Compaq – Armada E500 P3850 review

850MHz power in an all-in-one notebook
Photo of Compaq – Armada E500 P3850
£2,770 + VAT

The Armada E500 is Compaq’s most powerful corporate notebook, following an update which now puts an 850MHz PIII SpeedStep in the driving seat. Being beefy, Compaq and corporate means a correspondingly inflated price, but let’s face it, this is hardly unusual for brand-name corporate kit.

The look of the thing is stripped down, angular and faintly militaristic, which should appeal to the serious business user both for its conservatism and distant whiff of the battlefield. The build is good, with a solid, inflexible case body and a magnesium alloy lid to protect the screen, so it should stand up to a moderate amount of real world abuse without coming over all faint.

It weighs 3.45kg, which is noticeable if you have to cart it around for any distance, but if you are going any further than from the lift to the Merc, there’s always luggage trolleys. The weight is partly accounted for by the fact that this is a three-spindle machine, so apart from the power supply, there’s nothing else to add to the payload.

The 8-speed DVD-ROM drive and floppy drive supplied with the review sample are both removable, so you can tweak the specification without needing to open the case up. The options on offer include an LS-120 drive, plain CD-ROM, and a second battery pack if you need a longer running time.

You can also remove the 20GB IBM TravelStar hard disk quickly and easily, and there’s a spare memory socket under the keyboard, so basic repairs and upgrades will be simple enough to carry out in-house if desired.

The same applies to the internal V.90 modem and 10/100Mbps Fast Ethernet adapter, which are combined on a MiniPCI card. This is vastly easier to remove and replace than many proprietary components, and of course there’s a wider choice of available parts if you need to upgrade in the future.

The Armada has a nice, spacious keyboard which makes typing relatively straightforward, and Compaq has gone beyond the standard XGA screen and fitted this notebook with a 15-inch panel that runs in SXGA+, which is 1400 x 1050 in dots and lines. This means much more workspace to play with, and is another plus for the machine in general.

Used continuously, the Armada should keep going for up to 3.5 hours, which is reasonable for a powerful system like this, and performance was excellent thanks to a balanced configuration with no bottlenecks, which let the CPU do its stuff. Pricey, but impressive all the same, and with the Compaq name on the badge, this is likely to do well despite the cost.

Company: Compaq

Contact: 0845 2704000

This machine is probably not ideal for the typical private buyer or small business, but is likely to appeal to corporates looking for a seriously powerful notebook. Regrettably expensive, but very nicely done all the same.