Compaq Presario R3000 Review

The R3000 is well-suited for the mobile professional or student who doesn't mind lugging around eight pounds, and the casual gamer
The R3000 is well-suited for the mobile professional or student who doesn't mind lugging around eight pounds, and the casual gamer
The R3000 is well-suited for the mobile professional or student who doesn't mind lugging around eight pounds, and the casual gamer

Highs

  • Internal flash card reader; sleek
  • durable casing; good configuration options.

Lows

  • Card reader lacking Compact Flash; no expandibility options for extra battery
  • hard drive or floppy drive; weighs over eight pounds.
Home > Product Reviews > Laptop Reviews > Compaq Presario R3000 Review

Summary

Compaq’s R3000 line of Pentium 4 notebooks is a solid performer with good looks and good features. While lacking some of the bells and whistles of other “multimedia friendly” competitors, its minimalist styling is both sleek and functional.

Backed by Compaq’s one-year limited hardware warranty, the R3000 series offers a host of configuration options and add-ons. With integrated ATI Radeon 9000 graphics and integrated Broadcom 54G wireless, the R3000 is well-suited for the mobile professional or student who doesn’t mind lugging around eight pounds, and the casual gamer who doesn’t need the highest settings in the latest games. Its powerful JBL Pro speakers, DVD and CDR/W combo drive and 15.4-inch screen make this an excellent choice for multimedia use as well.

At over eight pounds it certainly isn’t the most portable laptop available, but the weight compares favorably to competing products. If you’re looking for a sturdy laptop that is somewhere between ultra-portable and a desktop replacement, Compaq’s R3000 line, while not being flashy or innovative, is a good choice.

With the laptop PC marketplace flooding with both ultra-portable solutions and heavy desktop-replacement notebooks, some of the best deals can be found in the mid-sized category.

Take Compaq’s Presario R3000T platform for instance. The company offers the R3000T series with a 15.4-inch screen and a number of configurations that can keep it below the $1,000 price range or over $1,300. With integrated flash card readers, a host of optical drive options and good battery life, the R300T series has a lot to offer a wide range of consumers looking for a portable computer that won’t break the bank, or their backpack straps.


The R3000 series features a sturdy black plastic exterior and a silver interior finish.

Features and Design

While Compaq offers the R3000 series with several different configurations, our test machine for this review featured an Intel Pentium 4 processor at 2.8GHz and 512MB of PC2700 DDR memory. Our 15.4-inch widescreen model also included a 40GB Hitachi 4200RPM hard drive, ATI’s Radeon 9000 integrated graphics processor, and an internal Broadcom 802.11b/g mini-PCI card. Compaq sells the R3000 series with Microsoft’s Windows XP Home operating system or, as our system was configured, with Windows XP Pro.

The 15.4-inch WXGA TFT wide-angle screen runs at a native 1280×800 resolution. Compaq also offers the R3000 with WSXGA+ (1680×1050) and WUXGA (1920×1200) options, as well as a new “Brightview” version of the WXGA screen, which is supposed to offer a higher contrast image.

Smooth rounded corners give the black and sliver R3000 a sleek look that has proved to be quite durable over a few months of use. The top and bottom of the computer are black plastic with the center portion, including the keyboard and hand rest, finished in a thinner-feeling silver plastic. The bottom of the casing features solid rubber feet in each of the four corners and ridges throughout, presumably to help with heat dissipation.

Opting for a different design than some other laptops, Compaq has placed most of the expansion ports and interfaces on each side of the machine instead of at the rear. Those annoyed with having to turn a computer around or awkwardly reach behind it to plug in a USB device will appreciate Compaq’s design choice here. The only interfaces at the back of the computer are the legacy devices – a VGA monitor port, a parallel port, and a telephone modem. Although we had no use for it, we were happy to see a parallel port since many new laptops don’t include one, yet many people and businesses still have parallel-only printers.


The R3000 features 3 USB 2.0 ports – one on the left side and two on the right.

