Critical Section


I Love My Evo

Tuesday,  07/01/03  10:40 PM

Compaq Evo N800cI love my Evo.  There, I said it.

I have a Compaq Evo N800c named "Maxwell", and it is great.  Truly we've broken into the clear as far as having laptops powerful enough to be desktop replacements.  I'm a professional programmer working on CPU-intensive image analysis software, and I can't imagine needing a more powerful machine.  My Evo has a 2Mhz P4, 1.5GB RAM, a 60GB hard drive, built-in 100MB Ethernet and WiFi, and it can drive my external 21" LCD digitally at 1600x1200x32.  Really, what more could I want?

Maxwell is named after Maxwell Smart, if you must know.  I've had a long line of laptops all named "Maxwell" for the past 11 years, going all the way back to an IBM Thinkpad 700C.  This first Maxwell - revolutionary in its day - had a 25MHz 486.  See, it was a "for 86", and Maxwell Smart was agent 86...  oh, well, you'll understand if you Get Smart.

There are a few things about my Evo which are terrific, and which set it apart from other laptops I have used:

  • Great battery life.  The Evo has a little bay which can hold either a second battery or a DVD / CD-R/RW drive.  With the second battery I get a legitimate 5 hours of working time.  That means I really don't have to carry my power brick around with me.  I can sit in the backyard, or go to the park, or go to Starbucks, or whatever, and truly work without wires.

Don't you just love it when someone brings their laptop to a meeting, and immediately plugs it into the wall?  Just like the way some people have their laptops shut down every time they close them, and then boot them when they open them again.  The funniest is when you see someone carrying their laptop open, so it doesn't shut down on them :)

  • Really bright screen.  This baby has a clear, bright 15" screen running at 1400x1050x32.  It is bright enough to use outside.  Really really.  I chose 1400x1050 over 1600x1200 (which is available on the Evo) because 1600x1200 on a 15" screen makes text too small to be easily readable.
     
  • Evo port replicatorTruly hot swappable.  When I'm in my office I simple press the laptop onto the port replicator, and poof, everything works.  The external monitor configures itself on the digital interface, the network connection automatically switches from WiFi to 100MB wired, the external keyboard and mouse work, etc.  Perhaps this is due to the magic in Windows XP Pro rather than the Compaq laptop drivers, but somehow the combination really works.  In the past I've always had a reconfiguration exercise every time I docked or undocked, which was bogus.
     
  • Awesome touchpad.  The Evo has a Synaptics touchpad with a lot of cool options.  The best is that you can scroll by drawing your finger down the side of the pad.  This is great when you don't have a scroll wheel.  Another important option is that it disables the touchpad briefly while you're typing, so if your palm brushes the touchpad it doesn't move the insertion point.  You can't appreciate this unless you've had a laptop without this feature.

There are some other "nice to haves" as well; good speakers (in the front, so you can listen to them with the lid closed), physical volume control, touchpad and pointing stick (the stick is useful on airplanes, where space is limited), and the fact that the drive bay is on the side (also useful on airplanes, so you can switch batteries in a limited space).  And it is thin, a good 1/4" thinner than Sony or Dell or Toshiba laptops.  Overall it has a really nice design, check out Compaq's 3D view of it...

Finally there is one feature that really sets my Evo apart from every other computer I've ever owned:  It doesn't crash.  Perhaps this is due to Windows XP Pro, but I think it also has a lot to do with the Compaq device drivers.  I can run all day long, plug things in, take them out, burn CDs, watch movies, dock, undock, suspend, resume, etc. without rebooting.  You've got to love that.

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