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Compaq Armada E500

October 14, 2001



The Armada E500 mobile system is meant for those users who need a notebook as a basic working computer, who consider important such qualities as convenience in operation and a high performance, who want it to have a long service life and be able to change its configuration easily. The E500 notebook definitely meets these requirements.

Examination

The Compaq Armada E500 extends the line of office computers. This model is very close to the Armada M700 that we studied some time ago, but while the M700 is more mobile and light, the E500 is more functional. The model features an efficient processor, a 14.1" matrix, a 12 GBytes hard disc. The RAM is, unfortunately, only 64 MBytes, though you can extend it up to impressing 512 MBytes. The CD-Rom drive, 24x, can be installed in the DualBay and MultiBay. As a result, the Armada E500 can be equipped with 3 Li-Ion batteries, thus, allowing it to work up to 9 (!!!) hours. The model comes also with external ports and a standard interface for connection of EM docking stations which make possible an additional extension of the systems. Such docking stations suit both E500 and M700.

Technical characteristics:

  • Processor: Intel Pentium III 700 MHz
  • Memory: 64 MBytes (expandable to 512 MBytes)
  • Hard disc: IBM-DJSA-220, 12 GBytes
  • CD-Rom 24x (removable)
  • FDD (removable)
  • Matrix: 14.1" TFT LCD SVGA active
  • Video: ATI-Rage Mobility P AGP 8 MBytes SDRAM (up to 1024X768 at 32bit colors on the internal screen, up to 1024X768 at 64K colors on the external screen)
  • Sound: ESS Maestro, 2 built-in speakers, microphone.
  • Modem: Built-in V.90 standard 56K ax/modem (ITU V.90, 56K data, 14.4K fax.)
  • Network: 10/100 Intel Pro/100+ MiniPCI, Full Dublex supported
  • Integrated ports:
    • 2 PCMCIA II slots
    • IrDA
    • PS/2 Keyboard/mouse
    • serial port
    • parallel port
    • VGA
    • USB
    • TV-out
  • Keyboard: 102 keys
  • TouchPad (a stationary pointing device)
  • Dimensions: 31.5 x 25.3 x 4.1 cm
  • Weight: 3.18 kg

Accessories:

Apart from the notebook and a power supply unit you can find there the following accessories:

  • modem cable
  • network cable
  • bracket for a CD-ROM bay
  • booklets such as how to use the notebook and to organize your work place, Compaq products and additional equipment, and a short description of the notebook and its disc.
  • description and the Windows NT Workstation register card, a booklet on the Windows 2000 Professional
  • full description of the Armada E500
  • Notebook Products Reference Library, Quick Restore discs

All the documentation comes in English.

As a rule, a TV cable is absent, though there is a TV-out.

Here is a set of preinstalled software:

  • Microsoft Windows 98 SE Eng.
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer Eng.
  • Compaq Information Center Eng.
  • Compaq Drivers Information Eng.
  • Compaq DVD Express Eng.
  • Ring Central Fax Eng.
  • Armada Quick Reference Eng.

Ergonomics

As there are LEDs on the front panel of the display lid, you can check such parameters as power and battery status with the lid being closed.

In front you can find a volume control, a FDD and a CD-ROM drive. The keyboard is quite large: a gap between the keys is now 2 mm, and the jut is now 4mm. The upper row (F1-F12) follows the one of a usual keyboard. It is divided into groups of 4 keys. Delete, End, P.D, P.U., Home and Insert buttons are located separately. The Fn key (which helps to adjust brightness, volume etc.) is located right under the Shift. It is very pleasant that there is some unoccupied space to the left and right up from the arrows (like in the M700). The sleep on/off modes do not differ from the M700. They keys are just interchanged. When you press the blue button the notebook suspends, with the black one it turns off and when you press them simultaneously it restarts (Reset). Any of them will help you to turn on the machine. Above the keyboard there are information diodes (though I wish it were an LCD) which display the status of an HDD, FDD, Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock. On the left of the power button there are 4 programmable keys.

Initially they are designed for the Internet Explorer, a Compaq's home page (www.compaq.com), search and a post client. The pointing device is a Touch pad with 2 keys. Pages can be scrolled by pressing 2X keys and moving a cursor. There are quite a lot of settings for the pointing device, and you are only to study them and set them properly. On the Touch pad's sides you an find audio speakers. In course of operation you can face problems only with the CD-ROM and Floppy disc drives. The drives open forward, and although there is enough space between you and the notebook lid, you can break it while standing up or sitting down. The CD-ROM drive can be replaced with a DVD-ROM one, but it is unnecessary as there are no any programs on DVD discs, while films are available on CDs as well.

