- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

It will cost you just under $1,000, after $350 in rebates, for a Compaq Presario V3000z widescreen notebook computer equipped much as my test unit is: the aforementioned 14.3-inch wide screen, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 80 gigabytes of hard disk space, a souped-up AMD Turion 64-bit processor, an optical drive that not only burns DVDs and CDs but also etches a label on compatible media, and, finally, software for creating those discs.

But it’s a good investment, even if adding a $249 two-year express repair and accidental damage protection plan will eat up the rebates and push the price to just less than $1,250. If a computer breaks, I want it fixed quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

Such dependence would be especially true for a machine that could become vital in one’s life, and the V3000z, with yet another poetic Compaq name, is just that kind of computer. It packs a lot of power with elegance and style.

One of the most powerful things for me — useful on a 10-day road trip — was the power of the computer’s Altec Lansing sound system, which far outperformed an older Apple Macintosh G4 PowerBook portable. Having good sound for multimedia is important, and cranked up, this can pump out the audio.

Computing power is more important, of course, and there’s no shortage of that here, either.

Compaq says the Turion processor is powerful enough to run Microsoft Corp.’s forthcoming Windows Vista operating system, though you likely would want more than 1 gigabyte of RAM available when you do — that’s a Microsoft thing, not a Compaq one.

Running Windows XP Home Edition and a Beta version of Microsoft Office 2007, I had no problems doing “everyday” work. Corel Corp.’s Snapfire Plus photo-editing software worked well, as did AOL’s security software — a perk for subscribers — and the popular Mozilla Firefox Web browser, and Skype voice-calling software.

There’s a built-in microphone for audio input — all that’s missing, a la Apple’s latest portables — is an included video camera.

Portable computer keyboards are always a mixed bag: except for the very latest, and largest, models, users accustomed to a desktop PC will have to make some compromises. The inverted “T” cursor control keys are there, but a separate numeric key pad isn’t. Number crunchers who want to tote this 5 pound computer around will want a separate, optional device to plug into one of three included USB ports.

This is also a well-connected computer. With the built-in WiFi and Bluetooth wireless devices and the USB ports, there are output connectors for a TV screen or external monitor, a FireWire port, an Express Card port and a small reader for certain types of flash memory cards. If you are using Compact Flash cards, however, you will need an adapter for the computer’s PC Card slot.

To get the built-in microphone, with a “QuickPlay” feature that allows you to more easily watch DVDs and listen to CDs, you will have to spend $19 to add the “IMPRINT” finish, which Compaq says is “a smooth, high-gloss coating with a unique, inlaid design which provides greater durability.” I can’t affirm that, since I haven’t had the machine long enough, but the finish sure looks nice.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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