Compaq's Armada 1100 cannot compete with its big brother

Compaq Computer Corp.'s Armada 1100 doesn't hold a candle to its big brother, the
Armada 4100.

 The 1100 is serviceable. But Compaq shouldn't imply that the notebook sails in the
same fleet as the 4100, which it designed for power users on the go. In contrast, the 1100
line is for infrequent travelers and low-budget buyers.

 The Armada 1120T I tested had the basics: Parallel port, serial port, VGA port,
mouse/keyboard port and two Type II PC Card slots.

 My 120-MHz Pentium test unit had a 809M hard drive, 8M of RAM and an 8.4-inch
active-matrix display. Most of the 100- and 120-MHz notebooks we've tested did
floating-point and integer math faster than the Armada 1120T. It scored 0.83 on the
GCNdex32 floating-point benchmark-slightly slower than a 66-MHz 486's baseline 1.0
score-and 1.80 on the integer math benchmark.

 The Armada 4120 [GCN, Nov. 4, 1996, Page 32] with the same 120-MHz Pentium
chip produced 1.4 on the floating-point test and 2.78 on integer math.

 As cheap as RAM memory has become, Compaq really should add another 8M to the 1120T.
That would make a tremendous difference in performance not only on benchmarks but also in
everyday applications.


The video test was better, with the integrated Cirrus Logic CL-GD7543 controller
turning in a score of 1.63 on the GCNdex32. The highest resolution available is 640 by 480
pixels with 24-bit color.

 There's no sugarcoating that the 1120T's 8.4-inch screen is tiny, but for a value
notebook to have an active-matrix display at all is good. The display is bright, which I
suspect is related to the short battery life.

 The documentation claimed the nickel-metal hydride battery would last two to three
hours, but I never got more than 112 hours. If you charge through the AC adapter while
running the computer, the case grows very warm.

 The 809M hard drive was a slow performer, too. It turned in an acceptable 1.60 score
on our small-file-access benchmark but an extremely slow 0.83 on the large-file benchmark.
The test unit's Compaq 28.8-kilobit/sec PC Card modem performed well for remote access and
dial-in.

 Overall, the system was attractively designed and laid out, with a nice keyboard and
a clear battery gauge. But the entire system suffered from what I call the shoehorn
complex-sacrificing options for low price.

 The Armada 4120 sells for about $1,500 more than the 1120T's $2,132. Although
they're aimed at entirely different markets, there is a larger gulf between them than the
prices indicate. By adding a few options and features, Compaq could turn this value
notebook from a slightly overpriced tortoise into an economical hare. 


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