Saturday, December 15, 2007

It looks like we have another F-series laptop landing! (The F730us Discussion)

If you have checked out this week's Sunday paper you may have noticed a new Compaq Presario F-series notebook advertised at very tempting prices. It is the Presario F730us at Staples, for the sexy price of $450 after a $30 mail-in rebate. This is very similar to this guy, but it has a 120gb hard disk (instead of 80gb) and a TK-55 processor (vs TK-53 of the F572us). I haven't compared the other specs in detail so I can't tell you much more.

Needless to say if this guy was a great deal at $450, the F730us sounds like an even better deal at the same price! Granted, I know nothing about this model, so if you want to take a chance on the F730us, be sure to check around the internet and the laptop message boards and forums for some reviews or at least more insight into it!

Speaking of the Sunday paper, there's some other really nice laptop deals, namely at Best Buy where a couple of entry-level models are avaiable for under $400. As it is often the case, the better the deal the faster they disappear, but you never know! Luck favors the bold (or the bald?)

Meanwhile back to this guy (the F572us), I was supposed to do the two months after review a couple of weeks ago, but it's running slightly late. Rest assured it will be posted before Thanksgiving :-)

Update!
A blog reader has purchased the Compaq Presario F730 and has just posted his first impressions in the comments section of this post, so be sure to check it out if you are interested in it! From what he describes, this sounds like it has a lot of similarities with the F572us spec-wise, but has a better processor and more hard disk while at the same price! Thanks to the reader posting it!

Update II
Another one of our blog readers have picked up the F730 and has added their hands-on first impressions in the Comments section. Check them out, and thanks for posting!

Update III
A couple more of our readers have shared their impressions and experience. One reader got rid of Vista and is happily running XP with a nice performance boost. Check out the comments for all the details! And thanks to the readers for sharing it with everyone else!

Update IV
We have more reader feedback on the F730us added in the Comments Section of this post! This post is a discussion on the F730us so please feel free to discuss it here! It is a sister notebook of the F572us, so this is of interest to owners of both laptops! I have adjusted the post title to make it more F730us-friendly :)

PS> There will be a short Blogger outage at 4pm pacific (7pm eastern) on Monday October 15, 2007.

Update V
The Blogger update is complete. All apologies if you experienced any technical difficulties during the blogger maintenance. A new user hands-on has been posted in the Comments section so be sure to check it out. The F730us is starting to look like a real steal at the $450AR Columbus Day deal at Staples. These deals can be cyclical so if you missed it the first time, keep your eyes open, and your price matching policies handy :) Its predecessor sister model, the F572us came back a few times in different stores at the $450AR (after rebate) price.

Update VI - Saturday October 20
Thanks to everyone for sharing their F730us experience in the Comments section! A couple of our readers have posted their WEI scores as well if you like to compare... Also, I just noticed that the F730us is advertised in this weekend's Fry's newspaper ad for $480 after a $30 mail in rebate. The Fry's website shows it as sold out, but I don't know what the store availability is. The Fry's website for the F730us. Please note their website shows the regular price, not the sales price. Perhaps because it is sold out?

Update VII - Sunday October 21
It looks like the F730us is back on sale! This time at Circuit City for $470. The downsize is that to get that price you have to send two rebates, the usual $30 rebate, and another $130 Circuit City rebate. But if you are good at keeping track of rebates, then it's a nice price! Also if you buy online pick up at the store, you could get an extra discoutn from the likes of Fat Wallet, Shop Discover, Upromise, etc, etc. For more details on the F730us please check the Comments section of this post. There are over 30 comments posted, and first hand impressions from a number of F730 users. One user is able to run 64-bit Ubuntu 7.0 on the F730us.

Update VIII - Friday October 26
The Compaq Presario F730us is back on sale, this time $480 after a $30 mail-in rebate at Fry's Electronics. This is advertised in Fry's pullout ad in today's newspapers (Friday).

Update IX - Monday November 5
Check the Comments section, there are 50+ comments on the F730 which is on sale until November 10 at Radio Shack for $550 after rebate. Not the best of prices though, Circuit City has a Toshiba for $500, and that's definitely worth a look as well!

Update X - Sunday November 11
And we are back! The F730us is back on sale at Circuit City. This time it is at $480 after a $30 mail-in rebate only! This is featured on the back of the Circuit City weekly circular, which you can find in your Sunday paper or your local Circuit City store (or website). What's even more important for price-matchers, is that you can take this ad to your favorite retailer, and ask them for a price match. Providing of course that your favorite retailer has a price matching policy (some even have a 110% price match guarantee) and that they do carry the Compaq Presario F730. One of the things that is at times fuild with price-matching policies is how the rebate is handled. But also pay attention to the rebate details, if it is a national rebate, it may work with any store. Or your favorite retailer may also have the same or a similar rebate offer on this computer model.

For a nice discussion on the F730 and comparison to the F572, check the Comments section of this post, there are 55 comments posted right now.


It looks like we have a clone, the F732NR at Office Max
Today's Office Max Sunday paper circular for the week is featuring the Compaq Presario F732 (aka F732NR). The specs and the computer itself look quite similar to the F730us. The fact that the F732NR is advertised as an Office Max exclusive is another sign that points to a clone for marketing purposes. And it makes it very hard to price match it if it is a different model name, even though it may be the same computer.


Update - Sunday November 18, 2007
Look inside the Sunday paper F730 fans! The Best Buy ad features this very laptop for $480 and no rebates. And not only can you buy it at Best Buy at that price, but you can also take the ad to your favorite big box retailer and ask them for a price match. Some stores, like Staples, have a 110% price match guarantee, which means you are going to get it for slightly less, 10% of their price difference. And no rebates!


Update - Sunday December 16, 2007
Be sure to check the Comments section with more questions and answers on the F730us! There's almost 90 comments posted now.

And for those interested in purchasing one, the deal is back at Staples (December 16 to 22, 2007). You can get the F730us for $430 after a $30 easy rebate. You can also get a free printer after mail-in rebate ($70 rebate). This is certainly one of the best "bang for the buck" laptops out there considering you are getting a dual-core processor, 120gb hard disk, super multi format dvd burner, a nice 15.4" widescreen display, and much more.


Update - Friday December 27, 2007
If you are looking to buy this laptop you are in luck! Staples is advertising it in their upcoming circular for just $430 after a $30 Easy Rebate! The offer will go "live" on Sunday December 30, 2007 and will be good for the whole week, until Saturday January 5, 2008. This is a great deal given that this is a feature-packed laptop!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Compaq F572us on Black Friday for $300AR at Circuit City!

According to the ads posted at GottaDeal.com, the Compaq Presario F572 will be offered for $300 after rebate on Black Friday at Circuit City stores!

This is an early bird special, and to get the $300 you do have to submit rebate(s) according to the information posted by Gottadeal.com. Here is a picture courtesy of GottaDeal.com.

As you have seen from our previous post that has gotten almost 60 comments, there is a new model out, the Compaq Presario F730us, however the lowest price for that model so far has been around $480 after rebate. The F572 is offered for $300 after rebate(s)!

For more details on the F572us, be sure to check this very blog you are now reading!

Monday, October 1, 2007

DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE blue screen!

First it woke up from Sleep (close lid Sleep) with the screen content squished horizontally, eg the Clock widget instead of round, it looked fat. So did everything else (text, pictures, etc). So I closed the lid and re-opened it because that usually makes this issue go away.

