Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Everyday Laptop

This was another essay required by my English Composition course. This was an 'evaluation' essay in with I had to choose a subject and evaluate it. I picked something easy...

When people find out that I know a thing or two about computers, the most common question I get is "what's a good computer to buy?" Recognizing that most people who ask this question aren't what would be described as "power users", I found a computer that I can recommend to almost everyone who asks. The Compaq Presario V6000 notebook is an inexpensive and all-around well functioning laptop that will meet the computing needs of most students and consumers. It's no high-performance gaming machine, nor is it a super slim, ultra portable traveler's dream, but it certainly has the important components in the right places for the right price. In fact, I liked it so much, I bought one.

The specific model I found, the Presario V6110US, has adequate computing power with a modest processor, sufficient memory, and a spacious hard drive. To start off, it is built with a mid-grade processor, an AMD 1.6 GHz Dual-Core. If that means nothing to you, let me briefly explain. The processor determines “how fast” the computer is, and is measured in Hertz (usually gigahertz or GHz). The relatively new multi-core processors work as if there are multiple separate CPU's working together—like a team of horses pulling a load instead of a single horse—and effectively multiplies the speed. So, this 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor (1.6 x 2) works like a 3.2 GHz processor. The cutting edge processors available in laptops today (May 2007) are 2.3 GHz dual-core chips, which is equivalent to 4.6 GHz, and the low end laptops run at 1.6 GHz. So, the effective 3.2 GHz offered by this laptop is neither weakly nor musclebound, but modest and capable.

The V6110US is configured with 512 MB (Megabytes)--or half of a Gigabyte--of memory, or RAM. This is minimal, yet sufficient for all but the most demanding tasks. To understand memory, think of it as the workspace where all tasks are performed. With more memory, there's more room to open up heftier programs and bigger projects. The majority of what I, and most other users, do on a computer can be easily managed within half a "gig" of memory. Some people have a need for more memory because of certain school assignments which require more memory to run the way they're supposed to, such as computer aided drafting, or graphic design. Others have a preference for graphically intensive games, which also perform better with a greater quantity of memory. If you require more memory to handle these weightier applications, the laptop can be upgraded up to 2 GB--something I am considering, but haven't yet had the need.

Packed inside is also a 100 GB hard drive, which provides more than enough storage capacity for most people's needs. Unless you are an MP3 junkie or video pack rat, this hard drive will likely never be filled up.

This Compaq has plenty of computing power for web surfing, emailing, instant messaging, word processing, photo editing, movie watching, and even some modest video editing and gaming.

Beyond the raw numbers of processor speed, memory quantity, and hard drive capacity, this notebook also integrates many other features that take it from merely functional to versatile and . The display is a strikingly crisp and clear, 15.4 inch widescreen. This makes the laptop great for watching movies and DVDs on the go. The built-in combo DVD/CD drive reads and writes DVDs and CDs. This enables the user to create music CDs, make backup copies of DVDs, and back up irreplaceable homework assignments and other data. Integrated Wi-Fi (802.11g standard) provides wireless Internet connection at Wi-Fi hotspots or a home wireless router. Additionally, a built in Ethernet network jack is present for LAN connections, and there's a modem for dial-up Internet access. If you need connection to devices like a digital camera, MP3 player, printer, or external hard drive, this notebook includes two USB ports for expandability. These extra features, especially the widescreen display, DVD burner, and Wi-Fi connection, combine to add real usability to this computer.

Of course the primary reason to choose a laptop over a desktop computer is portability. This 6.6 pound computer—lighter than some textbooks—is light enough to carry in a briefcase, in a bag over the shoulder, or in a backpack. Again, it's not ultra-light, but it is portable.

My only real complaint is from the poor battery life. From day one, I haven't been able to get more than an hour of usage from it. This leads me to believe that mine may be defective, but I haven't yet called support about it. One other small complaint, also with regards to portability, is that because of the width of the screen, it turns out to be a bit wider than most laptops--and therefore, doesn't fit in the padded laptop pocket in my laptop bag. I guess this is the trade-off for the widescreen. While both of these drawbacks impact portability, it hasn't stopped me from taking it to work and back, and using it on my daily train commute.

I had been pricing laptops for several months before purchasing this one, and most of the ones I considered were selling between $750 and $1200. I picked this up on a sale at Fry's electronics in Dallas, Texas, in November 2006 for $699--after which there was a $30 mail-in rebate that almost covered sales tax. For all the features and power I was looking for, and the invaluable freedom provided by a portable computer, this laptop was--and is--a great value at less than $750.

In short, if you are looking for a laptop that can work where you go, provide the power you need for probably all of your computing needs, and has some of the nice extras, the Compaq Presario V6110US, and likely any of the Presario V6000 series, will be a good pick.

1 comment:

Wes Larson said...

Comments from my English Prof on my working draft of this essay:

Your intro pulls in the reader, establishes your focus, and creates a clear and personal context for the discussion that follows. Your discussion of core processors is excellent, and has the effect of explaining why your subject meets this criterion. To answer your question(s): no, I don't think this draft is too long. You keep the reader engaged, give specific technical information and examples while at the same time keeping your non-technical reader informed. You maintain a personal voice throughout that gives the review a personal dimension so that you don't need additional personal examples. Overall, this is excellent.