Since HP bought them out a while back, Compaq has been HP’s “budget” line of desktop computers and laptops. And the Compaq Presario CQ62 takes this “budget” concept and dials it up to 11, with the most basic, no-frills laptop I’ve ever seen. Is it worth it? Let’s find out!
There are several submodels of the Compaq Presario CQ62 lineup, sold at different retail stores and online. The one that I bought was the CQ62-219WM, probably the cheapest version available. Most Compaq Presario CQ62’s have AMD processors, but the CQ62-219WM has an Intel Celeron instead.
Those aren’t the first things I noticed, though. The first thing I noticed was the shiny, silvery HP laptop next to the Presario. I liked how it had a sleek, minimalist design, inspired by MacBooks, and a textured finish on the handrests.
Then I noticed the Compaq Presario CQ62 right next to it. I knew “Compaq” meant “budget laptop,” but I was struck by how it looked almost identical to the HP laptop. It just had a black finish instead of a silver one. And it didn’t have a memory card reader, but that didn’t strike me as a big problem.
The last thing I noticed was the price tag. $350 US? Seriously? I couldn’t believe it!
So what does that $350 get you? In layman’s terms, you get a relatively slow processor, and the bare minimum in terms of memory and hard disk space. You don’t get a memory card reader, like I mentioned, and you don’t get a webcam either. You do get a Lightscribe DVD burner, though, which I can only imagine is because HP gets a bulk discount on those. You also get a generously-sized keyboard and a 15.6″ screen.
What amazes me is how classy they managed to make such a cheap laptop. The Compaq Presario CQ62 is stylish, and not in an overdone way. It’s more subtle and tasteful, like a generic-brand MacBook Pro. Take off the Intel and Windows stickers and its design looks downright minimalist, and very sleek and dramatic. The case feels a bit cheap, but the textured finish feels very nice to work with, and it looks like the hinges are metal. I’d be careful not to dent a machine like this, but the metal hinges at least are reassuring.
Like most basic PC laptops, the Compaq Presario CQ62 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium, plus Microsoft Works and a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office. The full version will cost a third to a half as much as the laptop itself, so if you’re going to use this machine for “office” tasks you should consider one of the free alternatives to Microsoft Office that I wrote about earlier. Beyond that, it comes with the usual trialware, although it’s a nice touch that they let you choose whether or not to turn Norton on (and thus eat up all of your processing power). I suggest uninstalling it from the Control Panel, and then using AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials instead.
If you’re looking at a Compaq Presario CQ62 at a store where they have salespeople, they’ll probably tell you that it’s too slow for you, and that you need a “dual-core processor” at least. The CQ62 is pretty slow to get started — it takes several minutes from the time I turn it on to the time I can get Firefox open. It’s also slow to load apps, slow to shut down, and if you’re installing something in the background the whole thing can slow to a crawl. Once you’ve gotten things loaded up, though, it performs well so long as you’re just using it for the basics. It even plays my MMORPGs, or online games, just fine.
I found that my Compaq Presario CQ62 was a lot snappier (and less cluttered) running Ubuntu than Windows 7. You can read my review of the Ubuntu operating system by clicking here, or check out their homepage at ubuntu.com. You can also download Ubuntu for free there, or even have them mail you a free CD. Just make sure to back up your personal data and create some recovery discs before trying to install Ubuntu, in case something goes wrong. From the start menu, type “recovery” into the search box and it should come up. You’ll need three blank DVD+Rs or DVD-Rs for this, and you’ll want to label them and keep them safe in case you need to restore your Compaq Presario CQ62 to factory conditions.
The Compaq Presario CQ62 is almost as cheap as a netbook, but it’s a lot more powerful and a lot more suitable for long-term use, especially use at your desk. You won’t be able to fit it inside a purse, but a padded backpack should work just fine, and for a laptop of its size it feels light.
Will it suit your needs? Personally, as someone who’s on a tight budget, I was surprised that I could get such a nice computer so cheaply. I’ll want to be careful with it, since it feels fragile, but I love its design and its 15.6″ widescreen. If you can afford something more powerful, it might last you a bit longer. But if your choice is between the Compaq Presario CQ62 and a netbook as your only computer, go with the Presario. A netbook by itself is okay for occasional use, but its tiny screen, slow processor and terrible ergonomics will take their toll after awhile.
What do you think? Do you have any other recommendations for people looking for laptop PCs on a budget? Scroll down and leave a comment, below! And whatever laptop PC (or MacBook) you use, I hope you have fun with it.