It sure did, but a few minutes later I started getting erratic behavior, and then out of the ...blue, it blue-screened with the error message DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE.

A Google Search on DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE returned a number of results, including some explanations. This of course it's not just Vista, it also happens with other versions of Windows, because let's face it, they all come from the same blue screen software factory :-)

As the name suggests, one of the device drivers or other components of Windows has trouble handling a power state transition. So it does what it knows best, BLUE SCREEN! Here is what Microsoft's Knowledge Base thinks for the Vista bluescreens. Here are two posssible causes, one general sleep related, and another sleep and PPP related. Microsoft has a HotFix available but they recommend to only install it if you are getting this problem frequently. Otherwise they recommend that you wait for the next Service Pack. This was posted on September 11, 2007.

From what I recall I got this blue-screen 3-4 times so far, in just over 2 months of daily use of this computer. Given that I put it to sleep/hibernate a few times per day, I will give it the benefit of the doubt. But if it happens again, I'll probably give the HotFix a try. Why not give it a try right away? A) Because I don't want to be an unpaid Microsoft beta-tester and B) because it may have other side-effects.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Power management re-alignment!

Okay, I came up with a new strategy on power management: The physical power button on the computer puts it in hibernation. Closing the lid puts it in sleep mode. This both for when connected on AC and when running on the battery. But if you prefer, you can adjust it differently for each power source.

But worry not with the physical power button. If you press and hold for more than five seconds the computer powers off regardless of what is programmed to the button. This is handy when you have a program that refuses to close and holds up rebooting or shutting down. I had to use this a couple of times, the last time was today when Norton's Hogware Security stumbled onto itself while trying to update itself with Live Update. This is the program with the freebie 60-day subscription that came with the computer. I did not purchase it!!!

Now that's a vote of confidence, a program that is supposed to protect your computer, yet it can't even update itself properly. Ouch!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quick hitters mainly on battery and such

I noticed that overnight, even if I turn it off (not hibernate) it seems to wake up at 95% or 96% in the morning. I don't know if it wakes up at 3am regardless and looks for Microsoft updates. I'll check and turn them off (if Microsoft lets me) and see what happens. This is a LiIon battery, not a NiMH or NiCad after all! Update: But this may also be the energy used up simply to boot up the computer again, since turning it off or hibernating essentially turns the machine off. Hibernation goes even further since it saves and restores your current state of affairs. So that could be the answer as well.

I continue to have the laptop cooler virtually glued to the computer. I do not know how much energy it uses, but when connected to AC it's a non-issue.

With hibernation instead of sleeping I have not noticed any of the occasional screen squishing

Oh yes, this is almost two months since I got it, so expect my "two month after" review recap in the next few days :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No screen squishing since switching to Hibernation

Since I switched the Close Lid function to "Hibernation" instead of the default "Sleep" mode, I haven't had any of the occasional "screen squishing"! Hibernation is my favorite because usually when I had put the computer in sleep mode in the past, I was gone long enough that it went into hibernation out of its own free will. So why waste energy sleeping when you can hibernate? I only do a true power off every few days. I don't want the power off software not to get any exercise :-)

By the way, if you are interested in this computer, it is on sale this week at Circuit City for $500 after a $30 mail in rebate. But you can also take the Circuit City circular ad from the Sunday paper (or the Circuit City store) and ask your favorite store to price-match them. So even offer 110% price match so you can get it for slightly less. I think the rebate is from HP/Compaq, so it shouldn't be an issue in the price match since most retailers also advertise the $30 rebate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

F572us: To Sleep or To Hibernate, that is the question!

To sleep or to hibernate that is the question! Sleep makes it easier to wake up, hibernation take a bit longer but save more power, namely the pc is turned off. With Sleep the pc is eating up more power. This is not a big deal if you are connected to AC, but if you are running on battery, then that is something to consider.

The default is Sleep mode, but in my case I found Hibernation to be more convinient since when I usually don't turn it back on right away. I am currently using the default HP power plan but I changed one setting, closing the lid puts the computer in hibernation, since that's what I do most of the time. The default was to put the computer to sleeeep.

Another default I changed was to decrease the time it takes before turning off the display. If you are doing things like running scans, hard disk defrags, virus/adware checks, burning media, downloading stuff, etc, you may not want to sit there and watch it tick tock tick tock. Since the display does not have an ON/OFF button like a stand-alone PC display does, I found this to be the easiest way to turn it off.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A second unexpected blue-screen!

And I got my second blue-screen, it seems to be the same issue, the error reported was something about DRIVE POWER something, it went too fast for me to write it down or memorize it. The power cable was in the computer but it was not powered, it was running from the battery at over 50% full. I was merely looking at a browser window, I was not doing anything dramatic or intensive :)

It did create a dump file with an accompanying XML and .txt file for further analysis by Microsoft. Sending the problem information to Microsoft p;roduced "no new solultions". So some could ask, is Microsoft really interested in the problems or just collecting dumps from our computers? ;-)

To get to that program, you go to Control Panel, select Classic View, and then page down to find Problem Reports and Solutions. Then click on that, and then click on "See Problems to Check", look through the problems reported there, click on the ones you want to report to microsoft, then press the Check for Solutions button in the lower right corner of the screen. You can also recheck for previously submitted problems by clicking the "Check again for solutions to other problems" on the lower left corner of your screen.

This process can be done manually or if you prefer (*cough* trust Microsoft *cough*) you can set it up to happen automatically whenever a problem occurs. Check the settings for more details.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My first blue screen! Woohoo!

You know it's not Windows unless it blue-screens! And it blue-screened on me for the first time. A real blue screen, complete with a dump, an XML file and a txt file that Microsoft could use to spy check on my computer to figure out what caused the problem. I wasn't really doing anything intensive or hardware related at the time. I merely had three browsers open and they were not doing anything either.

So I decided to see what Microsoft had to say about this by using the Problem Reprots and Solutions feature. I clicked on the bluescreen problema and pressed "Check for solutions". Sadly there was no solution from Microsoft. So much for that feature :-) Needless to say I am not going to turn it on to report automatically. I don't like that, it sounds a bit too Orwellian.

And one more thing, the squished screen when returning from a Close-Lid sleep continues to happen intermittently. Not everyone time it returns from sleep, but it happened more than once, which means is not a random coincidence.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A couple of issues with the Compaq Presario F572us

There's a couple of issues to report with the Presario F572us. First, while I was using the dvd drive, and while processing a DVD in the drive, an error message came up from the software. When I looked at Windows to see what the problem was, the dvd drive had disappeared (!!!) in the eyes of Windows Vista - it was not listed among the current drives (C: and D: were listed), and the orange light on the drive was off. This got me worried because I thought "what if the drive died?". So a reboot was in order, but before I tried that I wondered whether going in and out of hibernation would help. So I did that, closed the lid to put it in hiberation, waited a couple of minutes, and then opened the lid again. At first the blue power light on the top left corner and the blue power light on the front left side were flashing in unison for a couple of seconds, but then the computer came back to life and the optical drive was back in use. I repeated what I was trying to do without any further issues. This is the third optical drive related issue that I have encountered, so this is something to watch for...

