I never got around to finishing this review and never will, because soon after I returned the CL56 for a full refund. I found this this morning after looking through some old files on my PC. The notebook was returned because the circumstances under which I bought it changed and I would no longer be needing a laptop capable of playing videogames. This was written on the 5th of August of 2004. Here it goes:
|Well its been close to a day, so I guess I will talk about my experience with getting the notebook, and of my experence with the notebook itself. Keep in mind that I have only had it for about a day, and thus I will update this with further impressions down the line.
For a time I really didn’t know whether if I should go with the CL56, or the Mitac 8050. They both had what I found to be the most important to me, which was the 128mb 9700. I only plan to use this notebook as my primary computer for about a year, and then I will revert back to a desktop. Therefore, with the coming of Half Life 2 and Doom3, I figured that a notebook with 64mb just wouldn’t cut it, for me, and decided upon the 128mb. Ultimately I picked the 56 over the 8050, because of the battery life, as well as because of the seemingly “large” userbase that exists here on the forums, that own this unit. Another factor that aided in the decision making process was the fact that the CL56 might have a modular bay battery some time down the line, and that for me is a big plus.
After I had decided what it was that I was going to order, I had to decide from where I would order. Instead of starting another of those “Where should I order from?!” threads, I decided to just take a look at all of the vendors that I knew of that carried that notebook. Many I stayed away from because of the fact that I would have to pay taxes… …. and others because of their prices, which I found to be too high. I was really leaning towards buying from Hypersonic-PC, as I had previously ordered a Sager 5660 from them, and I was completely pleased with the purchase and with the support I received from them. However, if there was one thing that I found to be pretty bad back then, that is still pretty bad today, coming from Hypersonic-PC, it is the long wait time for their notebooks. My Sager took about a month to get to me, and while they claim to be shipping the notebooks out in about 2 weeks time, I didn’t really feel like waiting that long, especially since I was getting anxious from reading everybody’s threads concerning their CL56s.
I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow I came across a place that sells *discounted laptops*, sorry I don’t want to anger anybody by posting their name here on the forums (you guys know who I am talking about)… and well I found them to be a very good place to order from. Apart from the fact that they had some of the best prices out there for the CL56, I was not going to have to pay tax for the unit, as they could do a “reverse shipment”. They resell, ChemUSAs CL56, but ChemUSA is in California, and thus it would be shipped directly to me, but at the same time I would get taxed . However, once I was towards the final stages of placing the order (picking the type of shipment I want), I noticed they had an option for California residents. For the same price of standard (ground… $25) shipping, they would ship the unit from the ChemUSA place in California, to Las Vegas Nevada, where this place that sells *discounted laptops* is located, and then they would ship it back to me in California. With that, I saved myself more than 100 dollars.
I ordered the notebook early Saturday morning… I am talking 1 in the morning early and I was expecting it to ship sometime around Tuesday or Wednesday, as they say it takes about 2-3 to process the order. Come Monday morning, when I got online to check my email, I was surprised to find out that the notebook had already shipped. I was definitely surprised, but happy of course, and I figured it would get to me on Monday of the following week (the 21st of June). I received a tracking number and throughout the next day I kept track of where the package was at. Finally it got to Las Vegas on Wednesday the 16th. On their site they say that using the “reverse shipment” method, adds 2-3 days to the shipping, which in this case was ground, and was expected to take 4-5 days. That very same day, on the 16th, the notebook was shipped from Las Vegas, and the expected delivery, came out to be the 18th So, I passed the days playing Americas Army, as well as some Soldier of Fortune 2, I watched a couple of movies, until Friday came along.
On Friday, I was anxiously waiting for my notebook, since around 1 in the afternoon. I neglected to go out to eat, or play videogames with audio on, in fear that I would not hear the UPS guy, and thus add more time to the wait. 2, 3, 4, all came and there was no UPS guy yet. At 5:30, my girlfriend called me up and asked me if the notebook was there yet… I said no. I was beginning to feel somewhat sad as UPS is supposed to make its rounds before 5, according to the person I spoke to on the phone. As I began getting ready to go to Toys R Us and buy a present (video game) for a cousin of mine who was celebrating his birthday, I saw a brown blur cut across the window in the living room of my house. I got up and ran to the door, and greeted the UPS man, about halfways through the lawn. I went back into my house, all the while saying “hell yeah!” and found a nice place where I could open my notebook.
