Business and consumer laptops tend to be built to a different set of criteria. Stolid dependability is usually the order of the day with business machines. HP is one of the main players in this market, and the Compaq 6735s, available for around £540, is one of its more popular models.
Sober, solid design
Laptops built for business use are seldom the most stylish models available, but there are good reasons behind their dull designs. A plain black case should look as good after 18 months on the road as it does on day one, and few executives want the distraction of blinking LEDs and gaudy lid logos when dealing with clients.
It's no surprise, then, that the 6735s looks pretty sober. Almost all of the case is made from matte black plastic. Glossy black plastic is used sparingly around the screen and keyboard. Some gentle curves help elevate the 6735s' appearance from characterless to merely boring. The case feels solid, but it doesn't quite have the bomb-proof build quality of Lenovo's ThinkPads.
Weighing in at 2.5kg, the 6735s is clearly a laptop designed to spend most of its time on a desk, but it's not too heavy to lug around on the odd occasion. The relative bulk does have an upside: the 6735s has a 15.4-inch screen with a 1,280x800-pixel resolution. This is large enough to use without making you feel the need to connect an external monitor, and the matte finish means that it stays legible under all lighting conditions. Viewing angles are wide too.
We're less enamoured with the placement of certain ports. It's handy to have a pair of USB ports on each side of the wide wrist rest, but HP's decision to put the power, network and VGA sockets towards the front edge of the left-hand side of the case is less rational. With the 6735s sitting on a desk, the power lead pokes out next to the left shift key. Connect an Ethernet cable and external monitor, and there are even more awkwardly placed cables to trail across the desk.
Any laptop keyboard should be up to prolonged bouts of typing, but a comfortable set of keys is essential on a business-focused machine. The 6735s' keyboard is full-size and has a traditional design -- no trendy chiclet keys here -- but there isn't a separate numeric keypad, as the case just isn't wide enough.
The keyboard is very comfortable to use, though, and the full-size shift, enter, backspace and cursor keys are very welcome. There are no dedicated keys for controlling laptop functions like Wi-Fi connectivity and volume. Instead, the function keys control these, besides serving their usual roles. The trackpad is a good size too, although its two buttons are terrible. They're hinged along their top edge and have far too much travel.
The 6735s sports 2GB of RAM, in the form of a single SO-DIMM. This sits beneath an easily accessible panel on the laptop's underside and, while it doesn't exploit the speed advantage of fitting DDR2 memory modules in pairs, it does mean that there's still an empty slot for future upgrades.
A 160GB hard drive should be ample for whatever applications users need access to, and, again, this sits in its own easily opened bay. The inclusion of a LightScribe DVD writer seems like an odd choice for an austere laptop like the 6735s, but it does make some sense. For business users, being able to burn the company logo and other identifying information onto blank discs is less hassle than buying pre-printed media, and could potentially work out cheaper.
Microsoft Office is probably the most demanding application that any mainstream business laptop is intended to run. With a PCMark05 score of 3,114, the 6735s should cope with the next version or two with ease. The 2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 RM-70 processor isn't anywhere near as powerful as an Intel Core 2 Duo chip of the same clock speed, but it is dual-core and the performance difference won't matter to many.
HP has opted for an ATI Radeon HD 3200 GPU rather than the usual integrated -- and lacklustre -- Intel option. This should give the 6735s more oomph when it comes to showing sophisticated PowerPoint presentations, or working with photo- and video-editing applications. With a 3DMark06 score of 1,511, the laptop should also be up to playing multiplayer shooters from yesteryear, although only at comparatively low resolutions.
Battery life isn't really an issue for a bulky business laptop like the 6735s, which is just as well. In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, the laptop lasted an inexplicably pathetic 30 minutes. In the less demanding Reader's test, it lasted for 3 hours and 21 minutes.
The HP Compaq 6735s is a solid, if unexciting, laptop. But the specification is rather middling for the money, and better value can be found elsewhere.
Edited by Charles Kloet