The second issue I observed a couple of times so far: When the computer returned from hibernation (closing/opening the lid), the picture was stretched horizontally. It was still full frame but less of it. For example pages looked different before and after. This happeened with the notebook's display and at the time there was no other display connected. The trigger appeared to be returning from hibernation. I did not dig into the nVidia/Control Panel settings to figure out the differences/issues, but I'll look into it if/when it happened again.

Other than those two issues, I haven't had any other problems. I had a couple of marathon sessions (5-6 hours non-stop) with the USB cooler always underneath the laptop, and while heat increased over time, it was nowhere near as hot as it would be from 2 hours of use without the USB cooler. If the battery wasn't at the bottom of the notebook, I would glue the USB fan on (just kidding on the glueing part - DO NOT GLUE ANYTHING!)

And one more thing I forgot to mention earlier: Want a USB notebook light without actually buying or stealing one? Think again - you may already have one: pick up your USB optical mouse and its red light may be good enough :-)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A few random thoughts on the Presario F572us

Here are a few random thoughts: Overall it continues to exceed expectations. I expected it to behave in a more entry-level fashion. Perhaps I'm not very demanding. I was able to run three different browsers with multiple tabs (Firefox 2.0, the latest Opera and the default IE) and I did not notice any significant slowness. This was using websites I frequently visit, I did not try to "test" it by loading up heavy-duty websites.

USB sticks are much more convinient in transferring stuff between computers than CDs or DVDs, especially if you are not transferring full DVDs but smaller files. And the transfer/copy speeds I have observed on the F572 between the USB 2.0 sticks and CDs are also a factor. Plus you have to burn CDs/DVDs (unless you are using a DVD-RAM formatted for data), but with USB sticks (flash drives) you just drag and drop or cut and paste (this when dealing with older/slower/less featured computers)

The top cover of the laptop is a fingerprint magnet. Period. But I guess this may be a security feature: If the laptop is stollen, they can figure out the guilty party by CSI'ing his/her fingerprints from the top cover :-)

I'm still trying to get a notebook case specifically for this computer, but so far I have not decided. Indecision 2007! I just want a simple bag without bling-bling and one that does not scream "I have an expensive laptop inside, steal me!". It doesn't help that I find some of the straps and other things hanging all over the bag annoying :-) My current candidate is a generic Targus clamshell case, but I have to make sure this laptop (and it's USB cooler fan shadow) can actually fit inside.

Speaking of the USB cooler, these little things are just amazing. I still can't believe that those tiny fans are able to cool it off so much. I basically put that under the computer all the time when it is in use or when it is sitting on an open surface. Imagine if you spill your coffee or water or soda on the table. Do you want to risk ruining a $500 laptop or a $15 cooler pad?

And if you are shopping for a new laptop this week there are some great deals at brick and mortar stores, ranging from sub-$400 really entry-level laptops to sub-$1000 17" widescreen models.

And if you like Targus bags, they have a promotional checkout code at Targus.com for free ground shipping for any backpack or messenger purchased in Aug or Sept 2007 in the continental USA. Enter coupon code BTS_1 at checkout.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Presario F572us: The One month after review

It's already been a month since I got this new notebook! So, what I thought I would do, is try to post every month a recap of my experience with it so far. Obviously i can't write everything into a single post, but I'll try to cover the most important things in an interview Q&A style for more fun

  • One-sentence conclusion: It has exceeded my expectations.
  • Negatives? Battery life is 2 hours and change (you can get the HP 12-cell that doubles the battery life, but that's around $150 more)
  • Number of crashes/freezes: Two, both dealing with optical media
  • Biggest surprise: Much nicer overall than what I expected for a sub-$500 notebook
  • Would be nice if it had: built-in memory card reader, expansion slots/full dock support, TV card. But then again if it had all that, it wouldn't be a $500 laptop :(
  • I didn't think three USB ports would not be enough, but just like RAM, hard disk and cash, you can never have too much!
  • Tip: I always keep the computer on the notebook chillpad. It has two benefits: One it cools the computer off (more efficient than it looks with those tiny little fans), and the 2nd benefit is that the bottom of the computer has a buffer between it and the surface. You really don't want to be sitting at a coffee shop only to discover after you come home that the person sitting there before you was eating sticky buns or spilled his caramel whipped cream with chocolate syrup crappaccino all over the table ;-) And if I am near another computer (eg desktop) I "steal" its USB power to power the chillpad instead of eating up the laptop's battery (although I'm sure this is a small amount)
  • The speakers are not bad, I was expecting something like those you get in the LCD monitors, but they are better than that. Obviously don't compare them to a Bose or Denon or marvel in audio.
  • As far as USB connections, everything I tried has been smooth so far: One USB mouse, one memory-card card reader, two USB flash drives (Sandisk and Toshiba), and of course the chillpad
  • If you are not familiar with the pointy device (ok pointing device, or touch pad in computer-speak), you will get the hang of it with practice, but it's obviously nowhere near as efficient as a mouse if you were born with a mouse in your hand :) You do have the option of turning it off or on. Actually using it along with the mouse can be even more effective. For example if you are touch-typing and you just want to move the mouse cursor a bit or click on something quickly, you don't have to move your hands off the keyboard
  • Despite the two freezes, the optical drive seems to be okay as well. It is super multi-format, and I tried DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM with it. I have yet to try DVD+R/+RW or anything dual/double layer. I haven't tried lightscribe either. All my blank media is shiny silver, not lightscribe. But that's something to expect an answer to in my next monthly report, approximately one month from now - give or take a few hours/days/weeks/months :)

    But I'm by no means an evangelist for the Compaq Presario F572us, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time in front of the right sale. There are plenty of other great notebooks.

  • Sunday, August 26, 2007

    The 12-cell HP EV089AA laptop battery is compatible with the Compaq Presario F572us

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I would try to find out if the 12-cell HP battery is officially compatible with the F572. So I asked the online Compaq/HP customer support and they confirmed that the 12-cell HP EV089AA notebook battery is compatible with the Compaq Presario F572us. In theory it should double the runtime, although one notebook forum user said he got as much as five hours. This obviously depends on what type of applications one is running and things like that. The price at the HP/Compaq website is $150 with free shipping. Sells for less online or at brick and mortar stores, especially when on sale (I believe it's $130 at Staples starting Sunday August 26)... I am not going to get the 12-cell battery right away, but when I do, I will write about it right here right away!

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    New laptop blog launched: Notebook Bargains is up and running

    New blog: Notebook Bargains is up and running. As the name suggests, this blog will cover notebook and laptop computer bargains, sales and specials from the net and from brick and mortar stores. As seen by this F572 and the $450 Acer this week, you can get a value-packed notebook computer, with 1gb RAM, supermulti DVD burner and a few extras for under $500. Obviously it won't be as fast or efficient or as high-end or featured-packed as a $1200 notebook, but not everyone has a money tree in their backyard :) But beware, notebooks can become very addictive, and they are an expensive hobby if you want buy them all :)

    Official Compaq website for the Presario F572us

    This model is not listed in the current line-up of HP/Compaq notebooks. They actually only feature very few models. But you can always search for it/them by model name. Here is the official Compaq/HP page. They also have the specs listed in summary or in-full (printer-friendly page), and you can also download the specs in a PDF file (1.4MB). There is also a link to register it.

    The Compaq/HP Support page for this model is here.

