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Compaq Presario V3197TU Laptop
Over the last few years laptops have steadily found acceptance into the mainstream, as their prices have dropped and performance levels have increased. A lot of people are now looking to get rid of our desktops and go for these mobile units, as they allow you not only to carry your data around but perform multiple roles ranging from entertainment centers to being our steady workhorses.
However when one settles down to looking for a laptop, its then we realize how much choice there is and how confusing it is. Laptops comes in all shapes and sizes and in nearly every kind of budget. If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a full-blown desktop replacement laptop, it’s all fun and games but for the rest of us the search can be pretty harrowing. Most consumers work on a strict budget, which may not get them good value for money, may look aesthetically poor or perform badly.
One company who has been trying to bridge this gap between desktop replacements and budget offerings, is Compaq (which is a subdivision of Hewlett-Packard) by offering attractive slim laptops that don't skimp on performance and features. We had recently checked out such an offering from Compaq the V3122TU and found it to be a winner. Since then Compaq has withdrawn that model and replaced it with the Compaq V3197TU, which sports updated specifications. How much of a difference this has made, read on to find out.
In a surprising move Compaq has retained the same body for the V3197TU which had been shipped with the V3122TU TU. The laptop possesses the same dark gray glossy finish and is still a fingerprint magnet. Despite the glossy interior, Compaq has overlaid the area above the lid of the laptop with a thick plastic sheet that helps in preventing scratches.
On popping open the laptop, we find the smooth flow of the dark gray finish further extends into the keyboard area. Like the V3122TU, the keyboard on the V3197TU has standard size keys which make typing on this laptop similar to a desktop keyboard. The area around the LCD panel though leaves a lot to be desired. Compared to the high-gloss finish of the lid and keyboard, the finish just looks plain tacky with a cheap plasticky finish.
Looking at the similarities in the physical construction of the laptops, we were left wondering if anything had changed at all. It’s only when we booted the laptop, did we realize that Compaq had, in a sensible move, finally equipped this budget offering with a pre-installed OS. The V3122TU had shipped with FreeDOS and it left you with the headache of procuring Windows on your own. Though we did install Windows back then, hunting down the drivers was a majorly painful exercise. Compaq has also provided a disk-based restore system, which will reload the OS in case of a crash.
The OS is not the only change we found in the laptop. The CPU has been given a minor speed jump. The basic unit remains the same i.e. the V3197TU still runs on an Intel Celeron-M420 processor which is now clocked at 1.73 GHz as compared to the 1.60 GHz of the V3122TU. This was a disappointing move as we had hoped that Compaq would have moved to the far more efficient Centrino family of processors. Celeron’s processors are really slow and really only good for general computing activities such as working on documents or internet surfing. In such a case RAM takes on a crucial significance since the CPU lacks the horsepower to push it beyond anything basic. The amount of system memory, remains at 512 MB of DDR2 memory running at 667 MHz. This should have been ideally increased to 1 GB as that would have compensated for the weak processor that this laptop has. The LCD panel of this laptop too has not changed. It retains a 14.1 wide-screen with a native resolution of 1280 x 800 which gives vibrant color output and great brightness.
While the memory and display panel may have not been changed, storage space has been increased from 60 GB of the V3122TU to 80 GB in the V3197TU. This is a welcome move, as one can never have enough storage. What we found to be a bright point in this laptop is the retention of the Intel GMA 950 graphics chip. The Intel GMA 950 chip is a DirectX 9 capable chipset which means that with a modest upgrade of system memory, it is possible to run Windows Vista on this laptop. Though that may sound good, we strongly suggest sticking to XP. Vista for all its fancy graphics is a real hog on system resources and with such a weak processor Vista would quickly be reduced to a slideshow on this laptop.
For audio Compaq has continued with Altec-Lansing speakers that actually have bass and depth to their output. Considering that most laptop speakers are just noise making tinny sounding pieces of rubbish , it was good for a change to be able to use a laptop and enjoy music without getting a headache.
For checking the performance of the laptop we ran it through our normal PCMark 2005 test. We received a score of 1925, which just exposes the weak processor of this laptop. 3dmark2006 was a no-go as it would crash out to the desktop to within 5 minutes of starting its testing. For battery testing we used Battery Eater pro and a real-life test. The results we got were similar to the V3122TU. The V3197TU like its predecessor, ships with a six cell battery. Our test gave us about 1 hr 49 of battery life on average. This too should have been improved upon with a larger battery.
|Model||Compaq Presario V3197TU|
|Processor||Intel Celeron-M 420 (1.73 GHz, 1 MB L2 Cache, 533 MHz FSB)|
|Chipset||Intel 945 Express|
|Memory||512MB DDR2 (667 MHz), 2 DIMM slots (Expandable to 2GB)|
| Optical Drive||Super Multi Drive 8x DVD Writer|
8x Double Layer (8.5 GB)
DVD+/- RW, +/-R Writer
DVD: 8x +/- write, 4x +/- re-write, 8x read
DVD+R DL: 4x read, 2.4x write
CD: 24x write, 16x re-write, 24x read max speed
DVD-RAM: 5x read and write
| Video Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator GMA 950|
|Monitor||14.1 inch wide-screen color TFT, Native Resolution: 1280 x 800|
| In-Built Speakers||Altec Lansing Stereo Speakers|
|Connectivity||10/100 Network Card, 56k Modem, 802.11 b/g Wireless LAN|
|Battery||6 cell Lithium Ion|
Expansion port for HP Notebook Expansion Base xb3000 (optional)
One Microphone InThree USB 2.0 ports
One IEEE 1394 port (4 pins)
One S-Video TV-Out
One RJ-11 Modem
One RJ45 NIC
One DC Power In
One VGA out
Kensington Lock Slot
Two Omni-directional Microphones
|OS||Windows XP Home SP2 (OEM) |
|Additional Features||5-in-1 card reader with support for for xD, Secure Digital cards, MultiMedia cards, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro.|
|Dimensions||(W x H X D): 1.02/1.53 x 13.5 x 9.33 inches|
|Weight|| 2.44 Kgs|
|Price||Rs. 37,000 Plus Taxes (4-7 %)|
Overall this laptop left us feeling a wee bit disappointed. With the former V3122TU, Compaq had hit upon a novel idea of making a budget laptop with a wide range of connectivity options. The 3197TU should have been built on this philosophy and should have added a stronger processor and more RAM. It should have been closer to the recommended Vista Premium specifications.
Overall with a pricing of Rs. 37,000, we felt that this laptop should have had more competitive features. If you are in the market for a budget laptop and willing to wait for some more time, we anticipate dual-core prices to slash and laptops in that segment to be in the value bracket.