- Excellent performance
- good battery life
- not too heavy.
- Lacks built-in wireless networking and FireWire.
Power-hungry mobile users need look no further than Compaq's Evo N800w, which is the fastest notebook we've tested to date. Aimed at CAD users and multimedia content creators, the Evo N800w is the first notebook to feature ATI's new Mobility Fire GL 9000 graphics accelerator, an OpenGL-optimised version of the excellent Mobility Radeon 9000.
The Evo N800w is based around Intel's flagship 2.2GHz Mobile Pentium 4-M processor and 512MB of PC2100 DDR SDRAM. The system's two memory slots allow you to expand the memory to a possible 2GB, once 1GB SODIMM modules become available -- 1GB is all you’ll manage at the moment, but that’s still a startling amount of memory for a portable system.
The specifications of this machine and our previous fastest notebook, Dell's Inspiron 8200, are very similar, but the Evo N800w just manages to pip the Dell system on both Business Winstone 2001, with a score of 50.1, and Content Creation Winstone 2002, with a score of 34.9. Graphics performance is equally good, the Evo N800w delivering a 3DMark 2001 score of 6,803.
Where the Evo N800w really scores over the Inspiron 8200 is on battery life. Using BatteryMark 4.01, we measured its autonomy time at 2 hours and 50 minutes, which, although by no means the longest we’ve seen recently, is impressive for such a powerful machine. By contrast, the 2.2GHz Inspiron 8200 lasted for just under two hours using BatteryMark 4.01.
The Evo N800w's 15in. TFT screen is a high-resolution 1,600-by-1,200 display, which means quite small pixels. That said, everything is sharp and legible. Naturally, an external monitor is supported, and you also get an S-Video output to connect the system to a TV or a video recorder.
Although this extremely well-specified notebook would put many a desktop PC to shame, it still manages to be reasonably portable. The Evo N800w weighs exactly 3kg with the optical drive fitted in the system's modular bay. You can save yourself around 200g by replacing this drive with the supplied weight saver if necessary. The travel weight including all the supplied cables and accessories (not including a bag) is 3.7kg, which is still quite respectable for such a powerful notebook.
The optical drive is a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo unit, but there’s no floppy drive fitted as standard -– this will have to be an external USB device. The Evo N800w’s two USB ports are high-speed USB 2.0 ports, so you can connect external hard drives and get a decent transfer rate, as well as USB 1.1 devices. There’s a single CardBus-enabled Type II PC Card slot for further expansion.
The Evo N800w is missing a now-common notebook feature: built-in wireless networking. You get 10/100Mbps Ethernet and a 56Kbps modem, but Wi-Fi or Bluetooth will have to be added either via a PC Card or using the MultiPort expansion system built into the system's lid.
Another omission is FireWire -– something that's becoming common even on lower-spec notebooks. This is compounded by the Evo N800w being incompatible with the MultiPort FireWire module that’s already available. If you need to connect a digital video camera to this notebook, you’ll need to get a PC Card FireWire adapter. Clearly, this notebook will be less attractive if you’re looking to produce video content, which is a shame given the processing power available.
Although the Evo N800w doesn’t have all the frills that other manufacturers regularly squeeze into their notebooks, it’s a sound platform that can be expanded to meet a variety of needs. As you’d expect, it’s not a cheap system at £2,281.52 (ex. VAT), but you get great performance, respectable battery life and reasonable portability for your money. If you need powerful portable, Compaq's Evo N800w is a very good choice.