    The model # is F572-US, not F572, there is also an F572-AU (Australian?) version according to the support site. The part # also identifies the whole computer and it is GF596UA#ABA for this unit. You may have noticed this number in the url of the official Compaq/HP page that I posted above. Directions from Compaq on how to locate these physically on the computer or via software (SI)

    Compaq has five PDF files under Manuals. I haven't read them or even downloaded them yet, so I can't help much there (but I will eventually and post an update)

    If you are looking for official HP/Compaq parts and accessories, check the HP Parts Store and enter the model # of this notebook. You can also search by category (eg batteries). Ironically the Compaq site says "your product is not supported for a Vista upgrade". Of course this comes with Vista pre-loaded, so I'm not sure what they are thinking. They should fix it otherwise they may confuse current or potential buyers and users :)

    They also have user-support forums on their website, but they are not by model name, but rather by general category (eg Presario/Pavilion notebooks forum). Here is what a search for Presario 572us produces

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    HP dock, and three notebook deals (Toshiba, Acer and Compaq)

    I forgot to mention this before, but this computer is not directly compatible with HP computer docks, at least not fully functional since it does not have a place to ...dock. There are obviously USB options, but it's just another one of those trade-offs when you buy a sub-$500 notebook computer like the Compaq Presario F572us.

    Speaking of sub-$500 notebook computers, there's a couple of them on sale right now. Both are while supplies last type of deals, so your mileage may vary:

  • Office Depot Computer Design Center: Compaq Presario V6000z notebook computer start costs $300 after mail=in rebates of $15. Specs: Processor is not named, 512mb RAM (DDR2), 80GB hard disk, burns CDs and plays DVD (no dvd burner), Windows Home Vista Basic, and wireless 802.11b/g. Available upgrades: AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core TK-53 for $75, 1gb RAM for $75, 1-year Accidental Damage Protection & Express Repair also $75. Shipping and handling is extra but not specified.
  • CompUSA: Acer AS3690 2970 with Intel Celeron M520, burns cds and plays DVDs (no dvd burner), 512mb RAM, 80gb har disk, Windows Vista Home basic for $350 without any rebates. Please note that quantities are limited.
  • Office Depot: Toshiba Satellite A135-S4666 notebook, Intel® Pentium® dual-core processor T2080, $450 after $150 Mail-In Savings, with 15.4" TRUBRITE™ WIDESCREEN, 1gb DDR2 memory, 80GB hard drive, reads and writes DVDs & CDs via the Double Layer drive, Microsoft® Windows Vista™ Home Basic Edition, and Integrated 802.11b/g wireless LAN. An Office Depot exclusive model (according to ODP)
  • Some bargain "accessories" for laptops at Comp USA: A 22" widescreen LCD monitor, model G22LWK, brand name not mentioned, that costs $200 after $70 in two mail in rebates. Also a Targus Rechargeable Bluetooth laser mouse for $10 (after a $40 mail-in rebate). At Office Depot: Logitech V150 Laser mouse $10, Microsoft digital media pro keyboard $20, Targus notebook chill mat $20, Targus 4-port ultra mini USB hub for $10, and Ativa 1gb U3 Smart USB USB 2.0 flash drive $10.

  • Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    The Compaq Presario F572us on sale online

    This guy is on sale right now as part of Staples web-only online deals. The $480 price is after a $30 rebate and an instant discount. You can also get the HP Deskjet D1341 printer for free after a $70 rebate. Details at the bottom of this page. I do not know when the online sale ends or if you can get the Staples stores to match their website's price. You can probably get them to price-match this though: You can also get the F572 this week at Circuit City for $450 without rebates as I mentioned earlier this week, on Sunday. On this very link, there are also links to two other user reviews of the Presario F572 posted at the NoteBookReview.com forum.

    If you want to dig around the offiical HP/Compaq websites for more details on this notebook, I have assembled some of the links here

    One thing that I am still not sure on this model is whether the 12-cell HP battery is officially compatible with the F572. It doesn't show as an accessory on the HP Parts Store page, but this could be because the F572 is a separate model series from its sister notebooks. Some people in the user reviews mentioned here state that the battery does work with the notebook and increases battery life significantly. That battery can be found on sale at around $100, so it seems like a reasonable trade-off for those who want an extra battery and increased run time at the same time. I will try to find out more in the next few days!

    Update 8/24: I have found the answer to the question of the 12-cell HP battery

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Accessory #3 Review: Sandisk 1gb Cruzer Micro SDCZ4-1024

    I got it at Office Max for $10 on sale this week. (You can also price-match it at your favorite retailer since it is featured in this week's Office Max circular ad).

    The Sandisk code on the back is SDCZ4-1024-AB10. Software included: Cruzer Lock 2, and trial versions of Pocket Cache and CruzerSync (in case anyone cares :)

    This is a silver/gray USB Hi-Speed 2.0 stick, with a green light that shines bright during connection and use. If you find the light annoying or if you use the computer in dark places, this may be a pro or a con, depending on your preferences. Compatible with Vista, 2000, XP and Linux. For Windows 98SE you can download the drivers from Sandisk.com. Click on the Downloads tab to quickly get to the drivers. Going through the product pages is a roundabout. As if those two sites were designed on different planets. (Certainly not the only website that has a split personality like that). The drivers come in a .Zip file.

    No U3 or ReadyBoost. ReadyBoost is a Vista feature that allows Vista to use the flash drive for its own purposes. Sort of like temporary expansion memory. When I installed this, Vista showed the Ready Boost option was active for this flash drive, but I did not test it (yet). The drive is not advertised as a ReadyBoost drive... U3 allows you to replicate your computer experience regardless of which computer you use (sort of). Some of the software participating in U3: Firefox, Mozilla, Trillian, Skype (eBay's user to user communications program), Open Office, a Weather Bug, games and more. Some may find this useful some may not. But anyway, this USB flash drive does not have U3 :-)

    The USB drive comes in a tight blister pack, which is very annoying to open. And I'm not the only one who thinks that. There are even detailed websites with tips on how to open blister packs. Even a Wikipedia entry. And you can always google something like "how to open a blister pack" for even more tips. There's apparently a number of products that are advertised/marketed for exactly this purpose! The things one learns from the internets :)

    Crash #2, Accessory #3 , Performance and ...fingerprints

    In today's episode, we get Accessory #3, we get our 2nd crash (also media related) and talk about some performance numbers.

    Crash #2
    The second crash was also related to the media drive. Coincidence? I put a CD-R with mp3s in the cd/dvd tray. The Vista menu came up asking me what to do. One of the options was to import it (using Roxio Import). Since I am doing this snail-pace review, I decided to try it out. The Roxio Import program started up but immediately froze the whole computer. Nothing worked. Not even ALT CTRL DEL. The only thing that worked was press and hold the Power button to turn the machine off. After a restart it came up fine, and the files were smoothly transfered to the hard disk using Vista's Windows Explorer.

