Tools Of The Trade: The HP Compaq 6610 laptop

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The Independent Online

Compaq was one of the pioneers of the portable PC, but the brand almost disappeared following the Texan company's takeover by HP. Sensibly, HP has now restored the name to its portable computer range.

Compaq was one of the pioneers of the portable PC, but the brand almost disappeared following the Texan company's takeover by HP. Sensibly, HP has now restored the name to its portable computer range.

But while the new 6610 carries the Compaq brand, it looks very much an HP machine. It is positioned at the value end of the laptop market, with models starting at £499 for the most basic configuration.

As a result, the design of the 6610 is hardly spectacular. It is not especially light or compact, and the unit's dark grey colour makes it appear a little larger than it is. Nor is it a machine that would look all that attractive in the living room - though, admittedly, it is marketed by HP as a business computer.

What it does offer, however, is HP build quality. Quite a few of the portable computers reviewed on this page have fallen down on their construction. Flimsy cases and parts that look as if they could break easily do not make for a good portable machine. By contrast, while the 6610 might not feel quite as solid as an IBM Thinkpad, it comes very close.

One penalty for ruggedness is weight. At 2.7kg, the 6610 is relatively hefty by current laptop standards. But a 15-inch screen that is clear and bright makes up for this, and the extra weight makes the laptop feel more sturdy on the desk.

The 6610 also comes with quite a reasonable specification, given its price. The top-of-the- range model, at £799, has a 1.73Ghz processor, 512MB memory (expandable to 2GB) and a 60GB hard drive. Especially welcome at this price is an optical drive capable of writing both DVDs and CDs.

Playback from the DVD is not quite up to the standards of Toshiba or Apple portables, but it is certainly good enough for presentations and passing time on long-haul flights. And the ability to write DVDs is very useful, as it is a cheap and easy way to back up important data.

Wireless networking is pretty much mandatory on laptops today, and the 6110 has a built-in connection for the 802.11 b and g standards. It also comes with microphone inputs and a line out, USB 2 and a Firewire connector for high-speed add-ons such as a hard drive, or to use with a video camera.

An omission that seems a little strange is Bluetooth. This is not built in on the 6610. There are plenty of inexpensive Bluetooth USB adaptors, but built-in versions are generally more reliable and work better with mobile phones, especially to connect to the internet.

But this is a relatively minor drawback. Given its features and build quality, the 6610 is a solid business laptop, sensibly priced.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pros: build quality, value for money.

Cons: pedestrian design, no Bluetooth.

Price: from £499; model tested £799 (ex VAT).

Contact: www.hp.co.uk

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