, 45 minutes in CNET Labs' tests, well ahead of the Toshiba Satellite 1415-S174 with its 10.8V, 4,500mAh battery and the Sony VAIO PCG-FXA63 with its 14.8V, 3,000mAh cell.

MobileMark2002 battery-life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
HP Pavilion ze4200
Toshiba Satellite 1415-S174
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 5.0).

System configurations:

HP Pavilion ze4200
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 224MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI RS200M IGP 340M 32MB (shared); Fujitsu MHR2030AT 30GB 4,200rpm

Windows XP Home; 1.4GHz Athlon XP 1600+; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility M1n8MB; Hitachi DK23DA-20 20GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite 1415-S174
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz Intel Celeron; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 16MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

HP's support package gets mixed marks. HP backs the Pavilion ze4200 with only one year of warranty coverage, though it does provide a three-day turnaround and pays shipping both ways for repairs. Upgrading to a three-year warranty costs a substantive $349--in comparison, WinBook offers a similar three-year upgrade for only $179--but given the fragile nature of notebooks, it may still be worth it. Free telephone tech support is available 24/7 during the warranty period, but you'll have to pay the toll charges. And for LCDs with bad pixels, HP's policy is to replace units with at least seven pixels that are dead, stuck, or a mix of both, totaling at least nine defects. This isn't as stingy as it sounds; HP offers a 30-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. If you get a notebook with a screen that's defective but not bad enough to qualify for a replacement, you could return it and order another one, though you'd have to pay for shipping.

Documentation, which is available in an onscreen (preinstalled) format and as a paper manual that comes with the system, provides some background on the Pavilion ze4200's setup and features, as well as a fairly comprehensive troubleshooting section. HP also provides extensive support through its Web site, including a searchable knowledge base, FAQs, driver upgrades and patches, and e-mail access to technicians.

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