    Accessory #3 Revealed!
    Accessory #3 is a Sandisk Cruzer Micro 1gb USB flash drive (stick) that on sale for $10 at Office Max. I started writing about it and the post grew longer, so I decided to give its own accessory review post right here :-)

    Performance
    Copying an Imation CD-R (not sure what speed) of mp3 files from the CD drive to the hard disk had an average transfer rate of 2.2MB/sec. Copying mp3 files from a Sandisk 1gb Cruzer Micro USB stick to the hard disk drive had an average transfer rate of 11.5 MB/sec. Ouch for optical? :)

    Fingerprints
    No this laptop does not have a fingerprint security technology, but its cover attracts fingerprints like bees on honey. Most of the suggestions I found with regards to laptops are for the screen, but there are some that talk about fingerprints from the laptop cover (the top of the laptop when it is closed down). I am having a blank on the formal name. Apparently Mac users ran into this problem with their sleek looking black Macs. Here is a Google Search that has some answers

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Two other user reviews and the F572us is on sale this week: $450 at Circuit City (no rebates)

    The Presario F572us is back on sale at Circuit City for $450 without rebates. But of course you can still take advantage of any rebate offers that apply for additional savings (eg printer or software purchases).

    There are two other user reviews of this laptop at the NotebookReview forums. One by pac1687 and another by mikelets456. Check them out! Notebookreview.com is a great resource for laptops, but becareful not to become addicted to laptop buying and accessorizing :-)

    A couple of more accessory items on sale have been added to the the earlier thread of Sunday paper ads. And I have bought Accessory #3. But that will be revealed at a later post... (I hate to close a post on a cliffhanger, but I doubt anyone really cares :)

    But the F572 at Circuit City is not the only bargain laptop deal this week at the retail chain stores. For example, there are a couple of very promising deals at Office Depot: a similarly spec'ed Toshiba Satellite A135 at $450, and a Gateway MT3421 at $500. You have to send in mail-in rebates to get those prices at Office Depot. The F572 @ Circuit city is without rebates.

    Accessory Deals in the Sunday paper (8/19/07) [added lots more!]

    Here are some laptop/notebook low priced accessories that might be of interest, advertised in the Sunday paper (8/19/07):

  • Notebook cable lock $25 at Office Max
  • 1gb Sandisk 1gb USB flash drive $10 at Office Max
  • 2gb Verbatim StoreNGo USB flash $20 @ OfficeMax
  • Sony MicroVault Classic 2GB USB stick $20 (rootkit???) at Staples
  • 4gb Sandisk Cruzer Micro with Ready Boost for Vista $35 (ReadyBoost allows Vista to use the free space on the flash drive for its own purposes!) at Circuit City
  • 4gb Sandisk Cruzer Micro with Ready Boost for Vista $40 at Best Buy.
  • 2gb Sandisk Cruzer Micro with Ready Boost for Vista $25 at Best Buy.
  • Logitech® V320 wireless optical notebook mouse $25 @ Staples
  • Logitech LX7 optical cordless mouse $35 at Office Max
  • Staples® 19" LCD monitor $190
  • Clearance 19" wide LCD monitors from Viewsonic and Acer for $150 at Staples
  • 50% Targus messenger and backpack bags at Best Buy
  • Bundle: Microsoft wireless optical laptop mouse and Rocketfish wireless keypad with full size keys for $28 together at Best Buy
  • Targus mini USB hub $10 at Office Depot
  • Microsoft notebook optical mouse 3000 $15 at Office Depot
  • Targus USB ultra mini keypad $15 at Office Depot
  • Targus notebook chill mat $20 at Office Depot
  • HP high capacity 12 cell rechargeable battery $100 at Office Depot. For HP Pavilion dv2000/6000; Compaq Presario V3000/6000 according to the Office Depot circular ad.
  • HP notebook quick dock $110 at Office Depot. According to the ad: Compatible with all HP Pavilion model dv2000/6000/9000 and HP Presario V3000/6000 series notebook computers
  • Targus Groove notebook backpack $15 after $10 mail-in rebate at Office Depot
  • More Microsoft accessories at Office Depot for $20 each: Lifecam VX-100 (webcam), wireless optical mouse 2000, and Digital media pro keyboard. (Office Depot)
  • Sandisk 1gb Cruzer Micro USB flash drive with U3 for $15 @ Office Depot as well

  • Friday, August 17, 2007

    Quick hitters (Recharging, Roxio and Fry's deals) [updated]

  • Recharging time: Charging while using the notebook seems to take about as long as the battery lasts: around 2 hours and change. I haven't measured (re)charging without using the computer, and I do not know if it makes a difference in recharge time
  • The Roxio Basic edition included with the computer will not allow you to make copies of your store-purchased DVD movies. This is yet another example of DRM Gone Wild. While I strongly support protecting people's intellectual property, the average consumer should not be treated like a thief by the media companies. The average consumer is their primary customers, they buy the movies and cds! Sony's rootkit debacle is a classic example of DRM gone wild. The upcoming DRM-free music stores by Amazon and Google (GBot or something like that) are perhaps a sign of common sense returning. Why am I whining about this? People want to make backups of their CDs and DVDs in case of media failure, or if they have kids who think the DVDs become shiny freesbies after they watch them :)
  • Another obscure DRM silliness that HP/Compaq has imposed on this computer is that you can only change the region code 5 times. I do not know if there are any workarounds.
  • Speaking of which the DVD drive is an Optiarc DVD RW AD-7530B. And the hard disk drive is a Hitachi HDD HTS54... (I forgot the rest)
  • If you are looking for notebook deals, here is what they advertised in the newspaper by Fry's Electronics - mostly Toshiba models A135, A215, U305, and P205.
  • Also advertised is an HP Quickdock "Home Base" for $100 (no dock model # is listed, so I cannot tell whether it is compatible with this notebook (the Compaq Presario F572us)

  • Thursday, August 16, 2007

    HP exceeds Wall Street expectations, laptops hot sellers!

    And a quick note on dollars and sense: HP reported their quarterly results today. They exceeded expectations and the segment with the biggest sales jump is the personal computer system segment, which includes the notebook and desktop computers! The stock climbed almost $1.50 in after-hours trading after the announcement was made. My computer purchase is included in this quarter's report!

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Why did I get this one?

    Usually when I make a big purchase I spend time evaluating and comparing different models and things like that. But in this case, I didn't follow the normal process, but not by design. I was at a store and I saw that this notebook was on sale and it had rebates and bonus offers. So I quickly ran to the "Internets" to check if there were any fundamental problems and issues with it before risking a purchase. And that's where I found a giant FatWallet thread discussing this very computer.

    The comments I saw were positive, and what I expected: a bang for the buck computer, expect around 2 hours of battery life with this 6-cell LiIon, and don't expect it to perform like a $1500 notebook.

    What I was looking for was something around/under $500, but with a dvd burner and 1gb of RAM. Usually the sub-$500 notebooks had neither, or one of the two. Hard disk size is not an issue for me, so it didn't really matter. Wireless and USB ports are pretty much in every new notebook these days. Having Vista Premium was (ironically) a plus - if I jump onto the Vista bandwagon, I might as well get the more "advanced" version :)

    A dual-core CPU was also a plus, but not something I was specifically looking for. Built-in webcam, multimedia center, built-in memory card readers are nice features, but I considered them nice to have but not necessary for this purchase. Having a choice of trendy fashionable vibrant colors for the notebook shell was a non-issue for me. Size and weight were not big issues either. It's not heavy by any means, and it's not lightweight or featherweight like some of the other notebooks that cost 2-4x as much.

    The "built to last" sticker by Compaq gave me a little bit more confidence in it. (And that built-to-last sticker is something I will certainly remind HP/Compaq if something goes wrong with this notebook (hopefully it won't!)).