The left side of the R3000 features the optical drive, two USB 2.0 ports, a Type II/Type III PC Card slot and a 5-in-1 flash card reader. The reader can handle SmartMedia, MultiMedia Card, Secure Digital, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro flash storage formats. Missing is the popular Compact Flash format, but those with CF cards can find a PC Card adapter for under $20.

On the right side of the laptop is another USB 2.0 port, an IEEE 1394/Firewire port, audio controls and plugs, a 10/100 Ethernet port and an S-Video out. There is a button for volume up, volume down and mute as well as a headphone and a microphone jack. The right side also features a port that plugs into HP/Compaq’s notebook expansion base, an optional docking station that includes a wireless keyboard and mouse and built-in Altec Lansing speakers.

The front of the computer features a button for turning the internal wireless on or off, and amber lights indicating hard drive activity, system power, and AC/power. The system power button slowly flashes when in standby mode which is useful if you have closed the lid and can’t remember if you turned the power off or just went to standby. Also featured on the front panel are speaker grilles hiding the included JBL Pro speakers and a pushbutton to release the cover latch. The solid screen hinges and unique lid latch really gives the Presario R3000 a quality feel. We really liked this mechanism as the u-shaped metal latch was easy to open and release and kept the lid tight when closed.

With many competitors offering multimedia buttons on their laptops, the R3000 only offers the aforementioned volume buttons. Compaq’s keyboard utility configures the F-keys to be used as multimedia keys, but you have to push them in conjunction with the Function key. Since many media applications such as Winamp have keyboard shortcuts anyway, we found Compaq’s solution here to not be very useful and didn’t like having to use a two-key combo.

Testing and Usage

As we mentioned before, the keyboard really has a nice, soft feel to it and typing is comfortable, with plenty of room to rest your wrists. The ALPS pointing device is also simple to use and your finger glides easily across the surface. The two mouse buttons feature a rubberized center which felt strange at first, but became very useful as we found it easy to get a good grip on the button with your thumb.

The right side of the touchpad features an up and down scroll bar, allowing you to scroll through documents or Web pages with your finger. This takes some getting used to though, because if you don’t apply the right pressure to the scroll pad, the mouse will move up or down instead of actually scrolling the application window. Using the scroll pad with the same hand as you use the touch pad with may be a bit uncomfortable at first, but we soon got used to it and thought the function was quite useful.

One annoyance with the touchpad was its sensitivity when typing. Inadvertent thumb or finger presses while typing would move the mouse all over, often clicking out of input boxes or moving our cursor to an unwanted location of our document. This is easily fixed by selecting the “Hide pointer while typing” in the pointer configuration options, which prevents inadvertent tapping while typing. This feature worked and stopped that annoying behavior, but it was not turned on by default. The ALPS software also allows you to set up mouse gestures, such as tapping a corner to bring up the shortcut menu. While this was a nice feature, it will probably go unused by most. Finally, the touchpad has an on/off button which allows you to turn it off while using a USB mouse or typing.


The ALPS touchpad on the R3000 features soft, rubberized buttons, a scroll pad, and an on/off button.

ATI’s Radeon 9000 IGP is an integrated graphics processor, meaning that it is not upgradeable and it shares memory with the system memory. The Radeon 9000 can be configured in the BIOS to use 16, 32, 64, or 128MB of memory and ours was pre-configured with 128MB. 32MB was more than adequate for every application we tried except for gaming. DVDs, graphics applications, Web graphics and digital movies worked perfectly with the 32MB setting. We watched movies using all three options – a VGA monitor, a TV hooked up to the S-Video port and on the laptop screen itself, and all looked excellent.

We also did some gaming with the Radeon 9000 at the 128MB setting, having no problems playing games such as Call of Duty and Painkiller. Granted, we weren’t able to crank all of the resolution and eye-candy settings up, but the games were certainly playable and enjoyable. Maps sometimes take a while to load because the shared memory only leaves you with 384MB of system memory, but this is not meant to be a high-end gaming laptop.