Network and modem connectors should be positioned differently: they are too close to each other, and it's easy to confuse one with the other. Although the Link goes up when you connect the network cable, but it is not convenient to look at it every time. Therefore, you'd better just remember that the closest connector is for a network cable. The network card is of the MiniPCI format, produced by Intel and works excellently even without preliminary adjustment. The modem is similar to that of the M700. The recovery packet for OS and basic programs is implemented flawlessly: you are to install the disc into the CD-ROM drive and load the system from it. The procedure takes about 1.5 hours. The only drawback is that additional programs recorded on this CD are meant only for this OS. When we tested the notebook it hung three times because of the fan. But I should say that the computer worked for quite a long time without the fan.

Software

The Armada has several preinstalled programs.

  • Compaq Intelligent Manageability is in charge of Backup, an adjustable autosave period, alarm, automatic file verification.
  • Easy point IV adjusts Q-point (a pointing device), sensitivity, scrolling, briefly describes buttons. Settings are quite scarce, a cursor moves at the same speed all round the monitor, thus, taking a lot of time. If the speed increases the positioning becomes worse.
  • Energy-saving settings. Standard energy-saving schemes integrated into the Windows 98SE, alarm of the critical battery level. Keys can be programmed for switching on/off, a sleep mode etc. Display brightness can be set in per cents. The battery calibration function allows increasing its service life; and although the battery type used in here almost lacks for a memory effect, I'd recommend you to use this function at least once a week.
  • Compaq Information Center contains the information on a modem, a network card, on quick notebook installation, and on the simplest operating methods.
  • Compaq Configuration Record contains short characteristics of the notebook's devices, collates their serial numbers with the memory installed at the factory.
  • Compaq Diagnostics - Simple notebook diagnostics.
  • Compaq DVD Player - is not of great interest as the notebook lacks for a DVD-ROM drive.
  • Ring Central Fax - a small fax program.

All additional programs supplied with the notebook comes only in English.

The E500 can also control the battery status, like in the M700. All Compaq notebooks are services at equal warranties.

Score

  Score (max.) Our mark
Accessories
25
15
Appearance and ergonomics
25
23
Convenience in use
25
21
User support
25
23

Total: 79 scores.

Why we lowered the score:

Accessories:

  • documentation only in English (-3);
  • no cover or bag (-3);
  • aging software - Windows 98 SE and out-dated drivers (-2);
  • inconvenient Restore Kit packet (-2).

Appearance and ergonomics:

  • Old-fashioned appearance (-2);

Convenience in use:

  • warms up significantly (-1);
  • out-dated status indication (-2);
  • FDD placed at the front (-1).

User support:

  • a full range of updatings is lacking on the company's sites (-2).

Tests

The tests were carried out according to our testing technique, the results are in the table.

ZD Business Winstone 2001
13.7
ZD Content Creation Winstone 2001
13.6
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 CPUMark
1550
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 FPUMark
2910
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Disk WinMark 3120 (2310*)
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 High-End Disk WinMark 9230 (5330*)
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Graphics WinMark
158
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 High-End Grsphics WinMark
309
ZD CD Winbench 99 v1.1.1 CD-ROM WinMark 99
1020
BapCo & Mad Onion SysMark 2001 Rating
82
BapCo & Mad Onion SysMark 2001 Internet Content Creation
87
BapCo & Mad Onion SysMark 2001 Office Productivity
78
ZD BatteryMark 4.0 3 h 22 min

*Like in the M700, the DMA mode was disabled in the original preinstalled OS, that is why the CPU utilization didn't exceed 83%, with the DMA enabled the results got much better, all HDD speed parameters increased by 47% on average.

Conclusion

This notebook is really worth calling universal. It is likely to be used both at home and at work as a PC substitute. The only drawback is an insufficient video card performance. I liked quite a large display which is comparable to a 15" monitor. The "frame" (a distance from the display edge to the lid's one) is so thin that your eyes are completely focused on the visual information. It is not very convenient to use scrolling, and the RAM size is rather small, but thanks to the technical support it is very easy and cheap to extend it. The operating time is 9 hours which is an absolute record, though it is heavy enough. In closing I should add that it is priced at $1970.


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