    So with all the checkmarks in the right places, and the great deal at hand, and the fact that stock could quickly disappear, I had to make a quick decision. And I did. And I got it!

    And if it wasn't for this situation, if I went through with my usual evaluation process, I could have easily bought a Toshiba or an Acer, or even an IBM or Dell if the price was right. Or more likely, I would still be (re)reading forums, reviews and spec sheets :-)

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Power tip, accessorizing, Office Depot, and more

  • Welcome Office Depot shoppers!. This laptop computer has gone on sale this week (August 12 to August 18) at Office Depot for $450 after two mail-in rebates of $180. Last week it was on sale at Circuit City for the same price.
  • Power tip: If you are using the battery and you are not near an AC supply, or you forgot the A/C converter at home, it is a good idea to shutdown the notebook before you get the out of battery warning. Perhaps shutting down at 10% may be a good idea. Why? Because Windows shutdown is not always fast or smooth (and if you used Windows you know what I'm talking about). Sometimes applications take longer to shutdown or Windows waits for something to finish or something freezes/crashes. So it may run out of battery before it has time to properly shutdown. It happened to me a couple of days ago, that's why I am mentioning it :)
  • More accessories! Accessory #2 is a USB optical mouse. I did not want to get a tiny tiny mouse, and I did not want to use my regular sized mice, so I picked up something in between, a generic Logitech optical USB mouse. The mouse cable ends with a USB cable, but it also comes with a green USB-to-PS2 converter so you can use it with computers that take PS/2 or do not have USB slots available. Or you can just use the green converter for other purposes. Or sell it on eBay :-) I picked up mine from Office Max ($15 + tax). Also available at Amazon for $16 (also 61 customer reviews of this mouse there). If shopping from Amazon, use promotion code LNGXV7VK for a 5% discount (expires 8/13/07). Needless to say using the laptop with a mouse instead of the finger-tablet-thingy device is much faster, at least for me, since I am not particularly used to using the finger-tablet-thingy. But the finger-tablet-thingy remains active when you have a mouse connected, so you can use both. A best of both worlds approach!
  • Fighting for the right-side USB port: Since there is only one USB port on the right, both the mouse (for the right-handed people) and my USB chillpad/fan are closer to the right USB port. Obviously they can't both use it, so one of them has to use the left side. This may add cause some very minor cable clatter, but as long as they are behind the laptop, they don't get in the way... Perhaps when shopping for a notebook chiller/fan, look for one that has USB slots on the left-side (or both sides) - if you do not want cables reaching across behind the notebook :) Not a big deal, but for people with limited space or who like everything organized and neat, it may be helpful!
  • Last day of the Circuit City sale: Today is the last day of the weekly Circuit City sale that has this laptop for $450. It's their 2nd cheapest laptop, they have an Acer under $400, but without a dvd burner and with only 512mb of RAM. Neither one looks as cool and trendy as the Dells in eight vibrant colors, but they don't cost as much either :) I think either the sub-$400 Acer or this Presario F572us are a good bang for the buck considering where laptop prices were a year ago :)
  • Thrifty Accessory Buyer Tip: If you are looking for cheap generic mice as backups or throwaways, Rite Aid (yes the drugstores) have them for under $10. They are made (or branded) Sakar/iConcepts. They usually go on clearance sale for dirt cheap (under $5) at the end of the back to school sale season. I bought a few of them last year for my desktop and they are quite good for general purpose use (especially given the price). Now if you are a gamer or you have specific application needs, that's a different story :)

  • Monday, August 6, 2007

    Performance metrics - the Windows Experience Index

    I forgot to mention these before, but I ran the performance metrics provided by Windows Vista under System Information, with the computer in the out of the box configuration (did not change any settings or remove programs), and got the following benchmarks:

  • Processors (calculations per sec): 4.6
  • Memory: 4.5
  • Graphics (Aero): 2.9
  • Gaming graphics: 2.4
  • Primary HDD (disk transfer rate): 4.8
  • The higher the number, the better performance to expect. The current range of scores is 1.0 to 5.9, although Microsoft reserves the right to increase the high score at a later point (ha!)
  • Windows takes the lowest score of the five and makes it your Windows Experience Index (silly name for a benchmark!).
  • Microsoft's official Windows Vista blog by Nick White explains the Windows Experience Index (WEI)
  • A couple of independant takes on WEI from ZDNet here and here


    A few things I noticed when looking at the System Information:
  • The C: partition was 66gb total, with 49gb free (out of the box)
  • The D: partition was 8gb total, with 2gb free (out of the box)
  • NVidia has 64MB of memory dedicated, and 223MB shared
  • Primary resolution is 1280x800 (thus Wide XGA)
  • The last Norton update was received 2/28/07. This was obviously before I bought this notebook. If nothing else, it's a sign that it wasn't built in 1999 :)


    Battery Recharge
  • It looks like it takes about as much time to recharge as it has battery life. It took 2 hours and a few minutes to recharge while I was using it (browsing, dvd testing/playback, etc). I had it on the chillpad during the recharge, and I was surprised that it managed to keep it cool. It was warm, but nowhere near as warm when I am not using the chillpad. I didn't think that a silly little thing with two fans could make such a difference!

  • Sunday, August 5, 2007

    Here are the Specs (Welcome Circuit City shoppers!)

    This computer is featured on the front page of this week's Circuit City circular ad, for $450 after a $30 mail-in rebate. Welcome Circuit City shoppers! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them. Check all my previous posts on the right-hand column.

    Also if you wanna keep up with all the latest blog updates, here is the RSS feed

    Here is a recap of the specifications of this computer, the Compaq Presario F572 US:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 TK-53 processor (dual core 1.7GHz processor)
  • 1gb DDR2 memory (RAM)
  • 15.4" widescreen WXGA display
  • 80gb hard disk drive, 5400rpm
  • CD and DVD burner, super-multi-format: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM. The "super" stands for DVD-RAM support. Multi stands for both DVD-RW and DVD+RW. Also support double layer (not to be confused with dual layer)
  • NVidia GeForce Go 6150 graphics card (shared video memory)
  • Three USB ports (two on the left, one on the right)
  • Battery life (based on my experience so far): Between 2 to 2.5 hours as configured out of the factory. You can increase it by tweaking the settings, or using an external monitor and things like that
  • Built-in 802.11 b/g wireless. Physical switch to turn OFF wireless for extra protection
  • Ethernet and phone input jacks
  • S-Video output
  • Analog input for connecting to an external monitor
  • Headphones out and audio in
  • Built-in Altec Lansing stereo speakers
  • place to hook a security lock (I forgot the actual name)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Software bundled: Roxio basic edition, Norton Internet Hogware Security (with 60 days of free updates), 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, MS Works, Adobe Reader 9, Internet Exploder, Real Rhapsody, trial version of HP Games, three different DVD player programs, muVee auto producer basic edition, and of course the usual assortment of utilities included in the Vista Home Premium.
  • Windows Anytime Upgrade DVD (costs extra to upgrade to a higher version of Windows)


    Circuit City Weekly Ad 468x60


    It does NOT have
  • Built-in Memory card reader
  • Built-in Card slot for external cards
  • Built-in Video inputs / TV card
  • Built-in webcam
  • Recovery discs (you have to make them yourselves, or request them from their support; see my post on the right column on how to make them, it's easy but takes time)

  • Thursday, August 2, 2007

    Laptop cooler, Connecting to the Net, and WiFi Scanning


    USB-powered Laptop cooler
    It is true when they say that when you buy a laptop you can't stop accesorizing! It is true! I got the first accessory for my laptop and it was a practical/functional one: A chill pad (laptop cooler) to keep it from overheating. I did not do any online research on them, I just went to a local computer shop, looked at all their options, and picked up the one with the lowest price that looked like it wouldn't break right away! Not exactly a PC Magazine test :) I ended up getting the Vantec LapCool3 USB Notebook Cooling Pad, which is also available at Amazon, and it has 49 user reviews.

