HP’s Compaq 6720s is definitely at the ‘budget’ end of the laptop
market. Part of the company’s Balanced Mobility range, the 6720s comes
in three versions: we looked at the least expensive £379
model, while the other two cost £435 and £489 respectively. The most obvious questions to ask about the
6720s is: what has been omitted to meet the price point, and how usable
is it as a portable business workhorse?

This is a mid-sized laptop with
a footprint 358 by 32 by 267mm. It weighs a not insubstantial 2.5kg.

slate-grey lid section and the black base are not held together with a
secure clasp. If you intend to carry this laptop, you’ll need to
ensure that it’s stowed separately from pens and other items that could
work their way between the two sections and damage the screen. Elsewhere, HP has managed to put a little effort into the design, despite the system’s entry-level status.

hinges for the lid are recessed within the back of the chassis so that
the base of the lid swivels down towards the desk when you open the laptop. Although this has no practical benefit that we can discern,
it’s distinctive.

Above the keyboard, embedded in an
area that also contains the speakers, is the on/off switch, which has a
pale blue backlight when the laptop is on. To its left is a wireless
on/off button that glows deep blue when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are active.

power connector is on the left edge of the system. This has a light
that glows orange for most of the battery charge cycle, changing to
blue for the final 10 per cent or so and switching off when full
capacity is reached. A pale blue light by the Caps Lock key glows when
its function is activated.

The screen measures 15.4 inches across the
diagonal, and has a native resolution of 1,280×800 pixels. The
screen is sharp and clear, and has a matte finish rather than a
reflective coating. This means that you should be able to work
in reasonable comfort with a light source behind you — near an office
window, for example.

The keyboard does not quite
stretch the full width of the available area, but the keys themselves
are large and we had no problem touch-typing. The number row is topped
by a row of two-thirds-height function keys.

touchpad is positioned centrally on the wrist-rest area, which means it’s slightly offset to the right in relation to the spacebar and Qwerty keys. If your typing style means that your hands brush the wrist-rest
area when you’re working, you may find that the touchpad falls under
your right hand, causing unintented cursor movement.

touchpad incorporates a scroll zone on its right vertical side. To use
it, you simply run a finger along it to scroll through documents, Web
pages and so on.

Our review model of the HP Compaq 6720s has an appropriately entry-level Intel
Celeron M 530 processor running at 1.73GHz. During testing we did find
this laptop to be a little sluggish at times. If you’re likely to
want to run a lot of applications at once or have processor-intensive
work in mind, then you may need to consider one of the higher-specified
models in the 6720s range, both of which use Core 2 Duo CPUs.

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