Construction: Field Testing (cont.)
Keyboard - The ZE2000Z's keyboard is similar to other keyboards we have seen from HP. There is a good level of tactile feedback but not as much in our opinion as HP's business end notebooks, e.g., the NC6000. However, this keyboard is probably better than the average consumer end notebook. We should note that there is a more audible "click" that can be heard when you hit the keys. Some people like this and some don't; it is really a matter of preference.
We have only two problems with the layout. First, the home/end/page up/page down keys are all clustered on the right hand side. While this means you don't have to stretch your fingers to access them, you don't get the same feel for the notebook because their placement is counterintuitive when it comes to keyboard ergonomics. "Correct" placement is debatable but, generally speaking, it should be a three by two button arrangement in the upper right hand corner. The second problem we have is that the keyboard seems to be spaced too close to the front. As you can see, HP has enough real estate to space it further up. The fact that they didn't might make it uncomfortable for those who don't like having their wrists sit close to or on the edge of the notebook.
LEDs - Other than the four LEDs placed on the front of the system, there is no secondary strip of LEDs for keyboard key status indicators like caps lock. Instead, caps and num lock have their LEDs situated right next to the keys themselves (orange when active). (There is no LED for scroll lock.) The only other things that light up are the icons on the power, mute, and wireless buttons (orange, orange, and blue, respectively).
Touchpad & Buttons - More recently, HP seems to be using touchpads that have good durability and good traction, and the ZE2000Z continues that trend. Compared to most, the only difference is that the texture on the touchpad is made of similar material as the black chassis, which means there is likelihood that you will wear it down. While some may find it annoying, HP uses a touchpad that has a scroll region for quick scrolling. We do note that you should be able to turn this feature off and use the "extra" width of the touchpad for more real estate in mouse movement.
As for the buttons, our qualm is that they are a bit smaller than what we would have liked to have seen. Ideally, they should be about 25% larger in height. The smaller than expected size shouldn't affect usage too much though. The only problem we had was that, because the keyboard was spaced further down, by default so was the touchpad, which may make it feel like it is harder to switch between the two if you have large hands. We should also note that the buttons require more pressure than other typical touchpads. The best way we can describe it is that the buttons require a "hard click."
Speakers & Microphone - Unfortunately, there is no integrated microphone on the ZE2000Z, which is too bad for those who like such things as audio messaging. The only way to get a microphone running is to hook one up via the microphone port.
The Altec Lansing speakers on the ZE2000Z at max volume are loud enough so that someone in the next room can easily hear what you are listening to. Compared to the Harmon Kardon speakers on the ZE2000, they fall just short of the same max volume output (the ZE2000Z's 100% is about the same as the ZE2000's 95%). This is the first of several differences we noticed, as the speakers on the ZE2000Z are really more in keeping with a budget theme than being great for multimedia use. For example, we could start to hear distortion in Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" once we hit the 35% volume level. It's too bad that the ZE2000Z didn't use the same speakers as the ZE2000. For a budget notebook, those Harmon Kardon speakers were nothing short of spectacular.