Wireless performance with the Broadcom internal 54G mini PCI card was average and we have no complaints about it. We hooked up to a variety of 802.11b and 802.11g routers and networks, secure and not-so-secure and the card did a good job of obtaining and keeping a connection. We even found it to be better than the external D-Link DWL-G650 and Compex Waveport at obtaining a signal after coming out of standby. The Broadcom instantly connected to the network each time, while the others took a good 10 or 20 seconds to reconnect. The Broadcom card also did well at longer distances, keeping a steady signal at distances where the Compex and D-Link would start to fluctuate.

CD burning worked well too as the combo DVD reader and CD writer by Teac (model DW-224E-A) was able to burn CDs at 24x. The computer includes Roxio’s Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 Basic Edition, and all of our writes with that and Nero’s Burning ROM application were successful.

Battery life is often hard to quantify because of the different peripherals, settings and usage options. We were able to consistently get just over three hours with what we call “normal use” – which includes Web browsing and office applications. Intel’s mobile Pentium 4 technology adjusts processor speeds as needed and the proper settings can help extend your work time. The Presario R3000 comes with an 8-cell lithium-ion battery but can be upgraded to a 12-cell version.

We compared the R3000 to a few other notebooks, most notably the Dell Inspiron 8600, which has similar features and the same LCD screen. The Inspiron was decidedly heavier and the plastic was more susceptible to scratches. Compaq’s R3000 weighs in at around eight pounds, depending on your configuration.

Software and Upgrading

Compaq includes the usual “free” software with the R3600 bundle, and as is the case with other manufacturers, much of it was unwanted. But Compaq also does something that we haven’t seen with many other manufacturers: they provide a system restore disk with only the operating system and don’t force you to install the bundled third party applications. The company earns some nice points here because while we didn’t want all of the “junk” they gave us, it was easy to get rid of.

They also include a version of Intervideo’s WinDVD for watching DVDs and our model came with Microsoft’s Works and Money 2004. One notable “freebie” in the packaging is a free month of T-Mobile Hotspot, which we used for high-speed Web access at coffee shops and bookstores during a few business trips.

There is only one device slot on the Presario R3000 models, occupied by default with the optical drive. With floppy drives a dying option, this shouldn’t be an issue for most users, but we weren’t able to find any internal floppy drives or additional batteries that fit in the slot.

The R3000 line has two DDR memory slots and can handle up to 1GB of memory with two 512MB sticks. Access for one slot is through the keyboard on the top (this is the one populated by default at the factory) and the other is through an easier to access bottom slot.

Removing or replacing the battery is a simple process with the quick-release lever and the hard drive can be removed with two small Phillips-head screws. One thing we really like about the Dell Inspiron 8600 and some other laptops we’ve seen is the quick release option to expose the processor fan or heatsink. This allows you to easily clean the dust out of the fins of the heatsink. Unfortunately the R3000 doesn’t have such a feature, but the heatskink fins are exposed through a plastic grate, allowing them to be cleaned with a vacuum.

There isn’t much besides the memory that can be easily upgraded. With the integrated graphics solution those thinking of future proofing their laptops for upcoming games may want to look at more upgradeable options.

Conclusion

Compaq’s R3000 line of Pentium 4 notebooks is a solid performer with good looks and good features. While lacking some of the bells and whistles of other “multimedia friendly” competitors, its minimalist styling is both sleek and functional.

Backed by Compaq’s one-year limited hardware warranty, the R3000 series offers a host of configuration options and add-ons. With integrated ATI Radeon 9000 graphics and integrated Broadcom 54G wireless, the R3000 is well-suited for the mobile professional or student who doesn’t mind lugging around eight pounds, and the casual gamer who doesn’t need the highest settings in the latest games. Its powerful JBL Pro speakers, DVD and CDR/W combo drive and 15.4-inch screen make this an excellent choice for multimedia use as well.

At over eight pounds it certainly isn’t the most portable laptop available, but the weight compares favorably to competing products. If you’re looking for a sturdy laptop that is somewhere between ultra-portable and a desktop replacement, Compaq’s R3000 line, while not being flashy or innovative, is a good choice.