- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

Sporting a 15-inch screen, 30 GB hard disk drive, 256 MB of RAM and, now, a mobile Pentium 4 processor, the Hewlett Packard zt1175 notebook PC, $1,900 before a $100 rebate, is an interesting and useful tool for home, small office or school.
I tested the zt1175's predecessor, the 1170, which had the same basic features but also two differences: the CPU was the older Intel mobile Pentium III, and the test system had 512 MB of RAM. The newer CPU of the zt1175 should offer a performance "bump" in some circumstances, and adding the extra 256 MB in RAM is something I'd recommend to any computer buyer.
Both machines retain the same basic "look" and feature set. The large screen is easily the first thing one notices when opening the machine, which is housed in a blue plastic and silver metal case. Powering on the computer, one sees that some "hot button" keys and the built-in touch pad are framed in a soft blue light. This Kmart-esque appearance is rather nice, especially for a home setting. It also offers functional attributes: the light surrounding the touch pad is turned off when a user turns off the touch pad functions, useful when connecting an external mouse.
The other "blue light" specials are customizable hot buttons preconfigured to send e-mail, an Internet browser, an online "business center" Web site and HP's "Presentation Ready," which sets up a presentation and sends it with just the one button a rather neat trick for speakers and salespeople arriving at a speech or appointment.
Because this is a machine designed primarily for home, small office or school, there is an emphasis on entertainment and music. The built-in CD-RW drive also plays DVD movies, and controls for the CD player are on the front of the unit, allowing it to function as a (rather expensive) music system when the computer is turned off. In your home at the end of the day, or a dorm room or even a hotel, this is a system that can offer relaxation as well as business capabilities.
Yet the zt1170 that I tested (and the new zt1175) are designed to handle work tasks and quite well. I like the larger hard disk by 50 percent than many notebooks seem to favor. Having the CD-RW feature built in not only lets you "burn" music CDs, but also put that PowerPoint presentation onto a CD for a colleague or client. The RAM can be expanded to a whopping one gigabyte's worth, enough to handle just about anything, I'd imagine.
The "home" version of Microsoft's Windows XP is the operating system of choice and differs only marginally from the "professional" version. In practice, I was able to do with "home" XP the same sorts of things one does with the "pro" version: I plugged in a local-area network cable and I was connected to the network and, by extension, the Internet. I removed the cable, slipped in an Orinoco wireless antenna and I was able to sign on to the wireless network at home, and again go out to the world at large.
Typing on the rather comfortable keyboard of the zt1170 was a pleasant surprise. Though not as spacious as those found on Apple Computer's PowerBooks, I felt no discomfort in using the device. The keyboard is set back from the edge of the computer, providing a wrist-rest area for safer typing. And the previously mentioned touch pad, made by Synaptics, features a separate scrolling bar: A touch of the finger will scroll a document page up or down, whether in an application or a Web browser.
The computer sports three USB ports, as well as a "FireWire," or IEEE 1394, port for connecting video and still cameras, hard drives and music players such as Apple's iPod. While such FireWire connections are increasing on portables, they're not so common as to be ignored when a firm such as HP wisely includes one. Two "legacy" ports, for parallel printers and VGA video monitors, are also included, as is one to send video from the portable to a television set.
HP's reputation for product support, as well as durability, needs little embellishment. I've had few major problems with HP systems over the years, and dragging such computers to Amsterdam, Nairobi, Kenya, and other less-exotic points proved no hassle. If you're looking for a computer that'll do a nice job at home or school, and which folds up into a nice looking package when not in use, the zt1175 is a solid choice, particularly with that rebate. Details on the computer can be found at www.hp.com.



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