The HP Compaq 2230s is an ultra-portable consumer notebook that is targeted towards small businesses similar to the Dell Vostro or Lenovo SL series line of machines. This notebook gives consumers a less expensive option than the HP EliteBook series, with a starting price of $999 instead of $1,679. How well does the 2230s hold up against business-grade notebooks? Should you purchase one of these or consider a similarly-priced consumer notebook? Let's take a closer look and find out.
Our review unit of the HP Compaq 2230s came with the following options:
* Windows XP Professional
* Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26GHz)
* 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM (maximum capacity 8GB)
* 160GB Toshiba HDD (5400rpm)
* 12.1" diagonal widescreen glossy TFT LCD display at 1280x 800 (WXGA, glossy)
* Intel 4500MHD Integrated Graphics
* 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
* Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100AGN (802.11a/g/n)
* Bluetooth 2.0
* Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.7 x 1.21”
* Weight: 3lbs 14.6oz, 4lbs 11.4oz with AC adapter
* 65W 100-240V AC adapter
* 4-cell (37Wh) Lithium Ion battery
* Price as tested: $1,249 (starting price: $999)
Build and Design
The design of the HP Compaq 2230s is somewhat like a black Apple MacBook, with a clean all-black plastic exterior. As far as business notebooks go, it is HP’s attempt to compete with the Dell Vostro line, offering a more consumer look and feel to a business notebook. The all-black color scheme continues into the interior of the notebook, with the palmrest, touchpad, keyboard, and trim all covered in matching black. An interesting design change over a consumer notebook is the touch sensitive controls above the keyboard which normally activate media functions. On the HP 2230s, these control system functions such as external displays, wireless on/off, and volume.
The build quality turned out to be very unappealing and unlike what we've come to expect from a business or even small business grade notebook. The moment you pick up the 2230s you'll notice a great deal of flex in the screen cover from very thin unsupported plastic. Opening up the notebook you find the same thing around the main chassis, with weak plastic surrounding the keyboard. The palmrest has plenty of flex on either side, with the side above the optical drive being the worse of the two. On the optical drive side you have flex on the palmrest as well as the bottom shell when gripping the notebook from the side. The notebook feels more like a budget consumer notebook than a small business notebook with a starting price of $999. The only real advantage of the thin plastic material used is the total notebook weight is kept at a minimum. Unfortunately, the thin plastics don't give this notebook a feeling of durability.
The glossy WXGA display on the HP Compaq 2230s is pretty nice, with vibrant colors and high contrast. Black levels are average with some grey apparent in dark settings depending on the angle you are viewing the panel. Vertical viewing angles are adequate for regular day-to-day use, but colors invert when outside of the 10-15 degree up or down sweet spot. Horizontal viewing angles are better, keeping colors true even to the very edge of being able to still see the screen from the side of the notebook. Brightness levels are above average, enough to comfortably view the screen in a bright office setting. Using the notebook outside would be limited with the glossy display because of reflections, but should be fine as long as you are under shade.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard could be considered one of the redeeming factors of this notebook, offering a very comfortable typing surface with very solid support. Unlike the screen cover, palmrest, or case, the keyboard exhibits no flex at all ... even under strong pressure. Individual key action is smooth with a muted click when fully pressed. Key spacing and size is excellent even with the small 12” form factor. The only part I feel could be improved is the size of the function keys, which are almost 1/3 the overall size of a standard key.
The touchpad is a Synaptics model, with a smooth matte texture surface that is seamless with the palmrest. The size is great without feeling cramped, offering plenty of space even with the scroll bar section. The touchpad buttons have a long throw offering soft feedback with no audible clicks.
Performance and Benchmarks
System performance with the Intel P8400 processor and 2GB of memory with Windows XP was great. The notebook had excellent boot and shutdown times, and showed no signs of lag throughout day-to-day applications. Graphics performance was limited with the Intel 4500MHD integrated chipset, but the advantage of the integrated chipset is greater battery life. If you were looking to spice up your day at work with a game or two, older games such as Half-Life would run very well on the slower graphics found inside this notebook.
Another potentially performance-related feature worth mentioning is that HP provides a Windows Vista license and offers business customers the option of keeping Vista installed on the notebook or having a "custom install" of Windows XP direct from the factory. For those businesses that still prefer to run their office network with Windows XP machines, this is an important feature you won't find on consumer notebooks.
wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.
Speakers and Audio
Speaker performance was limited, with poor bass and midrange, and low peak volume levels. For watching the occasional streaming news clip or YouTube video they would work just fine, but for movies and music your best bet is a nice pair of headphones.
Audio output quality was great with my Sennheiser HD80 headphones connected. Peak volume levels were well above anything I would want to listen to.
Ports and Features
The HP Compaq 2230s offers an impressive amount of features for a notebook with integrated Intel graphics. It offers three USB ports, HDMI and VGA out, ExpressCard/34 and multi-card reader, an optical drive, and modem and network connections. Being the small business notebook that it is, the 2230s also has a touch-sensitive panel to quickly access monitor out features, the HP Info Center, wireless on/off, and volume controls.
Rear: Screen hinge
Left: AC Power, LAN, Modem, one USB, Optical drive
Right: ExpressCard/34, Mutli-Card Reader, HDMI, two USB, VGA, Kensington Lock Slot
Heat and Noise
The cooling system on this notebook worked very well, keeping the system cool to the touch even while it was under a stressful load. Under battery power the system fan remained off the majority of the time, only spinning up if you were doing something processor intensive. The moment you plug the machine into AC power the fan turns on at low speed, which could best be described as a quiet drone. While benchmarking the system the fan noise increased quite a bit, but it kept system temperatures in check.
Battery performance was good considering the stock battery in the HP Compaq 2230s is only a 4-cell 37Wh model. This is probably the smallest battery found in a business notebook, and has no upgrade path to a larger battery. In our testing the average power draw from the notebook settled around 9 watts under a standard load. With the screen brightness set to 60 percent, wireless enabled and active, and the power profile set to "Portable/Laptop" the HP Compaq 2230s managed 3 hours and 30 minutes before it shutdown at 5 percent remaining. For a business notebook of this size we would normally expect a larger battery and battery life exceeding five hours.
The HP Compaq 2230s is a conservative-looking notebook with some features targeted towards small business users. Unlike most business or small business notebooks, this notebook doesn’t offer the rugged feel, only a rugged look. The plastic used throughout the design is weak even when compared to the HP Pavilion lineup. While the keyboard is impressive, it doesn’t outweigh the lackluster build quality. For small businesses my best recommendation would be to look at notebooks such as the HP Pavilion tx2500z or stepping up to the HP EliteBook series.
* Solid keyboard
* Nice touchpad and soft touch buttons
* VGA and HDMI output with Intel 4500MHD integrated graphics
* Excellent cooling system
* Availabile with Windows XP for customers who still want it
* Flexible chassis
* High price considering configuration and durability
* 4-cell battery option only
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