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The HP 'z' series of laptops comes in a variety of hardware layouts, including choices of either Intel or AMD CPU. Some models can be had at around a $1100 starting price.
I went with a custom build setup that included:
AMD Mobile Athlon 64 3700+ CPU
1 GB RAM
80 GB 7200 RPM HD
12 cell battery vs the standard 8 cell
15.4" (1680 x 1050 resolution) display
nVidia GeForce4 440 Go 64MB video
NEC CD/DVD Reader/Burner
Windows XP Pro with SP/2 Installed
for connectivity it came with
1394 Net Adapter
Broadcom 802.1 b/G WLAN
Realtek 10/100 NIC
Built-in Agere AC'97 56KBps Modem
The price for this package was just under $2000 at $1997. I added in a leather case, docking station, 512MB digital drive (similar to a thumbdrive), and some other goodies for a delivered package price of $2784. That includes a 3-year bumper to bumper warranty that added $350 to the price tag.
It comes ready to go with a healthy software package that includes InterVideo's WinDVD, FilmFactory, iTunes, muvee autoProducer 3.5-SE, Sonic RecordNow!, SoundMax and more. Many of these are only semi-installed: rather than taking up HD space with them already installed, they install on demand the first time you decide to try them out. It also came with a trial version of Norton security, but I elected to use Kaspersky's security tools instead (a separate purchase, not through HP).
Speakers in the laptop itself are Harmon-Kardon, while the expansion base provides Altec Lansing speakers. One expansion cable I purchased lets you connect out to larger speaker sets up to 5.1 easily.
So, how does it work in real life?
First, it's not a lightweight - pretty close to 8 pounds all by itself. I'm guessing that the bag with all the accessories I carry around with it comes in at close to 12 to 15 pounds.
The monitor is very responsive and gives good DVD playback display. I've noticed that it is not quite as bright as my ViewSonic VP-series monitors I have hooked up to my desktops, and the white desktop background isn't quite white. You don't notice this unless you have it set up next to another display, so I wouldn't call this a bad thing, just an observation.
The volume of the speakers leaves something to be desired, though. I consider it pretty low even at maximum settings. It does have a plug for headset speakers and that might be a better deal, especially when using it in public places. I haven't connected it up to external speakers, so I can't comment on that setup.
Connections abound. There are 3 separate USB connectors and HP sells a powered USB extender to turn any one of those into four with their own power to connect power-needy USB devices to.
If you can't get connected with this machine, you are in pretty bad shape. It comes with 56K dial-up connector, 10/100 NIC and it's WiFi ready.
With the AMD 3700+ 64-bit processor and 1 GB RAM (2 GB is max), performance is outstanding. It is one of the fastest machines I have, being noticeably faster than either of my AMD 3200+ desktops, and just about even with my Opteron 150 based system. It's just damned quick.
Being a bit of a speed freak when it comes to CPUs, the reason I went with the AMD 3700+ was two-fold: #1 it is 64-bit ready, and #2 the fastest Intel offered on this line at the present time is a 3.2GH P4. I believe the 3700+ definitely outperforms the ranking available Intel CPU for this line.
Quality of workmanship appears to be good. I haven't noticed any flaws or misalignment or anything. It also has a full-length piano type hinge which should add to the life of that part of it.
The extras: I need to say something about the expansion base I got. There are two types, I went with the less expensive. It connects to the computer through a single connector and provides its own USB ports, and its own NIC/56Kb connections. This frees up the 3 USB connectors on the laptop itself for your use. It also comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse hookup which is a nice convenience.
I've never owned any other laptop, and it's been some years since I used one regularly (a company furnished Dell). But after about a month of ownership and use, I'm very pleased with it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a full featured laptop with a larger screen for "multi-media" use and possibly even gaming.
Since it has the power to run serious applications like MS Office Pro and Adobe's Creative Suite, there's no reason to shy away from it as a true workhorse either.