Hi guys, I recently purchased a Compal CL-56 from Mwave.com and I'd like to share my experience with you.
I got the 1.6ghz dothan model with 1gb of ram. 60gb Toshiba HD. Very nice deal.
1. When I first got it, I noticed that the LCD back had a lot of fine scratches and some chips off the paint. The item looks like it may have been returned or refurbished. Since it's only a cosmetic issue, I won't complain about it, besides, considering how much I use it, the case would have looked like that within a few months.
2. This is my first SXGA display. My last lappy was a Toshiba 2805. It was a lot bigger and build like a brick. Also, the Toshiba had a on-off dead pixel which would drive me crazy on the XGA display. The compal came with 4 partially lit pixels (they're only apparent with some background colors) 1 by itself and 3 pixels in a column all in near the edge of the middle third of the screen. Seems bad, eh? Funny thing is, it doesn't bother me very much. with the increased resolution, I only caught the bad pixels about a week after I got it. What bothers me more is the 1/4" areas of the screen where it obviously rubbed up against the touchpad and has some discoloration. But I can live with that too. The screen doesn't allow me much leeway in vertical viewing angle, but my old Toshiba was just like this, so I don't think twice about (it actually brings on a sense of nostalgia)
3. The build quality is definitely better than any of the dells I've used (I8100, Lattitude CPX, CPI) Aside from the slight sagginess in the back of the LCD panel right between the hinges, I like the firmness of the build better than the Thinkpad A21 I used to have at work. That old IBM, despite being built sturdily had this tendency to squeak, and the bays were all just a tiny bit loose and stuff and rattled a bit. Definitely better than my old Toshiba. The keyboard, though firm is really good, let's me touch-type pretty quickly. Not much clickety-clickness...
4. The Compal is a lot quieter than my old Toshiba, about as silent as the IBM A21 I used at work. The fan stays on low unless I start playing CS. At full power, the fan doesn't get louder than my desktop which is fairly quiet. Despite how quiet it is, The system obviously extracts a lot of heat, as I use the vents as a handwarmer when my fingers get cold. The bottom of the laptop gets fairly hot, maybe a little more than my Toshiba, definitely uncomfortable when I'm watching an .avi video or anything that stresses the cpu. When I'm just writing or surfing the web, it's just lukewarm.
5. The sound...what to say about it...there's nothing good to about it at all...it's VERY tinny and just plain sounds horrible. I blame it on the placement of the speakers. I get better sound if I cup my hands below the speakers as it reflects the sounds to my head better. I may mod them and place them in a better location. I'll take pictures if I do.
Notes: The light spots (the discolorations I mention above) have started bothering me a bit more as does the higher SXGA resolution. I took apart the LCD case to see if it used a standard LCD panel. Thank goodness it does. Even the inverter is separate from the panel. which will make changing the panel easier. The mechanism to retain the LCD panel is almost exactly like the kind you see on old Dell Inspirons like the 8000/8600 series. I don't like the plastic hooks that keep the bezel and lid together. I broke every single one getting them apart and I'm quite experienced at doing this (spent over a year at a local musem refurbishing old IBM laptops for the staff). Whoever designed that mechanism needs to be whipped like a dog.
If I can find a source for replacement of my bezel...actually, only need the back panel...I may do some mods on this lappy. I am currently thinking about replacing the LCD with a different one...most likely an XGA...though I am curious if anyone makes a 15" 1280x1024 panel...I had hoped a 15.4" WXGA panel would fit, but I don't think there's enough room for one. If I do get another LCD I'll take pictures and post them.