Compaq Evo N160

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  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Slimline design
  • solid performance.

Cons

  • No built-in wireless networking or infrared connectivity
  • only one PC Card slot.

Compaq's latest contender for a slice of your company's notebook PC budget is a slimline sub-3kg system that looks good, performs well and comes with an attractive price tag. There are models based on Intel's 933MHz Mobile Celeron and 1GHz Mobile Pentium III Processor-M, running either Windows 98 or 2000 Professional. We looked at the 1GHz MPIII-M system with Windows 2000 installed.

Weighing 2.9kg and measuring 32.5cm wide by 26.3cm deep by 3.3cm high, the Evo N160 doesn't make excessive demands on your baggage allowance. The design is businesslike yet elegant, with Compaq's familiar two-tone grey and silver finish adding an undoubted touch of class. The system's 1GHz processor is supported by 128MB of PC133 SDRAM, expandable to a maximum of 1GB, so there's plenty of power under the surface. The remaining components are pretty solid, too: the hard disk is a 20GB unit, optical storage is handled by a 8X DVD-ROM drive in the single modular bay, while the 14.1in. TFT display is driven by ATi's workmanlike 8MB Mobility Radeon chipset.

Open up the lid, and you'll see a well-laid out and responsive 86-key keyboard set behind a generous wrist-rest area that has a pleasing rubberised feel (also seen in Compaq's Presario notebooks). In the wrist-rest area there's a two-button trackpad and a four-way button for easy scrolling within your browser. Between the keyboard and the screen is the so-called 'Internet zone', which contains hardware volume control/mute buttons plus four programmable Easy Access Internet buttons. The front panel carries a couple of power status lights and a pair of JBL Pro speakers.

The Evo N160 is a slimline two-spindle notebook, so there isn't room for a complete set of I/O connectors and expansion options on the system unit. You do get parallel, VGA, 2 USB, IEEE 1394 and video out (S-Video), but there's no serial, infrared or PS/2 ports. RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports are present, to service the MiniPCI-hosted 56Kbit/s modem and 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet connection respectively. As far as PC Card expansion is concerned, the design only accommodates a single Type II slot - and you'll need to use this if you want to add 802.11b wireless networking, as the N160 does not have a built-in module. If you need more options than the basic system unit provides, you'll need to consider the optional QuikDock Port Replicator.

In terms of performance, the Evo N160 is solid rather than spectacular, delivering a Business Winstone 2001 score of 27.2. It's unlikely that this system will be used as a gaming platform, so the Mobility Radeon's 3D performance isn't really an issue; its 2D acceleration is exemplary, and the 14.1in. TFT display does it justice too. If you need to boost the system's overall performance, an extra 128MB of RAM certainly wouldn't go amiss, but as it stands the N160 will handle mainstream applications perfectly well.

The Evo N160 provides a good combination of performance and features at a reasonable price. The design is both attractive and functional, and portability is good. If you must have built-in wireless networking you'll want to look elsewhere, but otherwise this system will serve your mobile workforce well.

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