I got a knife to open the “double box”, and out came the Compal 56 box, which is exactly the same as the one that Rincewind received his 56 in. I then opened that box and *yum*, out came the scent of new electronics… (you guys know what I am talking about). The notebook came packaged like most other notebooks that I have purchased have come, with one box taking up about 1/3 of the space inside, which holds the free case, which in turn carries the cables, manuals, and software, and then the notebook itself, suspended between two foam thingies. I took it out and made sure to connect the power brick, which was definitely smaller than what I imagined it to be, and a hell of a lot smaller than the one that came with my older Sager 5660. I believe it is the same size as that which comes with the Fujitsu Lifebook P5020, which is an ultraportable. The notebook itself is much better looking than what I expected it to be, and I think that the pictures on the net definetely dont do it justice, as before I saw it in person I really thought that it would be very very ugly. The badge on the notebook is one that says Chembook, and it doesnt look too bad, but when I opened up the notebook and looked at the srip of brushed aluminum, or whatever it is, I noticed something that got me a little uneasy. A very, very small portion of the aluminum thing, is not holding to the rest of the body correctly. This is right below the bottom right corner, of the right touchpad button. While I initialy contemplated sending it back to get that minor problem fixed, I decided that I would do so, only if it became more of a problem later on, as for now, it is something I can definetely live with, and hardly noticable, unless you are looking for problems to begin with.
Upon boot up, I was surprised to not be greeted by the typical Windows XP set up process, and instead, I was taken directly to the desktop screen. This isnt a big deal for me, as I did request for it to be pre-installed, but no other notebook had already been set-up for me before. Once the notebook made a fast boot-up, the screen was what caught my attention. Wow, this screen is bright... dare I say, maybe a little too bright? I then looked for the problems that everyone seems to have, concerning the viewing angles of the screen. For normal, typical stuff like surfing, watching a movie, or typing, it is no problem for me. It is not really that hard to find the sweet spot when doing the things I just mentioned, but when gaming, I found it to be a different thing. Most games that I tried were fine, but when I loaded America's Army, I was greeted with a somewhat washed out screen, with blacks that didnt look that black. Finding the "sweet spot" during this game, was very important, as without it, the colors looked real bad, compared to my CRT. I tried toying with the gamma, brightness, and contrast, but I only made the game look worse. Also, the game looked very blurry and it pretty much looked like shit. AA is one of the games that I play the most, and the fact that the game looked like shit was really getting me scared. After changing the settings back to normal, the game looked somewhat better. Keep in mind though that this "problem", concerning the dark colors, came to be because of the dark colors of the map that I was playing, and it was absent on the maps filled with snow and with bright textures. For some reason, I remembered reading about how LCDs can look fuzzy when on a non-native resolution, and I remembered I was running AA at 1024 x 768. I changed the resolution on the game to 1280 x 1024, and *boom* the game looked much, much better. I guess it is also important to point out that I was somewhat dissapointed with the LCD, in regards to the different levels of brightness available. On my Fujitsu, I was able to lower the brightness to the point of not being able to see anything on the screen, but on the CL56, even the lowest setting is reasonably bright. For those who want to know, there are 11 different brightness levels.
It felt good being able to play video games at max everything, while sitting on the couch, even if I had to play with the touchpad Which brings me to the next thing I want to cover, the keyboard. I am definetely not used to typing on a notebook with a keyboard this big, as my last two mobile pcs were a tablet pc and a Fujitsu ultraportable. With those notebooks I got used to the cramped spaces and small keys, which made it somewhat disorienting for me to use the "large" keyboard on this notebook. I find it to be not as crisp as that on the Fujitsu P5020, but it is by no means a bad keyboard. I have however, gotten my fingers stuck below a key or two when typing. Besides that, I think it is just a matter of time until I feel totaly comfortable with the keyboard on this notebook. The touchpad on this notebook is pretty good, but it is not the best that I have used. I am used to the touchpad having somewhat of a rough texture to it, but this one lacked that. Not a negative thing, but just a small discomfort for me, as I was used to the other kind. It is a synaptics touchpad and I am happy for that, as I am used to the the way these touchpads can be configured.