SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - On a tight budget but want a notebook for all the basics--e-mail, Web browsing, simple word processing, and personal finance?
Check out Compaq Computer Corp.'s new Presario 1200XL-450. At just US$999, it packs a good set of features for the price.
The unit's Advanced Micro Devices Inc. K6-2-450 processor gets the job done, but you may feel constrained by the default 32MB of RAM. Invest a little more ($99), and you can get a beefier 64MB. This Windows 98 SE system also comes with a fairly roomy 5GB hard disk and gives you both a built-in floppy disk drive and a 10X-24X CD-ROM drive. Also included: a built-in 56-kbps modem, plus lots of software from Compaq and trial offers from other vendors to help you get started on the Net quickly. The 12-inch HPA dual-scan screen looks good, though it isn't as sharp as an active-matrix display.
Like other notebooks in the Presario line, this one carries a responsive Synaptics touchpad and a comfortable, full-size keyboard. Unfortunately, the latter is a bit clicky, which may take some getting used to. Like other Presario models, the 1200 XL-450 provides lots of buttons for one-touch access to e-mail, Web browsing, online shopping, and other sites. Among the default button settings is Compaq's own My Presario, which links you to support and information about your system that we'd have preferred to find included on the hard disk itself.
Still, the Compaq guide and manual are clear and reasonably comprehensive, walking you through the basics as well as through more sophisticated topics such as upgrades and troubleshooting. Compaq's solid software bundle includes McAfee VirusScan 4.3 and Microsoft Works Suite 2000--with Word 2000, Encarta, and Money Standard Edition.
Weighing 7.8 pounds, this mobile package does make compromises, but it gets you started quickly and can adequately handle most tasks--so it's a pretty good deal at this price point. If you're considering the unit for a college-bound student, however, be sure to get more RAM and an ethernet PC Card.
PRO: Low cost, easy to use, good software bundle.
CON: Needs more RAM, could use an ethernet PC Card.
VALUE: Definite compromises, but good features for the price.
List price: $999