Construction: Field Tested
Charger – The charger for the V4000 is small in size, compared to the chargers of other notebooks. Of the notebooks we have looked at recently, the closest thing to its size are the chargers for IBM's ThinkPad notebooks. If you are familiar with our HP ZE2000 review, the V4000 uses the same charger (65W). The only thing we don't like about the charger design is that it doesn't provide a way to tie up extra cabling.
Display – Compaq only offers two display options for the V4000: 15.4" WXGA (native 1280 x 800) or 15.4" WXGA BrightView (native 1280 x 800).
This notebook is clearly a multimedia focused notebook, as the power thin profile is perfect for the multimedia junkie once it is paired with a 15.4" wide aspect ratio display. For consumer multimedia notebooks, this is the optimal display size for the power thin notebook. It goes without saying that a 15.4" comes with the down side of making any notebook more immobile than something with a display of the 14.1" or 15.0" variety.
The only difference between the two displays offered is the use of BrightView, which is Compaq's and HP's way of referring to glare type LCD displays. We need to clear up the glare type issue, as this has been discussed by many but few people really understand the benefit and disadvantages. First, the glare type display does make just about any multimedia experience relating to video viewing better, provided a top notch display panel is used. However, it is not due to the better specs of the LCD display panel. Instead, the glare coating provides a way for us to view/perceive an increase in vivid colors, text, background via an increase in contrast.
The down side is that even under normal lighting conditions, there is going to be some glare from lighting sources if you focus your eyes on the reflective spots on the screen. The advantage is fairly visible once you switch to a dark theater like setting, where a side by side comparison is noticeable in the tone of say a person's skin. Under normal lighting conditions, like an office or library, the advantage of glare type LCDs is still visible, but you are going to have to get use to glare from near by light sources. As you move to the outdoors, glare type displays are out of their element, as the images looks duller.
There is still a catch when it comes to the multimedia experience. Without a sufficiently bright display to add the glare coating on, the multimedia experience can be better and / or worse. This is where glare type displays set themselves apart. For example, we were watching Wyatt Earp side by side (the one with K. Costner) on the Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2 (glare), Dell Inspiron 8600 (no glare), and the Compaq Presario V4000 (glare). When we got to garden and wilderness scenes, the foliage and green on the glare displays was a deeper hue that gave off a more realistic feel. However, once we got to the gun fight at the Ok Corral, the Compaq V4000 was at a particular disadvantage as the brightness of the panel was lower compared to the other two laptops. The characters, background, and dust seen on the Compaq V4000 were all deeper hues in a setting that was suppose to be bright and light, as the characters shot up the alley with the sun boring down on them. Unfortunately, given that Compaq hasn't chosen a top of the line display panel, the V4000's average display panel along with glare coating is going to be caught at a disadvantage in such scenes.
Movies that have really dark scenes, though, won't be affected in the same way without a significantly bright display to add the glare coating on. There will be more "vividness" in those scenes, but it will come at the cost of having more portions of the scene in the shadows. For example, we watched Underworld and Matrix Reloaded on all three computers and found that the first combat scene between Neo and the agents was harder to view on the V4000 because there was a loss of detail, albeit a small amount. This was partially because of the glare coating, which deepen the hues of all colors used in the scene, enough so that the faintly visible shadows became as dark as the dark night. When designed right, this won't be a problem, though the glare will still be something to contend with. For the business person and professional, there is no point in choosing this feature. Though there is the benefit of clarity even in business apps, no one wants the distracting reflective glare when they are word processing.
With 11 display settings, the display has a reasonably good range from bright to dim. However, at its brightest setting (11) it still isn't as bright as the display on our older Dell Inspiron 8600 (15.4" UltraSharp WUXGA). Though, this is still what we would consider a bright multimedia display. Not poor quality, but somewhere in the average or slightly above average range. The dimmest setting (1) is a bit too dark for us to be comfortable to use in a dark room. At that level, you really shouldn't be doing anything multimedia related, as the dim scene doesn't do anything to enhance the multimedia experience. Even for typing, we recommend level 4 or 5. The battery and AC settings do not share the same brightness levels (battery settings are skewed a little dimmer than AC).
Fan - The fan was on the majority of the time we had the notebook running. In general, the notebook is quiet, other than the almost inaudible whirling fan, which speeds up intermittently and is slightly louder than the hard drive. Just sitting in normal typing posture should allow you to hear the CPU fan, but it is certainly is not as loud as a desktop tower. In a dead quiet library, you will hear the fan and so will the person next to you, but it isn't loud enough to cause a distraction. In a typical office setting, you probably won't be able to make out the noise that well.
When the fan went to max speed, it was louder than the hum from the hard drive and pretty close to the volume of accessing a DVD in the optical drive. If you are watching a movie and the fan stays at max, it gets a bit distracting.
Generally, the fan only went to max speed once we were getting into CPU intensive loads. If you are just milling through your "run of the day" computer routine: email, word processing, browsing, etc.. the fan will come on intermittently when needed and drop down to low speed quickly. When we were watching a two hour Divx encoded movie (30% CPU load max), we noticed the fan only went to max speed 4 or 5 times for short intervals.
Heat – After about five plus hours of straight use, the notebook was still relatively cool to the touch. The only place that got warm was the bottom of the notebook where the CPU, northbridge, memory, and WiFi card were situated - below the left side of the keyboard, slightly off center and the bottom left corner. Compared to other power thin notebooks, this stays relatively cooler than the rest. Even with the 2.0GHz Pentium-M, it got relatively warm, but not enough to be considered toasty. Since Compaq only currently offers 1.5GHz, 1.6GHz, or 1.73GHz Pentium-M, any currently purchased V4000 will probably be slightly cooler. Basically, you should be able to hold your hand over the spot without flinching. In your lap, the heat shouldn't make you uncomfortable.