Construction: Field Testing
Charger –The charger for the TC4200 (65W) is pretty typical of what we see from the HP/Compaq notebook lines. It is a simple, straight forward AC charger with no special design to tie up extra cabling, apart from using twist ties. Hopefully we will see some improvements on this front in the future.
Display –HP/Compaq offers only one display configuration option for the TC4200: 12.1" wide angle TFT XGA LCD (native 1024 x 768).
For the Tablet PC form factor, this size is the optimal choice. Any larger and you get a mobile PC that is harder to be mobile with, while smaller displays may be a possible avenue in the future.
Unlike most displays, the TC4200 has a gradient brightness scale, wherein there are no exact levels. Instead, it's more like working with a fade dial. If you just simply press the brightness buttons like with any other laptop, you can get about 16 "levels" in between the lowest and brightest settings. The dimmest setting is a bit too dark for us to be comfortable with in a dark room, but it would do just fine if you aren't interacting with the system but instead need to conserve battery life while monitoring what is going on. The brightest setting isn't super bright, but it is one of the brighter 12.1" displays we have seen on notebooks, both from the consumer and business lines. In a dark room you are better off at "level 2," if you don't want to strain your eyes. AC and battery brightness levels are not the same (battery is skewed about 50% lower).
As far as any multimedia use goes, watching a DVD obviously is not optimal on this display. The dark scenes are too dark, and the light scenes are not bright enough. This is to be expected of a business class notebook, though. We would therefore describe it as "capable of multimedia" but not "optimized for multimedia." For a business notebook, this can be considered a reasonably bright display. If you put it side by side with the X41, though, you can tell it is still shy of the X41's highest brightness level.
Fan - The fan was active about half of the time the system was turned on. In general, the notebook is quiet, other than the almost inaudible hum of the hard drive, which is louder than the fan at mid speed. If the system is idle, the fan just stops spinning all together. In our field tests, we were constantly using the system, so for the majority of the time the fan was active.
At mid speed ("normal speed"), it is definitely not loud, as it is less audible than the hum of the hard drive. Just sitting in normal typing posture should allow you to just make out the CPU fan, but it is certainly what we would consider to be one of the quieter heat dissipation designs. On a flight, the person next to you probably won't notice it running. In a dead quiet library, you should be able to make out the fan, while the person next to you will probably just barely be able to make it out. From a distance of 2 feet (in a reasonably quiet room), you shouldn't really be able to make out the noise unless you concentrate.
When the fan went to max speed, it has what we would describe as a soft whirling sound. It isn't loud, but nor is it unnoticeable. Compared to its "normal speed," it is about 15% louder. If you are sitting with a normal posture (in a quiet room), you should be able to clearly hear the noise, but it is not what we would consider loud. On a flight, it still isn't loud enough for us to consider it an audio nuisance to the person sitting next to you. From a distance of 3 feet (in a reasonably quiet room), you should just be able to make out the noise. Compared to the click of the touchpad buttons, the fan at max speed is slightly louder.
Generally, the notebook only went to max speed once we were getting into CPU intensive loads, and only for around 25 seconds when it did. If you are just going through your daily computer routine: email, word processing, browsing, etc., the fan speeds up when needed and then drops back down to low speed. If you are staying in the 85%+ CPU range, the fan will mostly stay on until the strain on CPU resources drop. We were watching an uncompressed HDTV file (1080i) which kept the CPU usage in the 65% to 85% range. During that time the fan just simply turned on a few times to max speed then slowed down and turned back off. This happened about five or six times during the course of about 10 minutes.
Heat –After about three plus hours of use, the notebook was still relatively cool to the touch. The only place that got warm was the spot below the CPU, chipset and WiFi card, which is basically the whole spot under the keyboard. For CPU intensive operations, you will certainly find it to be somehwat warm, but not an intolerable heat unless you are using it for long periods of time. Basically, you should still feel comfortable and should not feel the need to shuffle or flinch while the notebook sits in your lap. Remember that the TC4200 uses Pentium-Ms that are rated faster than the typical 1.5GHz on the X41 Tablet, so the level of heat dissipation is higher.