Construction: Field Testing
Charger - The charger for the ZE2000Z (65W) is fairly small compared to other notebooks its size, and it is the same one used by the ZE2000. Since the power port is on the side of the notebook, though, we were a bit surprised to see it use a straight power connector. The best design is to have the power port on the back side of the notebook with a straight power plug. A straight power connector plugged into the side of a notebook only means that if there isn't enough slack, your power connector might have its cable kinked in a certain direction after a while. In the long run, this might make the wiring come loose.
Display - HP's ZE2000Z has a 15.0" XGA LCD (native 1024 x 768) that comes with two configuration options: with or without BrightView.
BrightView is simply HP's way of referring to the glare type LCD display. We need to clear up the glare type issue, as this has been discussed by many people but few really understand its benefits and disadvantages. First, the glare type display does make just about any multimedia experience related to video and 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 gives us the ability to perceive more vivid colors, sharper text, and crisper background images via an increased contrast ratio, which the glare coating provides.
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 pretty 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 in an office or library, the advantage of glare type LCDs is still visible, but you are going to have to get used to glare from nearby light sources. As you move to the outdoors, glare type displays are out of their element, as the screen looks duller.
As we have mentioned in the past, a glare type display can and will make the viewing experience worse when it comes to significantly light or dark scenes. What you really need is to have a top notch display paired with the glare coating in order to avoid these problems. After using the ZE2000Z with a BrightView display for a couple of weeks, we have a few remarks. As far as the quality of the display goes, it is better than average. However, once you add on BrightView, it is more like something that is better than decent (though not great, mind you). Much of any loss in vividness will actually be the result of the viewing angle, as this display seems to be more sensitive to angles than others we have encountered in the past. If you are more of a multimedia person, BrightView may have some benefits. Otherwise, we recommend steering clear.
All of the brightness settings seem to be spaced the same number of lumens apart (the battery and AC levels are the same). If at all possible, you should stick with the highest setting, which makes the images on the display look pretty good given the right viewing angle. At its lowest setting, the display is still bright enough to use in a dark room but it will get to be a strain on the eyes after an hour or two, in our opinion. With many 15.0" displays, an XGA native resolution can seem almost unnatural, like a low resolution picture blown up. When it comes to the ZE2000Z, the display isn't as crystal clear as the non-BrightView display we got with our ZE2000, but this may just be a matter of having a BrightView display. It's really hard to pinpoint the cause of the difference, but that is what we suspect to be the reason. And so, while it isn't as crystal clear, overall it is still a decent display. We'd say it is a sharp display, just not super sharp. Text isn't fuzzy or anything, but once you have tried so many notebooks, you tend to be able to quickly pick out the minor differences. Other than that the only downside to this display is that you are limited to 1024 x 768. Personally, we are more comfortable with 1400 x 1050 when it comes to a 15.0" display, but for the average computer user, tasks like word processing, email, etc... will suit this notebook just fine. Meanwhile, we contend that this isn't the best glare type display for multimedia applications. The darks are dark and the brights are bright, but they aren't dark or bright enough. In dark movies, the dark scenes are sufficiently rendered, but the degree of vividness we normally expect from a glare type display isn't there. We chalk this up to the ZE2000Z being a budget notebook.
Fan - Just about all fans on current and reasonably current notebooks use a variable speed design, which allows for low speeds during low CPU usage/heat and vice versa. The fan used in the ZE2000Z seems to be different than the one used in the ZE2000, but this makes sense due to the different heat characteristics between mobile Intel and AMD CPUs.
At a CPU utilization of about 20% (playing an MP3 file) we were looking at about two, eight second intervals of mid-speed fan activity, which are loud enough to be heard if you sitting right in front of the computer. If you are about 4 feet away, it sounds like a soft whirling noise that can just be clearly made out. If you are doing operations which require high performance (80%+ CPU utilization), you will likely be looking at a combination of mid and max speed activity (max is about 15% louder than mid). During a one minute session of HDTV playback with a 1080i file, we were looking at continuous mid-speed fan activity along with several 10 second periods of max speed activity. Note that mid and max speed are clearly louder than the hum of the hard drive.
Heat - Because this is a value notebook geared towards a lower price range, the components are not HP's highest offerings. This means that performance isn't going to be as high and, by default, neither is heat. However, seeing as AMD's mobile CPUs don't function in the same realm as Intel's Pentium-Ms, the heat characteristics may be different than what you would normally expect from a budget notebook.
The only places on the notebook that got warm were the upper and lower areas of the left side (assuming you are looking at the back of the notebook), as well as the center. This is where the CPU, hard drive, and memory are located, respectively.