HP Compaq TC4200 Review

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The HP Compaq TC4200 - "Solid as a Rock"

"Flimsy", "cheap", "heavy" are not the words you want to hear about a portable computer. But we hear it all the time. Thankfully you aren't going to hear these words to describe the new HP Compaq TC4200 Tablet PC. The impression you'll get when you first get your hands on the TC4200 is "solid", "compact" and "light". There is even more goodness on the inside. This Tablet PC is one of the first to feature Intel's third generation of Centrino technology dubbed "Sonoma". Yes, deep down the TC4200 Tablet PC has got "guts". Better yet, you won't find the aging Intel 845/855 chipset with (ugh, it makes me shudder to think about it) "Intel Extreme Graphics" technology. Instead the TC4200 has the MUCH improved Intel 915 chipset that incorporates "Intel Graphics Media Accelerator" graphics technology.

The specs. and build of the TC4200 sound promising. So in this review we take the TC4200 and place it under a microscope. We closely examine all the features found inside and out. We benchmark this Sonoma-powered titan in several aspects of performance to see exactly what kind of performance it delivers. Does the TC4200's insides live up to what its got on outside? Read on!

Basic Specs (our review model):

  • OS - Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005

  • Intel Pentium M 740 (1.73GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533MHz FSB)

  • 12.1" (1024 x 768) display

  • 40GB, 5400RPM Hard Drive

  • 512MB DDR2 SDRAM

  • No Optical Drive

  • Lithium Ion Battery (6 cell/ 52Wh)

  • Ports: RGB (monitor) port, TV-out (S-Video), 3 USB (2.0),
    External Mic jack, Headphone jack, RJ-45 LAN port,
    RJ-11 modem port, docking connector

  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator -- up to 128MB Dynamically Shared

  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG (802.11b/g)

Extra Features worth noting:

  • Shock Mounted Hard Drive

  • Fast IR Port

  • Pointing Stick w/ 4 mouse buttons and touchpad

  • 3 Year Warranty


TC4200 Design and Build Quality

"Solid". I can't emphasize this enough. HP deserves high-praise for the durability and compact design of this model. In hand the TC4200 feels like it won't compromise the integrity of your precious data. It won't crumble in a tight space in your bag or under a safe, tight grip. When the display on many Tablet convertibles and notebooks is closed, it makes me feel uneasy to apply any more pressure than the minimum required to prevent an "accidental" drop. The TC4200 feels exquisitely durable with the lid closed, open or when folded down into "tablet mode".

The rotating display hinge has a "lasting" feel. The entire unit is constructed of strong black and charcoal plastics, giving the TC4200 a professional appearance with a basic, yet sleek style. HP states that a special "scratch-resistant, in-mold lamination" is used to keep the unit "looking newer longer". Also included is a spill-resistant keyboard and shock mounted hard drive. Although I performed no "scratch", "drop" or "spill" test of any kind, I will just go along with HP's word and concur that the materials look like they will hold up for the long haul, and endure the many adventures of the road warrior.

This bantamweight full-featured convertible weighs in at a very reasonable 4.5lbs. The ports, switches, pen slot and indicator lights are all in logical places which makes for a better user experience. To keep the unit light and small, HP decided to forgo a built-in optical drive which I can live with. However, one slight disappointment is a lack of external stereo sound. There is oddly just one speaker on the left side of the unit. To hear audio in stereo with the TC4200, you'll need headphones or external speakers to plug into the headphone jack. Luckily the fan on the TC4200 is so quiet, you can hear the hard drive's lowly murmur over it. So at least you won't need to crank up any mp3's to cover up that kind of racket! (Oh how I hate fan noise!)

One last thing to mention in regards to the design; there is no uncomfortable heat blasting out of the vents, nor do the hand rests or the base get unpleasantly hot. The only time I noticed any heat issue is when the battery is in mid charge. Luckily this time frame is quite short and should be the only time a user might skip the use of the TC4200 in "slate mode" or resting it on the lap.


Conclusion



"Back in Black
I hit the sack
I been too long
I'm glad to be back
Yes, I'm dead loose
from the noose that's kept me hanging around..."
- AC/DC





Brian Johnson sang it just right! Over the last year or so, I have questioned whether or not HP would continue to deliver well-designed, full-featured and well-supported mobile products. With the apparent decline in quality and innovation of its Pocket PC devices, and notebook computers I began to lose trust in the legendary brand name. However, if the HP TC4200 is any reflection of what's to come down the pike from a somewhat reorganized management heading the corporate giant, my trust and attention to HP products will become rapidly revitalized.

The HP TC4200 starts at a respectable $1,599 that will buy you a solid, business-class, full-featured Tablet PC convertible. With no hesitation I would recommend this model to consumers looking to get extreme value without compromise. The TC4200 is strong, powerful and built for the road. This model exudes the dependability and stability of the best desktop in a portable package. If you are looking for a reasonably priced, portable convertible Tablet PC that has got the right stuff, the HP TC4200 is a prospect that should be at the top of your list!


Pros

  • Impeccable design and good all around features

  • Solid construction, compact design

  • Tablet functionality/user experience is great

  • Outstanding value and quality

  • Cons

  • Single external speaker

  • No built-in optical drive