    So today I did the cooler experiment: I ran the notebook using the battery (not connected to the AC power supply) while running the USB-powered laptop cooler fan underneath the computer. I did a combination of configuring and changing computer settings (eg Control Panel) and then web-browsing (3-4 browser windows in parallel). In 90 minutes I used up 2/3rds of the battery. So that would be about 2 hours and 15 minutes if I continued all the way. I have not uninstalled any of the trialware/hogware yet, I am running Aero (still find it cool), I did not change the default LCD settings, and I am using the default HP power management plan.

    The laptop cooler really works, a bit to my surprise, since it's just two tiny USB-powered fans! (A big plus that the F572 has USB ports on either side so you connect the one closest). In 90 minutes it kept the computer from heating up. It was warm to the touch but nowhere near the temperature if I was running without it. Looks like I will be taking the USB laptop cooler with me, especially during the summer, or in places without computer-friendly AC...

    And when you shutdown the notebook and you are near other computers or USB power sources, you can cheat and plug the cooler into the computer/device, and continue to cool off the notebook computer before you put it in the bag :)

    I also used this laptop cooler (aka chill pad) to cool off my cable box, powering it from the cable box's USB port. In about an hour it managed to cool it off as well. Again, it did not go from Sahara to North Pole, but you could feel the difference by touching it.


    Connecting to the Internets!
    Before connecting to the net I went through the security programs. Microsoft's own Firewall is included with the system, along with Norton's Internet Security software. The Norton software includes 60-days of free updates. The 60-day count starts only when you activate the Norton Security software, not the day you turn on your computer. The Norton software should continue to work past the 60 days, but it won't be receiving any new updates.

    As common sense and the Microsoft software suggest, you should only run one of these two firewalls at any instance, otherwise they'll get in each other's way. I also turned off automatic Norton LiveUpdates because if I didn't, it would take over the internet connection and the computer trying to download all the billion updates it missed while the computer was sitting at a warehouse waiting to be purchased :) The only reason I did this was so that I could start surfing the net right away. It is of course a good idea to get the latest updates for the security software you are planning to use (eg virus definitions, security updates, spyware updates). Especially if you are going to be entering usernames and passwords. By the way, both the McAfee and the Computer Associates security suites are free after rebates this week at Staples. Or you can get some of the more lightweight and efficient software by the lesser known security software companies.

    Then I proceeded to test the state of the art dial-up connection :) Vista has an Easy Internet Sign-up feature but it only works if you have one of the three major ISPs (AOL, Earthlink, and another one I forgot). Otherwise, you have to do it manually, which is actually very easy: You go to the Control Panel, then Network and create a new dial-up connection using your user name, password and the ISP's phone number. That's all you need to enter, nothing else. Windows does its magic behind the scenes and voila you are connected. Internet Exploder is included and installed so you can start surfing right away. Needless to say I will be downloading Firefox and friends for most of my browsing. I'm not a big fan of IE. Speaking of IE, a Yahoo Search toolbar (among many other unnecessary things) was embedded in it.

    One thing that is a bit disappointing is that the internet connection icon (bottom right corner of the screen) is not flashing to indicate activity like it used to with previous versions of Windows. That flashing was a good way to both monitor what's happening to your connection and how busy it is. I'll try to find out if that can be done or if there's a utility that can do the same thing!

    WiFi Scanning
    And a quick note on the wireless. If you are not familiar with wireless, there is a button on the front-left of the computer that you can use to manually turn off any wireless activity. When it is turned off, the light is Orange. But if you are planning to use wireless or just check to see what's in the area, you just slide the switch to the right and the light turns Blue. When scanning for networks in the area, you get a list of them, with signal strength, network name, and whether they are secured (all but one were secured). But again, if you are worried about wireless security and stuff, just slide the button to the left (Orange light)!

    Bargain Hunters
    This week Staples has free after rebates Computer Associates AntiVirus 2007 and Internet Security Suite. Also a couple of the McAfee suites are free after mail-in rebate. And you can get Norton free as well if you use the "buy with new computer" rebates and competitive upgrade rebates. All the rebate details can be found in the gigantic thread on this computer deal at FatWallet.com The "buy with new computer" rebates are usually valid if you buy the software within 14 days of the purchase of a new computer, they don't have to be on the same receipt. As always, do read the fineprint, and such before purchasing.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007

    Creating Compaq Presario F572 Recovery discs

    This is a must since CompaQ does not include those in the package. Of course you can always contact their customer service and ask/demand that they send a Recovery disc like they did in the good old days.

    But you can create Recovery discs on your own easily. It's not hard, but it does take a lot of time. This is a task that you do in parallel with other things (watch TV, read, clean, dance, etc).

    For whatever reason, Compaq only allows you to make one set of Recovery discs, which is a bit strange since optical media can either fail, get lost or destroyed. The common sense approach to backing up valuable data is to make at least two copies. And a recovery disc is certainly valuable material! What were you thinking Compaq?

    Creating the recovery discs is a two-step process. Step 1 creates the recovery files on your hard disk. You do not need to put a disc in the optical (cd/dvd) drive. Step 2 takes those files and puts them on optical discs. Each disc is written on and then verified to make sure the recovery discs will be operational if/when you really need them.

    If you use blank CDs, you will need 10 of them. If you use blank DVD-R or DVD+R, you will need two, and if you use a blank DL you only need one. I chose to use blank DVD-R discs. I was surprised that the burner burnt almost all the way to the edge of the discs. For something important like a Recovery disc I thought it would be wiser not to fill up the disc completely. But what do I know? :)

    First I tried an Office Depot 8x DVD-R. I have been using them for a while in other burners and I consider them fairly reliable. The files were written on it, but the disc failed the verification process. So after that I decided to use the most reliable discs I have, Sony Made In Japan 8x DVD-Rs. No problems there, the discs were recorded and verified.

    I forgot to time it but it takes hours (maybe 2-3?), certainly not minutes to complete. However it is a relatively straight-forward process, even if you have media problems.

    Second Impressions

    Hardware

  • On Battery: I was playing around with the computer while disconnected from the power supply, and in about 1 hour about 50% of the power was depleted. This seems to be consistent with the other reports that give it around 2-2.5 hours. Please note however that I have not optimized it for power savings. I am using the default HP recommended power plan and I have not turned off power-hungry things like Aero.
  • The notebook's cover seems to like fingerprints!
  • I like the keyboard, it has a nice touch to it. The touchpad is not bad either, and it can be customized a bit. I haven't tried any customizations yet.
  • I'm not overly thrilled about the way the cd/dvd tray is designed. I understand this is a notebook, so you don't have the luxury of a straight-up desktop PC or dvd player tray. But with that noted, I don't like the fact that you have to put the DVD in at a slight angle because the disc-area of the tray does not extend all the way out.
  • The 80gb hard disk is partitioned in two, C and D, with D presumably carrying Windows stuff (I believe around 10gb partition), and C: being the main drive. A few gigabytes are already taken, I believe free space is in the 60s (in gigabytes). I have not installed or removed any software yet.

