New Laptop: Compaq A939CA

It’s been almost four years since my family has gotten a new computer. Usually I’m the one who gets the fastest computer in the house, but this time around the new computer is for my dad. The old computer that he was using was getting unbearably slow even for web surfing and word processing, so it was finally time to get him a new computer. After considering all the factors, we decided to get a 17 inch laptop, the Compaq A900 series (model A939CA). This article is not a really a review of the laptop, but just a short document about setting it up and my first impressions of the laptop (and also Windows Vista), plus a couple of pictures of the machine for people to see.

In my home for the past couple of years, I always had the fastest computer. I first got the Celeron 2.5 GHz around four-and-a-half years ago, and then I built my own Athlon XP rig half a year later, passing the Celeron to my mom. My dad however, had always been stuck with slowest computers in the house. He first used a Pentium II laptop (with a broken screen), and then he moved on to a Pentium III laptop that wasn’t all that much faster. My dad was okay with the computers for a while because he mostly used it for web surfing and some word processing, so a computer that could do those things at reasonable speeds are fine. Unfortunately, the P3 dinosaur he was using was getting too slow even for those tasks, as it was crumbling under the weight of Windows XP and other installed applications. It was definitely time to get him a new computer.

My dad had always wanted a laptop for his new computer. The portability of a laptop (even a 17 inch) is a big advantage over traditional desktops, and everything is in one package instead of the separate tower and monitor configuration of most desktop computers. The prices of laptops have come down a lot in the past few years. Therefore, a similarly priced laptop won’t be much slower than a desktop of the same price. My dad will mostly use the new computer on his desk and won’t be lugging it around quite often, so weight isn’t a big issue. He also wants a reasonably sized screen and keyboard so it would be easy to use, so the choice was basically a larger laptop, something in the 15-17 inch range rather than 14 inch or below.

In terms of computer specs and performance, my dad didn’t need anything that’s really fast since web surfing and word processing aren’t really activities that need a lot of processing power. He did want something that’s reasonably fast. After consulting with the family computer expert (me), my dad decided that he wants a laptop that has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, at least 2GB of memory, and 200GB or more for the hard drive, plus the DVD burner and wireless networking that’s standard on the vast majority of new laptops being sold these days. The current Intel mobile processors are faster and more power efficient than comparable AMD models, and 2GB of RAM should be enough to run Windows Vista smoothly. Since my dad doesn’t play any 3D games, he’s not too concerned about the graphics chip used in the computer. Finally, this laptop should preferably be priced around $800 or below.

Now that we sorted out the requirements, all we had to do was wait for the right model to go on sale for the right price. After waiting a few months, we decided to buy the 17 inch Compaq A939CA for around $800Cdn. Here are its official specs:

Compaq A939CA (A900 Series)
Compaq A900 Series (A939CA)
Processor, operating system and memory
Processor type Intel Core 2 Duo dual core processor T5550 1.83 GHz, Level 2 cache 2 MB, 667Mhz Front side bus
Operating system installed Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit SP1
Standard memory 3072 MB
Memory layout (1 x 2048MB, 1 x 1024 MB)
Internal drives
Internal hard disk drive 250 GB
Hard disk controller SATA Hard Disk Drive
Hard disk drive speed 5400 rpm
Optical drive type Super Multi DVD Writer (+/-R +/-RW) with Double Layer and LightScribe support
System features
Memory card device 5-in-1 integrated Digital Media Reader for Secure Digital cards, MultiMedia cards, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, or xD Picture cards
Modem High speed 56K modem
Network interface Ethernet 10/100BT integrated network interface
Wireless technologies 802.11b/g/draft n WLAN
External I/O ports 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA port, 1 RJ11 modem connector, 1 RJ45 ethernet connector, S-video TV out, 1 headphones-out, 1 mic-in
Display size 17″ WXGA+ High Definition BrightView Widescreen
Display resolution 1440 x 900
Video adapter Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
Video RAM Up to 384 MB Total Available Graphics Memory
Webcam Webcam with integrated microphone
Internal audio 3D Sound Blaster Pro compatible sound 16 bit integrated
Speakers and microphone Altec Lansing speakers
Keyboard Full size desktop keyboard (with separate numeric keypad layout)
Pointing device Touch Pad with On/Off button and dedicated vertical Scroll Up/Down pad, volume control, mute button
Power supply type 65 W AC Power Adapter
Dimensions / weight
Weight 3.10 kg (6.87 lbs)
Package weight 4.81 kg
Dimensions (W x D x H) 39.60 cm (L) x 28.50 cm (W) x 3.33 cm (min) H / 4.48 cm (max) H)
Package dimensions (W x D x H) 480 x 170 x 350 mm

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