Compaq Armada 100S

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Pros

  • AMD PowerNow! CPU helps to deliver good battery life
  • compact all-in-one design
  • good keyboard.

Cons

  • Moderate performance
  • no modular drives.

For an all-in-one notebook, Compaq's Armada 100S is reasonably light and compact. It's also notable for its processor, which supports AMD's power-saving technology, PowerNow!.

The Armada 100S is built around AMD's K6-2+ PowerNow! processor running at 533MHz. That's some way behind the leading edge for mobile chips, which currently stands at 850MHz with Intel's SpeedStep Mobile Pentium III. However, the 533MHz K6-2+ delivers enough CPU muscle if all you want to do is run mainstream productivity applications. Our review sample came with 64MB on the motherboard, 8MB of which is shared with the graphics subsystem. A single SODIMM slot is available for memory upgrades up to a total of 192MB.

AMD's PowerNow! technology allows a notebook to operate in three modes: High Performance mode (maximum CPU clock speed and voltage); Battery Saver mode (reduced CPU frequency and voltage); and Automatic mode (CPU frequency and voltage under dynamic control, depending on the real-time demand for processing power).

Main storage comes in the form of a 5GB IBM TravelStar hard disk, some 760MB of which is occupied by Windows 98 SE and the bundled application/utility software. The floppy drive is mounted at the front, while the 24-speed TEAC CD-ROM drive is on the left-hand side. Neither of the latter drives is modular, so you need to be sure that the specification will last you for the foreseeable future.

The 12.1in. TFT display might seem on the small side in this era of massive 15in. notebook screens, but it gets the job done well enough and its 800 by 600 (SVGA) resolution is in many ways more appropriate than the 1,024 by 768 (XGA) that's sometimes used for 12.1in screens. A Trident CyberBlade i7 chip, whose 8MB of available memory is shared with the main system RAM, drives the graphics subsystem.

The Armada 100S has a footprint only marginally larger than a sheet of A4, measuring 29.7cm wide by 23.9cm deep by 4.38cm high. It weighs 3.08kg without the AC adapter. The livery is Compaq's familiar charcoal-grey and the build quality is solid throughout.

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I/O and expansion are catered for with a standard collection of ports and slots. At the back you get serial, parallel, VGA, PS/2, USB and audio ports, but no TV-out or IEEE 1394. The right-hand side carries an infrared port and a useful hardware volume control for the audio subsystem, while the left-hand side is home to a CardBus-compliant PC Card slot and an RJ-11 port for the internal 56Kbit/s modem.

The keyboard is reminiscent of an IBM ThinkPad, which is high praise indeed. The keys are large and responsive, and the layout is sensible. One addition that would improve typing comfort, however, is a pair of adjustable feet at the back to raise the angle. The pointer is a two-button touchpad that works as well as any of its kind.

The Armada 100S's 533MHz CPU is no speed demon, and this, along with the moderate 64MB of RAM and the Windows 98 SE operating system, is reflected in the benchmark scores that we recorded. However, the system runs Microsoft Word 2000, which is supplied along with Norton AntiVirus 2000, fast enough. Battery life with PowerNow! in Battery Saver mode was a shade under three hours, which is good for a 3,800mAh 9-cell NiMH battery. An optional 8-cell Li-ion battery is available for an extra £83 (ex. VAT).

The Armada 100S, which is supplied with a standard one-year parts and labour warranty, is well suited to its target small/medium-sized business market. It's not particularly fast, but it's quick enough for mainstream productivity applications. Battery life is acceptable, and AMD's PowerNow! Technology provides more control over CPU frequency and voltage than Intel's SpeedStep. This well-designed and sensibly specified all-in-one notebook deserves serious consideration from anyone who's charged with equipping a mobile workforce on a tight budget.

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