    Software
  • On Vista: I was actually pleasantly surprised by Vista. It has a nice "organic" flow to it. And Aero is kinda cool. Not sure how practical yet, but it's fun :) So far Vista seems to be less fragile than earlier major-change-Windows-versions despite its newness. But this is only after a few hours of use!
  • The "right hand column" of the screen has widgets defaulted to it. Widgets are basically small utility programs such as an old fashioned analog clock, a CPU/RAM meter with old-school gauge dials, a tiny picture slideshow, and a few more. You can also download more widgets online. The CPU/RAM meter is actually practical! I have it on all the time. Without tweaking anything on it yet, it usually shows about half of the RAM free (total of 1gb), and the CPU of course depends on what application(s) are running.The rest of the widgets range from fun to entertaining to what-where-they-thinking :)
  • Microsoft Office 2007 is pre-installed and the PC comes with a 60-day trial which you can activate online. After the 60 days I assume you would have to buy it :)
  • I will try to compile a list of all the software pre-installed on the machine, but off the top of my head I saw a version of Roxio, HP Games, Adobe Acrobat Reader 8, limited duration subscription to Norton Internet Bloatware (oops Security), and a few more
  • A number of things are already pre-installed and running, so I assume when I start fine-tuning the PC I should be able to turn them off or completely remove them.
  • A tiny Yahoo Search engine toolbar sits at the middle-right of the bottom of the screen, on the left of all the tiny tray icons. It's a widescreen so they can line them up :)

  • Dollars and Sense

    The Deal?
    I got this notebook this Sunday 7/22/2007 from Staples (brick and mortar store). It was advertised in the Staples circular in the Sunday paper (also found in-store) for $480. But there are some specials:

  • $30 EasyRebate (Easy Rebates can be submitted online, no need to mail things in or cut UPC codes)
  • free HP Deskjet D1341 printer after Easy Rebate of $70, with combined purchase (purchase both together in the same receipt).
  • For the Easy Rebates, you need to enter the serial # of both the computer and printer on the StaplesEasyRebates.com website. But nothing to mail, no upc to cut.
  • You also get a $50 Dining Dough dining card with any purchase over $150. If you are not familiar with Dining Dough, check their website. You can search for restaurants by zip code. They mostly have local restaurants, not chains. This is not a straight up $50 gift card. You can use the card to purchase gift certificates at restaurants. But the gift certificates are usually of this variety: "$10 off when your dinner bill is over $25". This is not like a Visa gift card. It is more like Restaurant.com
  • The deal expires at the end of day on Saturday. There is still time if they have them in-store.


    Extra Credit
    Now for those feeling more adventurous, there is a huge 70-page thread at FatWallet on this computer where you can get the effective price even lower, free even, or perhaps make a profit, through a series of rebates. The FatWallet idea is not for the faint of heart. Tons of rebates to submit and keep track of. Of course you don't have to do every rebate, you can pick and chose which rebates to submit. The easiest one to do is a combined purchase rebate from HP/Compaq worth $50. The rest of the rebates involve additional software purchases, combined with regular rebates, upgrader rebates and purchase with a computer rebates.


    More Pictures of the computer courtesy of Amazon:
  • A description of this computer can be found at Amazon




  • What's in the box?

    This is the box (with the sides cutoff from the picture). I forgot to include a ruler in the picture, the dimensions are 16" inches wide, 13" deep and 7" tall (as pictured)


    A close-up of the Compaq "Q"


    When you open the box, the "Begin" quick start up guide is right in your face. They want to make sure you read that one first.


    The wrapped computer sits on top of a cardboard box that has everything else. Now let's be gentle with it...


    And here is the computer itself...




    Now let's open the cardboard box and see what goodies Compaq has for us! On the top left, wrapped in bubble is the laptop's battery. On the top right we have the AC adapter and cable. On the bottom left we have the power cable.

    On the bottom right we have a semi-fancy red envelope (the big red thing in the picture). Inside we have:

  • 40-page Quick Reference Manual (that's all you get in print, along with the quick start guide).
  • Limited warranty
  • A list of worldwide telephone support numbers
  • A notice in the shape of a disc to make your own Recovery (Restore) CDs or DVDs because they are not included in the package
  • A notice that some Microsoft titles such as Works may be included with the computer without a Certificate of Authenticity (CoA)
  • A shiny 12-page booklet from the HP Home and Home Office Store, selling all sorts of PC accessories. The last page includes a coupon for 10% off any accessory. The coupon expires 7/31/2007
  • A Windows Anytime Upgrade notice and slim-line keepcase of a DVD with upgrade software. This requires a separate purchase of additional Windows software. The seal says "do not insert and run this software until you purchase an upgrade license". How optimistic of them: "Until", not "unless"? :) You should do this only if you really want to upgrade to ...a higher Vista. [Correction: Previously, I incorrectly wrote Vista Home Basic, but this computer has Home Vista Premium].
  • And last and least, the obligatory promotional paper materials which includes AOL, Vongo, and Vonage.


    This is the battery (left side of the picture that contains the serial # was cropped out)



    This is part of the keyboard



    Booting up for the first time. One of the first screens you see:



    Now after a few minutes of running the automated first-time set-up

  • First Impressions - turning it on for the first time

    It took 35 minutes from the time I pressed POWER ON for the first time, to the time I had full operational control of the computer. And to do that I had to decline a couple of configuration and setup options that had the option of "do it later or remind me later". Of course I will do them at some point, but I just wanted to get operational control of the computer as soon as possible.

    I played around with the menus and the various pre-installed applications, and I played some DVDs to test the super-multi-format drive. There are at least three different dvd player programs pre-installed on the machine. I was able to play Lord of the Rings (since the DVD is 2.35:1 it didnt fill up the screen), and home-made video from DVD-R and DVD-RAM.

    I almost got my first "blue screen" even, but I didn't. One of the DVD player programs (the Compaq branded one) got confused, its window was all white, and it refused to close. The task manager couldn't kill it. The shutdown didn't kill it. I had to manually power off the notebook (which of course Microsoft does not recommend, but how can you use Windows if you don't reboot and power it off when it goes crazy?)

    By the way, there is no recovery disk that comes with the computer. The instructions instruct the user to create their own set of recovery disks. Nice for the DIY crowd, but an annoyance perhaps for the average user. More on this in the next post that includes what's in the box/package.

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Welcome to the Compaq Presario F572 US user review!


    Welcome to the Compaq Presario F572 US user review!

    In this blog I will be posting my experience with this Compaq notebook computer. I am by no means a notebook computer expert, so I will be providing more of a user experience type of review, at least at first. If you have any questions or suggestions or things you want me to check, please ask or post them as comments.

    Check the Blog Archive in the right-hand column for all the latest posts and updates. Here are the first few posts:

  • What's in the box? (opening the package, not the computer itself!)
  • First Impressions, and Second Impressions
  • Where did I find out about it, how much I paid, and the big fatwallet thread, in dollars and sense
  • Creating Compaq Presario F572 Recovery discs

    Keep up with all the updates by subscribing to the RSS feed of this blog.


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