Pros: CPU, Floppy, DVD/CD-RW, Display
Cons: RAM Upgrade Issue, Video RAM
Time to look for a new laptop for a sales representative again and one major candidate is the HP ze5170. At an average price of $1,850, it's a pretty good buy for a lot of power, but not perfect. Read on to see if maybe this is the model for you.
(PRO) The ze5170 has an Intel Pentium 4 CPU at 2.0GHz with a front side bus speed of 400MHz. This is a great CPU for just about any use and powerful enough to handle most graphic and gaming needs. But keep in mind the video card plays a major role in gaming performance and I'll get to that in a little bit.
It also comes with 512MB of DDR RAM in a configuration of two 256MB chips in two slots. (CON) You can upgrade the RAM up to 1024MB, but you have to remove the two 256MB chips and buy two 512MB chips, basically wasting RAM and money to do so.
Operating System and Software
The ze5170 comes with Windows XP Home Edition, a good OS for personal use and will support many games, but not the best for business uses with higher security. It also comes with Outlook Express 6.0, MS Fax services, Internet Explorer 6.0 and MS Firewall.
Other preloaded programs include Arcsoft Photo Editing, something called Funhouse I never heard of before, Photo Impressions 4, a greeting card program, HP Memories Disc, WinDVD, HP Record Now, CyberLink PowerDirector Pro VE, Jukebox 7.0, and Wild Tangent 3D Games. It also has Quicken and Intuit financial software, Encyclopedia Britannica Ready Reference, Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0, Corel WordPerfect 9, Corel Quattro Pro 9, Norton AntiVirus 2002, and Zone Alarm firewall.
The ze5170 has a 40GB ATA 100 IDE hard drive, which is plenty of storage for most users. The only case it may not be is if you are storing a lot of movies or music.
(PRO) It also has DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, something many new laptops have. This model is a 24x CD-ROM reader, 8x writer and re-writer, and an 8x DVD-ROM reader. Great for many uses, such as watching movies, using software on DVDs, backing up data to CD-Rs or CD-RWs, making music CDs, or just reading plain old CD-ROMs.
(PRO) The ze5170 has a 1.44MB floppy drive, many newer models do not and some people still need them for quick file transfers, drivers or some digital cameras.
Connections and Expansion Slots
The ze5170 has 2 type II PCMCIA card slots for various expansion needs, such as a SCSI or firewire card.
Connections include 2 USB, 1 parallel (printer) port, RJ-11 (modem) and RJ-45 (Ethernet), a port rep connection, microphone and headphone jacks, firewire (IEEE1394), and a VGA connector for an external monitor.
No serial or PS/2 connections for external keyboards or mice, have to use the USB ports instead which really is not a problem because USB keyboards and mice are very cheap now.
Video, Display and Sound
The ze5170 has an ATI MOBILITY RADEON (M6P AGP-4X 3D Graphics) with 32MB of shared system RAM. (CON) From what I read, this can not be increased. This is a decent card for playing games and working with most graphic programs, but because it can not be upgraded, this isn't the best model for game enthusiasts.
The ze5170 has a 15 inch TFT LCD screen that supports a max resolution of 1028 x 768. The colors seem nice and crisp and the display is very bright with seemingly a decent viewing angle. There was no noticeable color distortion.
Is also has 16-bit SoundBlaster Pro compatible sound card with dual built in speakers that sound okay, not great though. I would not recommend the speakers for gaming or surround sound. But there are not many notebooks that have great speakers because of the size constraints. For gaming and movie watching, it is probably best to use earphones or hook up to external speakers.
The ze5170 has an integrated 10/100 Ethernet card, good for office use, home networks, and/or a broadband internet connection.
It also has a 56Kbps modem that can be used for slower internet connections and/or RAS office connections.
Looks, Size and Weight
It is 1.79 inches high, 12.96 inches wide and 10.72 inches deep. The ze5170 weights about 7.5 lbs. About average for a notebook with its specs, a little on the heavy side, but a trade off for having a large screen, floppy and CD drive.
The ze5170 is very clean looking with smooth lines and rounded corners. It is dark blue and black plastic with silver trim. Not amazingly unique looking, but has a little style.
The ze5170 has a full size 87-key keyboard that HP states is spill resistant, but I do not recommend testing this with the morning coffee. There is also four programmable buttons that can be used to open specific applications or for many other uses. The pointing device is a touch pad with two buttons that seems very responsive.
The battery life is 3 hours running, average, not too impressive. It is about enough time to watch a movie or two. The lithium ion battery is built in, something I am not sure is a great idea because you may not be able to replace the battery if it goes bad, or you will have to take it to a service center to have it done and can be expensive. Maybe the life span of the battery is so much better that it will never be a problem.
The ze5170 comes with a 1 year parts and labor warranty and 90 days phone support. You can add a 2nd and 3rd year to the warranty through HP, but you can usually do this through the vendor you purchased from. For laptops, I usually recommend purchasing an extended warranty, especially if you plan to use it for over a year. At my job, I have 4 fairly new laptops (1 ? to 3 years old) in a closet that are dead and too expensive to repair, it is cheaper to buy a new one only because an extended warranty was not purchased on them. Laptop parts are proprietary and very expensive to replace, it is usually cheaper to buy a warranty up front and not have to worry about it.
This is a great model for most uses, it offers a lot of features for a great price and I recommend it for home users/students and maybe some business uses. My only complaints are the RAM upgrading problem, the non-configurable video RAM and possibly the battery being built in. It gets a 4 star rating.