New Laptop: Compaq A939CA

For $800, the specs of A939CA are pretty decent. The T5550 is on the lower-end side of the Core 2 Duo lineup, but it should be more than fast enough for what my dad will use it for, and the computer comes with generous amounts of memory and hard disk space. Other notable features are the wireless-n compatible network adapter, LightScribe capable DVD burner, 5 in 1 card reader, and webcam plus mic. The A939CA came with a standard 6 cell battery that’s good for up to 3 hrs. That’s a little short on operating time but it doesn’t matter too much since the computer will usually be on a desk and plugged into the outlet. Overall there is nothing out of the ordinary on this computer, but everything that should be there are present and accounted for.

The laptop came packaged in a red and plain-coloured cardboard box with a red “C” indicating Compaq. The laptop itself was secured on both sides with Styrofoam. There was also another small box within the large box that held a power block, the battery, a piece of cloth which I assume to be for cleaning the screen, and a package of manuals, quick-start guides, warranty cards, and other paper documents. This computer doesn’t come with any CDs or DVDs, and the customer has to either make their own recovery discs or buy them from the store. In terms of software, the computer came pre-loaded with the 32bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium, which is fine for my dad’s usage, plus the usual trial/useless software that gets packaged with computers from large manufacturers.

Top of the Compaq A939CA
The top of the Compaq A939CA. (Click to enlarge)

After unpacking everything, my first thoughts on the A939CA were positive. The laptop has an understated but sleek dark grey casing with a pretty shiny lighter-grey top. There isn’t any decor or crazy lights that would make it stand out in the crowd, but the machine does look polished and pretty pleasing overall. Since the A939CA is a 17 inch laptop, it’s a lot wider than the old 14 or 15 inch P3 my dad was using. However, I’m surprised by how thin the laptop is. It’s obviously no MacBook Air, but it’s definitely thinner than the old P3 machine, and at around 6.8 pounds it is actually a bit lighter than I imagined a machine of this size would be. Of course I never had experience with a 17 inch laptop before, so that might be just me. Overall the first impressions were good. Let’s examine the exterior a little more closely. Unfortunately you’ll have to suffer through my poor photography skills again. The camera I used (a four year old 4 megapixel model) might also be to blame as well.

Left side of the Compaq A939CA
Left side of the Compaq A939CA. (Click to enlarge)

On the left side of the laptop, you can see (from left to right in the photo) the power plug, some ventilation slits, the modern jack, the network jack, VGA output, S-video output, and a single USB port.

Right side of the Compaq A939CA
Right side of the Compaq A939CA. (Click to enlarge)

On the right side, there are (from left to right in the photo) two more USB ports, the DVD burner, and a hole for putting a lock through. The front has a headphone and a microphone jack (see photo below). The bottom of the laptop has the battery, and panels that open up to the hard drive and memory slots, plus a ventilation fan.

Front of the Compaq A939CA
The front of the Compaq A939CA. (Click to enlarge)
The Compaq A939CA (A900 series)
The Compaq A939CA (A900 series). (Click to enlarge)

Opening up the laptop, I notice that there are no latches to keep the laptop shut when closed. I am not sure that’s a good thing or not, but the laptop seems to be okay at staying closed using just the hinges of the screen, and since this laptop won’t be moving around much it doesn’t really matter. The integrated webcam and microphone are located on top of the screen as where they should be (see photo above).

Keyboard of the Compaq A939CA
The keyboard of the Compaq A939CA. (Click to enlarge)

From the above photo, you can see that the power bottom is in the centre above the keyboard. On the top left is a button that seems to turn the wireless networking on and off. The whole darker looking section above the keyboard is the speaker. The keyboard of the A939CA is not a full size keyboard, but it does have the numeric pad unlike smaller laptops. From experience, I would say it’s easier to type on the new 17 inch laptop than the old 14 inch P3 we have, but I thought the “Shift” keys are a little small. Being the Canadian edition, the keyboard is labeled for typing both English and French. Below the keyboard is the track pad, which is pretty standard looking. There are also four lights on the bottom left that indicate power, battery use, disk access, and Wi-fi status (you can see them on the first photo in the article). When the computer is powered on, all the lights give off a nice blue glow.

After looking around the outside, it’s finally time to boot up the A939CA. On first boot I was welcomed by the Windows Vista setup screen to set the primary account, regional settings and whatnot. This took around 15 minutes because Vista took a while to configure itself after I entered all the settings. The computer then rebooted and I finally saw the spiffy Vista login screen. I was ready to start using the computer but right after logging in I was met with a “HP software is installing” screen (HP owns Compaq if you didn’t know). This screen lasted for at least half an hour if not longer, so I went to do something else while this was going on.

After about 45 minutes after first boot, I finally got to the Vista desktop. It definitely looks slicker than Windows XP, with all the transparency and cool transition animations in Aero Glass. The start menu was a little different than XP’s and took a bit of getting used to, and many of the objects have different names than in XP, but overall Vista is still pretty similar to XP. First thing I had to do was set up networking and internet so that the new computer can join our home network. This was pretty painless once I found where all the network settings were. Next up it was configuring Windows firewall and installing all the updates, which were again pretty straight-forward tasks. After I got the basics (internet and updates) up and running, it was time to get rid of all the junk that came installed with this computer and then install the applications my dad will actually use. This part took an hour at least due to the number of applications that needed to be uninstalled/installed. During all of this, I got my first experience with Vista’s new User Account Control (UAC) prompts that a lot of people seem to hate. It was a little bothersome the first few times because I never seen something like this in XP, but after a while I just got used to them.

The new computer was pretty much ready for my dad to use after that point. I just had to set up the email accounts, transfer my dad’s files into the computer, burn the recovery DVDs, and that was it. I tried using the computer a bit and found it to be pretty quick and responsive compared to my Athlon XP rig. For example, Microsoft Word pretty much opened instantly on the new computer, but took a few seconds to open up on my computer. Even though the computer is by no means high end, it is still by far the fastest computer in my house, and it has enough RAM to keep Vista happy. The screen also looks pretty nice. The resolution is WSXGA at 1440 x 900 pixels, which is standard for a 17 inch laptop in the sub-$1000 price range. I think 1440 x 900 is high enough, as 1680 x 1050 or 1920 x 1200 (resolutions on high end laptops) would make things too small on a 17 inch screen.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the new laptop we bought, and I am pretty sure my dad would be satisfied as well. Thanks for reading this article.

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